Mermaids at Ren Faire a shore thing

The Mutiny Mermaid Pod will be at the Whidbey Island Renaissance Faire on Memorial Day weekend.

At low tide in Penn Cove, a pair of mermaids swam to shore and shared their sea-crets with one landlubber.

Coupeville resident Phoenix Da Costa and Luna Grove of Oak Harbor are members of the Mutiny Mermaid Pod, performing artists who don fins and dress up as the mythical sea creature that has been captivating the human imagination for centuries.

Da Costa portrays Phoenix the Siren, a mermaid with ombre beachy waves, while Grove’s mer-sona is a bit different. She is Corra the Heavy Metal Selkie, a folk tale of Celtic origin that tells of the “seal folk,” beings who can shapeshift between seal and human forms. The character is a nod to Grove’s Scottish heritage.

Grove and Da Costa represent the official mermaid pod of the upcoming Whidbey Island Renaissance Faire, a medieval fantasy festival coming to the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds over Memorial Day weekend. Da Costa serves as the vice president of the new nonprofit organization that is planning the event.

Though they aren’t the island’s first group of mermaids, the Mutiny Mermaid Pod is special in its own way. They describe themselves as being “alternative mermaids” who don’t exactly fit the mold.

“Her and I instantly clicked and swam together and we’ve been best friends ever since,” Da Costa said of Grove. “We decided to create this so that there’s more diversity of mermaids throughout the island.”

The pair focus on being as inclusive as possible, which means being welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community, all ages, people with disabilities and those who are neurodivergent, all qualities that Grove and Da Costa have personal experience with. Da Costa, who is nonbinary, spoke openly about their autism, while Grove is an Army veteran.

“I discovered mermaiding as a great PTSD, mental and physical therapy for myself,” Grove said. “I just took to it during COVID. I needed to do something to help better my life quality.”

Da Costa, on the other hand, is a new “mer” who picked up the activity over the last year.

Interest in the pastime has exploded since the advent of “MerPeople,” a 2023 Netflix documentary that follows the careers of professional mermaids — underwater performing artists who compete with several others for a chance to swim in large tanks in front of an audience.

Learning about the hobby involves diving into a glossary of whole new terms. “Mermaiding,” for example, is the verb used most often to describe the pastime. “Mertenders” take care of mermaids while they are on land, which may include crowd control, bringing snacks or drinks or protecting against “merverts” — creepy people who exhibit inappropriate interest or behavior around the mermaids.

Da Costa and Grove currently perform together at birthday parties and other events, like the Penn Cove Musselfest. They also offer a sensory-friendly version for kids with special needs, which entails refraining from certain sounds, sights and smells. Their current rate is $250 an hour.

“My favorite part about it is even the adults get really giddy to see us,” Da Costa said about spreading the magic. “It’s adorable.”

As mermaids, the pod must be prepared to answer questions from youngsters about their existence. “Do you know Ariel?” is a common one.

“It’s a lot of fun but it’s a lot of dedication and people don’t realize it can get into a very expensive hobby fast,” Grove said, adding that some tails can cost thousands of dollars. Some people come from all over to attend mermaid conferences, and the Merlympics is happening later this month in Switzerland.

The Mutiny Mermaid Pod provides education about how to be proper sea stewards, which includes clearing beaches of litter and wearing sunscreen that is safe for reefs. As a selkie, Grove is an advocate for seals, which are opportunistic eaters that will mistake a bottle cap for a crustacean.

“If I do swim in the Sound, I can’t do it in my selkie tail because it’s a seal tail and orcas love seals,” Grove said. “And I don’t feel like being an all-you-can-eat buffet. I’d rather not be mistaken, just in case.”

The pod estimates it takes them from 45 minutes to an hour to apply their makeup and get into costume, which includes wigs, headpieces and other pieces of jewelry. Grove spoke about the need to “batten down the hatches” to tuck her hair into the whimsical blue-green wig she wears. Da Costa uses a hairnet to create scales on their face.

Da Costa’s children love to tell their friends that their parent is a mermaid. Grove’s boyfriend, who is also a veteran, acts as her mertender.

Anyone who has never mermaided before is welcome to join the pod, which is currently in the process of onboarding a new member. They encourage new mermaids to be mertenders before jumping into the hot seat themselves.

“We’re not gonna throw you in the deep end first,” Grove said.

For more information, search “Mutiny Mermaid Pod” on Facebook or email

Phoenix Da Costa portrays Phoenix the Siren, a mermaid with ombre beachy waves. (Photo by David Welton)

Phoenix Da Costa portrays Phoenix the Siren, a mermaid with ombre beachy waves. (Photo by David Welton)