As you may imagine, regardless of a mermaid's grace underwater, the change from two legs to one is bound to be most awkward out of water. Depending on the event, some choose to be carried to their performance area rather than be seen without their fins on, while other women prefer to slip into their tail nearby and shimmy.
And that's not where the awkwardness ends: Mermaid tails also weigh more than you might imagine. Whether a DIY or a custom piece, most tails weigh in between 15 and 35 pounds (6.8 and 15.9 kilograms) or more, requiring even skilled swimmers to be in good athletic condition and to practice their underwater moves. Not only is swimming with a tail different than with two legs (just try swimming with your legs together and see for yourself), swimming with that extra weight can change your balance and buoyancy in the water. It's a rare woman who is graceful the first time she swims with her fins on, but with practice, professional mermaids gracefully – and seemingly effortlessly – glide through the water.
Being a professional mermaid isn't all about swimming, although that's obviously a big part of the job. Every mermaid must be comfortable swimming, well, like a mermaid. That rules out the basic front crawl, breast and butterfly strokes. Professional mermaids swim in a style nicknamed the "Mermaid Crawl" (imagine waving from a parade float; it's not dissimilar). Additionally, those who choose mermaiding commonly have a background in water sports such as swimming, freediving or surfing, and some mermaids enhance their skills with classes and dive certification. Training may include practicing breath control and breath holding; cardiovascular workouts, such as aerobics and dance, to develop strong lungs and core strength; and yoga, deep breathing and breathing techniques.
Linden Wolbert, for example, is a former competitive swimmer and scuba diver who is able to hold her breath for five minutes. (For comparison, the record for the longest breath held under water is an amazing 20 minutes, 22 seconds, or basically the length of your average weeknight sitcom, while most of us can't hold our breath for longer than about 30 seconds, at least not comfortably) [sources: Newcomb, Palmer].
In 2005, Wolbert left her office job and took to diving full time – first open-water diving, then freediving. And then in 2006 she took the plunge and became a professional mermaid [source: Mermaids in Motion]. As a free diver, Wolbert has dived to 115 feet (35 meters) and back to the surface on just one breath. For those who don't know just how impressive that is, consider this: In 1949 scientists were convinced that dives below 100 feet (30.5 meters) would be fatal for human lungs. Today, divers have pushed the limits down deeper than that estimation, diving as deep as 700-plus feet (213 meters) [sources: Worrell, Mermaids in Motion].