Scuba Diver Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans chatted to Linden Wolbert, who has found fame as one of the most-successful professional mermaids in the business, but how did she get started?
Q: When did you first get into freediving?
A: I learned about the sport of freediving in 2004, tried a monofin for the first time in 2005, and then trained with PFI and got my Advanced Freediver rating. I then travelled to Tokyo with the US Freediving Team for a televised competition in November 2006 and received my Level E AIDA International Judge certification.
I also became a Master Scuba Diver and modelled for PADI for several years, travelling to some amazing dive destinations. The early 2000s was a truly exciting time for me! My passport got packed with stamps, and I saw places I had only dreamed of!
Q: When did you first don a mermaid’s tail, and did you expect to become a professional mermaid?
A: The first time I tried on a monofin was when Mandy-Rae Cruickshank-Crack let me try hers on in Grand Cayman after she finished her dives for the day during the Sink Faze
freediving competition. I was instantly hooked… I loved it! I went so fast underwater, I couldn't believe it. I truly felt like a mermaid! At that moment, I dreamed of creating a mermaid tail to accompany this amazing piece of dive equipment. I knew there was a lot of potential there for creative outlet… which manifested into ocean ‘edutainment’ for children. My dream was realised!
Q: What events and shoots do you get involved with as a professional mermaid?
A: I have such a wide range of things I do as a mermaid. My ethos is to educate and inspire children to learn about and protect our oceans. My YouTube series, Mermaid Minute, has garnered millions of views and continues to be the project I am most proud of.
I began my career doing high-end parties and events in Hollywood, which really took off quickly. Since I was the only mermaid performing in Los Angeles, word got around rapidly about my company. I swiftly gained a list of A-list clientele, which has made for some ‘mermazing’ experiences and stories! I have many repeat clients today who have hired me since my humble beginnings in 2005. I also began swimming with their children, who are my favourite audience. I do birthday parties, al-fresco hotel rooftop pool parties, aquarium swims, commercial events, fundraisers and charity benefits, you name it. In addition, I have done underwater stunt doubling for films and commercials. Perhaps my favourite performances as a mermaid have been granting wishes for ill children around the world with life-threatening conditions. I have done wishes in the US, as well as Scotland and Australia, with a handful of non-profits. There is nothing more fulfilling than making a child smile after they have endured so many hardships.
Q: Back to that amazing tail. What are the most-important attributes for a mermaid’s tail, and how was your tail constructed?
A: I am a minimalist. I like things to look simple and sleek… and my mermaid tail is no exception. I dreamed of creating a tail that was very realistic, hiding my legs and heels very effectively. I desired a tail built for speed and endurance, that would withstand all manner of challenging environments. Swimming pools, oceans, hot springs, puddles, lakes/lochs, sandy beaches, rocky coastlines. With the ‘kelp’ of my friend and Hollywood special effects artist Allan Holt, this vision became a reality after seven months of true blood, sweat and tears. The shape of my tail fluke is a crescent, unlike many of the other ‘tails’ out there, which are shaped like a whale or dolphin tail. I wanted my design to appear unique, but also to emulate some of the fastest fish in the world. To date, I am the fastest mermaid I know!
We created a mould of my body, and then sculpted clay around a fiberglass replica of my legs. A large negative mould of that clay tail was created after we hand-sculpted the entire thing, scale by scale. It was painstaking. We injected a medical-grade silicone into the mould with some neoprene and a customised monofin and voila… (well, I really simplified the process for you here!) we had a gorgeous, realistic, resilient mermaid tail that lasted me for almost ten years! Tail 2.0 was created from the same mould by Vincent Van Dyke Effects. I am still using that tail today!
It weighs roughly 50 pounds on land and is neutrally buoyant in the water. It is a true ‘mer-sterpiece’, but is a real bugger to travel with!
Q: What is your most-memorable experience as a professional mermaid?
A: My most-memorable experience… gosh… there are really two. The first was granting a wish for a little girl called Lauren Cosgrove in Scotland. I swam out of the frigid waters of Loch Lomond and sat with her on the shoreline, answering her questions about mermaids and the ocean. It was so captivating being there with her that I forgot how cold I was. When I got out of the water over 20 minutes later, I was severely hypothermic. It was worth every goose bump! Little Lauren's face, her energy and the sense of wonder I shared with her on that shoreline was nothing short of pure magic. Children are just amazing.
The second most-memorable experience was swimming with whalesharks for the first time in Mexico. It was a dream come true, and being in the water next to those gorgeous, mammoth animals completely took my breath away. Just incredible!
Q: What is your most-embarrassing experience as a professional mermaid?
A: Hmmm. Great question! I've never had a wardrobe malfunction (thank goodness!) and I truly love what I do. I mean… I guess being asked to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Justin Timberlake at his surprise birthday party was quite embarrassing… since I have a horrible
singing voice… and he clearly doesn't… but he was very polite and smiled anyway. Bless him.
Q: You host the Mermaid Minute educational videos, and work tirelessly to promote the undersea world to children. Why are kids so important to you?
A: Yes! Mermaid Minute and ocean ‘edutainment’ is my passion. I fell in love with the oceans from afar. I grew up in landlocked Pennsylvania, and my only window into the ocean was the TV. I watched PBS, namely. I was enchanted by Jacques Yves Cousteau, NOVA, and wildlife documentaries from the BBC. Since my heart was captured by wildlife films and books at that tender age, I believe other children should be able to have that same experience, too. It is an age for seeds to be planted, and love of certain things to blossom. Kids are inheriting the planet from us. They are heralds for the future of our oceans and our earth. If they love something and care about it, they will shout about it from the rooftops! Why not encourage them to be ambassadors for our seas, so they will share it with all who will listen? They are little sea sponges who have boundless energy and enthusiasm to make a positive difference in this great world of ours! Kids are the best!
Q: You worked with BodyGlove to create a child’s monofin. What was that experience like, and how have they been received?
A: I partnered with BodyGlove in 2013 and designed my signature kid's swim line, complete with monofins, PFDs (personal float devices), towels, boogie boards, masks, goggles and much more… and am continuing to develop adult monofins and other mermaid-inspired swim products for 2018. I never expected to be an ‘entrepremermaid’, but that is what has happened! It's been a very exciting process, from which I have learned volumes! I could never have imagined I would be a product designer, but the experience has been extremely enriching. Taking what I know of swimming, ‘mergonomics’ and the water, I have done my best to help design functional, beautiful products with the support of an incredible team.
We are thrilled with the continued growth and popularity of the Mermaid Linden by BodyGlove line. I truly believe we created the best children's monofin on the market. I cannot wait for the adult monofin release in several months, along with some other top-secret products!
Q: What does the future hold for Mermaid Linden?
A: Based on my career history, anything is possible! My wildest dreams have been granted beyond expectation. Opportunities have come up beyond my wildest imagination! I sometimes reflect back over the past decade or so and cannot believe how much has happened… where I've travelled, the people I've met, the work I have produced, the children I have smiled with. And yet, there is so much more I'd love to do! My ultimate dream for the future is to have a full-length ocean educational programme for children both online and on network television. And that's just the start! We'll have to ‘sea’ where the currents take me, I suppose…
Photographs by Ric Frazier, Greg Browning, Stephan Whelan/deeperblue.com and courtesy of Mermaids in Motion LLC