Perhaps finding two mermaids and a selkie on the beach shouldn’t come as a surprise in a city surrounded by water, but their striking appearance can still come as a shock.
Colorful tails in tow, Oak Harbor residents Stella Rowan, Savannah Mounce and Luna Grove explained how they joined a community of mythological creatures.
The three make up the Whidbey Island Sirens. The “mer-pod” gets together to swim, talk shop and take photos.
They had planned to do events before the coronavirus set off a wave of cancellations, but will make their first group appearance this Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon at Windjammer Park. They will be giving out seashells to commemorate Earth Day.
Rowan said she’s been “mermaiding” since 2017. Her mermaid name is Namielle. She used to swim around with another local mermaid, but her friend left the island to go to school.
She met Mounce, who goes by Marilla when she’s wearing fins, through social media. It’s been years since she donned her first tail.
“I put on a tail and my whole world changed,” Mounce, a Navy veteran, said. “It’s a feeling completely indescribable.”
She now owns seven and said owning the collection is just like having a bunch of dresses in her closet.
The third member of their mer-pod is Grove, who portrays a “heavy metal selkie” with neon peach hair. Grove’s family heritage hails from Scotland and says a selkie, or a woman who can shift between seal and human form, helps her feel connected to the culture.
“It’s the best, I guess you could say, therapy,” Grove said. “It helps me out plus I love the water.”
The Army veteran said it’s easier for her to swim than run after she injured her leg. She said she has only recently taken the plunge into the underwater world.
Rowan said mermaids started gaining popularity around 2010 and the worldwide community has since gone on to include stingrays, octopi, eels, alligators and more.
“It’s just kind of exploded since then.” she said.
The trio said their friends and family have been supportive. Mounce said she even convinced her husband and her fathers-in-law to wear one of her tails for a wedding photo.
Rowan’s husband is her bouncer, or “mer-wrangler,” when she did events in the past. Some people can get a little too touchy-feely. (They are known as “mer-verts.”) Questions are usually related to the mechanical aspects of swimming with a tail.
The three recommended becoming a strong swimmer before buying a tail. They also advised learning to swim with a monofin first. It looks like two regular scuba fins joined together and Mounce described it as a fin prosthetic.
After that, it’s just a matter of time to learn the “dolphin kick.” Grove compared it to belly dancing or “doing the worm.”
Tails can cost anywhere from around $100 to more than $1,000 for fancy ones. Companies like FinFun make cheaper options out of a fabric similar to a swimsuit and are easy to put on, the women said. Others are made from silicone and can weigh 40 pounds when dry.
Tops can cost up to $350 and wigs up to $300. Jewelry, accessories and makeup only add to the cost but it can vary.
“It is not a cheap pastime,” Rowan said.
All three said the community of mermaids on social media is welcoming and supportive. For Rowan, slipping into a tail has also helped her to become more confident in her appearance.
“It may seem counterintuitive since we’re wearing less clothes, but you embrace this other mythological being and you love yourself,” she explained.
“It’s become a part of who we are.”