Deb Lawson knows that the block-shaped lap pool at Northglenn Recreation Center is a bit boring compared to the sexier suburban water wonderlands of Thornton and Westminster. With climbing walls, slides and even a lazy river, the other recreation centers have a lot to brag about, so as Recreation Supervisor, Lawson has to improvise a little.
Step into Lawson’s office and the little girl inside of you will squeal in excitement. There are mermaids by the masses. It’s not just a fantastical fascination anymore. It’s her job. Welcome to Mermaid 101, where you can be a mermaid for an afternoon. At the Northglenn pool of course.
The idea for mermaid lessons came to Lawson after searching the Internet and learning there was such a thing. According to her, getting the recreation center to add certified mermaid swim lessons to their aquatics calendar wasn’t easy, but it’s been worth it. She’s made sure to make the experience as legit as possible with trained instructors who can properly teach the swimming techniques.
At Northglenn, there are three mermaid courses offered. There’s Mermaid 101, a swim class that teaches basic mermaid swimming instruction. Participants in the class learn how to swim like a mermaid and wear a tail, the nylon skin that binds the legs, and a monofin, the bottom part of the tail.
Then, there’s Mermaid Fitness, an aquatics class meant for strengthening the core while wearing only a monofin.
Then, because she realized a lot of adults were signing up for the class and it was complicated teaching them alongside children (who were admittedly much better at mermaid lessons), Lawson created Mermaid 102, the adults-only version of the Mermaid 101 class.
No matter which class you decide on, Lawson wants people to know that swimming like a mermaid is a real sport. Most people don’t realize how much the tail weighs until they get in the water.
“It’s actually deceiving. The monofin sits at the bottom of the tail and it’s very, very heavy,” she said.
Before getting in the water, Lawson said she preps parents and adult participants about the required abilities needed to take mermaid lessons.
“They have to be comfortable being in the deep end because once you get that skin on, your legs are bound,” she said.
Lawsons recommends that participants be at Level 4 in the American Red Cross Learn to Swim Program before taking mermaid lessons. The first Mermaid 101 class is mostly about safety. Instructors will teach people what to do in case of emergency (there’s a quick-release feature to drop your tail if you panic).
“We don’t give them certificates if we feel like they could panic. Those first 45 minutes are just ‘Can you put your face in the water? Do you feel comfortable in the deep end? Can you start doing that dolphin kick? Can you use your arms to get yourself up to the top of the surface if that monofin is dragging you down?’ We want you to be comfortable in the water. ‘Do you, can you, and will you do these strokes? Do you feel comfortable with them?’” Lawson said.
As for the Mermaid Fitness classes, Lawson laughs that she has seen many people come and go after the workout.
“It’s hard. We’re scaring people away. They think it’s easy, but it’s not. They come once and they’re like, ‘I’m too sore afterward’ and we never see them again,” she said.
At only $4.25 for almost an hour-long fitness class for non-residents of Northglenn, the lack of attendance is surprising to Lawson. She wants more people to come.
“We’re doing different exercises to really work your tummy, your butt and your legs,” she said.
As for Mermaid 101 and Mermaid 102, the sessions are a starting fee of $60 for residents of Northglenn and $67 for non-residents. This starting fee includes a tail customized to your color preference, height and waist size that Lawson will special order for you and four classes throughout the month. If you return with your tail in tow, classes are only $30 for residents of Northglenn and $37 for non-residents for an additional session of four classes a month.
When it comes to the tails, Lawson gets excited.
“They come in all these different colors! I buy the tails and everything through a company called Fin Fun. The tail of the month is called Moon Dive. I’m sure the instructors are going to call me up and say, ‘Deb we want Moon Dive!’” she said.
Lawson says they keep the cost of the mermaid lessons down for participants because they provide the monofins. Purchasing a Mermaid 101 or 102 class requires you to buy a tail though for your first lesson — even if you happen to have one at home.
“They have to come with the tails I’ve provided them. Not anything off Amazon. I don’t know what that tail is and I don’t know if the monofin will fit the skin. I have to be pretty stringent on that because I want everyone to be on the same starting line,” Lawson said.
Despite the rules and safety precautions, Lawson insists it’s a blast.
“We follow a very specific protocol with this but anybody can do it. You get my big butt in there and I’ve done it,” she said.
The Northglenn Recreation Center is located at 11801 Community Center Dr., Northglenn, CO 80233. Mermaid 101 takes place every Saturday from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. (youth class) and Mermaid 102 takes place every Saturday from 2:30 to 3:15 p.m (adult class). Mermaid fitness takes place Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:15 to 6:55 p.m. Contact Deb Lawson for more information at [email protected] or call 303-450-8828. Register here.
All photography by Amanda Piela.