So I learned about Rebecca the Jamestown Mermaid and her upcoming mermaid retreats in Williamsburg, Virginia, from mermaid extraordinaire Iara Mandyn, who slept above me on our mermaidly diving trip in the Bahamas this past August and who will be a guest expert at said retreats.
So of course I had to talk to Rebecca, for your sake as well as my own. Our luminous discussion follows.
So can you talk a little about yourself? How long have you been interested in mermaids?
I have always loved the water. I spent my summers as a girl in the mountains of Virginia, swimming in the Jackson River. This is where I fell in love with the immense power of water—and learned to be safe in strong currents. As a teen, I was invited to learn water ballet. This was a perfect match for me, as I was able to combine my favorite music with choreography all my own. I felt so strong and graceful in the water! This was the first time I remember feeling like I could do anything. I designed my own routines—and this was a powerful and liberating experience for me.
I returned to the water as an adult in 2010, when I became a certified water fitness instructor. My first year I taught three classes a week at one facility. I now teach 12-15 classes a week, at six different locations. I often get asked to do private lessons, additional group lessons, water safety presentations and “ learn to swim” classes for all ages. I have continued training in a variety of aquatic certifications, including water safety instruction and water therapy for arthritis and multiple sclerosis, as well as enhancing my free-diving and breath-holding skills.
I am currently working with several parks and rec departments in my area to offer mermaid camps for kids and teens, as an alternative to competitive swim teams. I had a few one-day workshops last summer and will expand this into a week-long program and incorporate more performance skills and choreography. One of the main goals for the camps is to train young people to be safe in the water, but also to encourage an exploration of each individual’s creative side; regardless of body image, age, gender, lifestyle, etc.
The more I am in the water, the more I am inspired to be in the Water. I have witnessed the return of health and happiness in so many people. My students tell me about their increased wellness and general serenity after my water classes. This motivates me to continue to teach and to learn, and to help others feel strong and graceful in the water.
Are you yourself a mermaid?
If being a mermaid means preferring to be in water over anything else—then YES, I am a mermaid! If being a mermaid means dreaming of being underwater and swimming with sea animals—then YES, I am a mermaid! If being a mermaid means helping to keep the earth’s waters clean for all living beings—then YES, I am a mermaid! If being a mermaid means wanting to share health benefits and serenity of water to young and old—then YES, I am a mermaid!
Can you tell me about “Rebecca the Jamestown Mermaid?”
“Rebecca the Jamestown Mermaid” was born hundreds of years ago off the southern coast of England. She helped the first English explorers to the New World, by navigating them across the Atlantic and through the deep waters the Chesapeake Bay. Her image has been recorded on many maps and ship logs by the ancient mariners.
Presently, she helps to clean the waterways of the Chesapeake, residing near historic Jamestown. At other times, she can be seen at nautical history museums and events, recalling her experiences with the early explorers. earlier this year, she was seen swimming with manatee and dolphins.
I understand you’re a graduate of Weeki Wachee’s Sirens Of The Deep Mermaid Camp? Can you tell me about that experience and how it’s inspired you?
I was fortunate to be able to attend the May 5/6, 2012 “Sirens of the Deep” Mermaid Camp at Weeki Wachee. This was an amazing experience for me, a genuine dream come true. I met some incredible women and was able to swim in the crystal-clear Weeki Wachee Spring. While I was in the water, I felt as if I experienced something that people aren’t supposed to experience, something awesome and *magical.* My inner mermaid was released, and I left my time there rejuvenated and encouraged to grow my mermaid self.
Prior to the camp, I hadn’t told many people about my interest in mermaids. Most people knew I taught “swimming classes,” but saying “I am a mermaid” was not really an option for me. I live in a small college town, full of academics and museum professionals who would not understand, or take me seriously. After my time in the spring, I felt transformed and i wanted to tell anyone who would listen about my experience there. My husband took photos and video of me swimming in the spring—and thank goodness for that, or else I would have thought it was just a dream. But it is true. I was there and I am transformed (and I have proof!) My non-water friends were slow to accept this new aspect of my personality, and I have found ways to incorporate it into community service and education, in addition to my water classes.
What do you think the appeal of mermaids is, anyway?
I think the appeal of mermaids means different things to different people. Some people think mermaids are strong and graceful swimmers, or caretakers of the Earth’s water. Others think mermaids are beautiful and powerful women, seductive to men. I think the appeal of mermaids can be many things: from a fantasy outlet to a rejuvenation experience. The water is a calling for many people, for many reasons. And there is something for everyone in the water.
Can you tell me about the upcoming mermaid Training you’ll be offering? (Have you offered any yet?)
I will be hosting different types of training: weekend retreats for adult women; weekend retreats for mer-men and mermaids, one day intensives for teens, and 5-day camps for kids. All programs will highlight water safety, water skills development and choreography with and without a tail. land and underwater photo & video will document each participant’s journey, along with makeovers and a fantasy portrait session. I will host an optional tail making workshop and each participant will have the opportunity to meet like-minded people from all over the world! I already have families from as far away as New York registered for upcoming programs.
What will aspiring mermaids (and mermen) take away from your programs?
My mermaid trainings will be an opportunity to learn from experts about how to *safely* explore your inner mermaid. We will be teaching breath holding techniques, buoyancy control, flips/rolls/choreography, and many skills for safe mermaiding. As an aquatics professional, safety is my number one priority.
Secondly, I want every mermaid participant to feel rejuvenated and inspired to live a creative and positive life, to feel beautiful and strong, regardless of age or body image.
I understand that Iara Mandyn will be guest teaching at some of the adult retreats! how will that work?
I am thrilled that Iara Mandyn will be joining us to teach the advance water portion for the adult mermaid retreats. Her strong background in underwater modeling and mermaid skills and expertise will be a true benefit to the participants of the adult mermaid retreats.
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And finally do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids (other than to come take a workshop, of course!)?
My advice for aspiring mermaids is, first and foremost, to be safe in the water. I believe that people should earn their tails. In my opinion, swimming in a tail is not recommended for beginner swimmers. Here is my advice. Practice with two fins before a monofin. Once motions in the monofin feel strong, try the tail in the water. This is not to say you can’t make a tail and wear on dry land for parties and fun.
If you are serious about mermaiding, consider having different tails for different purposes. For your first swimming tail, start with a simple fabric tail—which will be your “practice tail.” Beginners tend to complain that their first tail wore out under the feet and “seat.” This is because beginners tend to stand or sit in their tails, because they haven’t developed their monofin swimming skills yet.
If you want a pretty/ photogenic tail, consider have one just for pictures on dry land, that you won’t swim in. This one could be adorned with trims/beads/shells that may come off while swimming.
And finally, once your skills are strong, consider the expensive custom tail.… just my two cents.
As an aquatic professional, I hear and see many heart-breaking things done by people who feel invincible. And, I’d hate for someone who is not ready to wear a tail to hurt themselves. Practice, practice, practice—and never, never, never swim alone.