Today I would like to introduce you to the Mermaid Anita. I have met Anita in 2014 on a trip in the Red Sea. Anita was a guest on a liveaboard where I used to work as a scuba instructor and mermaid trainer. I introduced Anita to the world of mermaids but who would have thought that this trip would change her life? Today Mermaid Anita lives the perfect mermaid dream with great mermaid adventures.
1. Please introduce yourself, including where you’re from and where you’re based.
Anita: My name is Anita Jasso or “Mermaid Anita”. I’m a UK mermaid, member of Apneists UK freediving club and competitive freediver. I am based in the North of England
2. When did you become a mermaid?
My mermaid journey started in 2014 after booking a week on a liveaboard scuba diving holiday in the red sea. I clearly remember one particular dive where within minutes we saw a turtle, followed by a free-swimming moray, then at the other side of a swim-through I became mesmerized as we saw a mermaid and thought I was hallucinating! It remains one of my most memorable dives as it happened to change my life! When we got back on the boat we found out that it was Mermaid Kat, and that she had appeared as a birthday surprise on the the dive, for a guest that had mentioned that she loved mermaids (without realizing she was talking to one!). Kat had brought some tails with her and asked if any of us would like to try it – of course we all said yes! We also had a photography enthusiast on board who captured some pictures for us. I then started skipping scuba dives to go mermaiding – from then on I was hooked!
3. How did you become a mermaid?
I loved the experience that Kat had given me and as soon as I returned from that holiday I searched for mermaiding in the UK. I found nothing, so I searched for freediving clubs and got in contact with Steve Millard of Apneists UK – one of only two AIDA instructor trainers in the UK and one of the top freediving coaches in the country – he didn’t even bat an eyelid when I mentioned wanting to do mermaiding! I immediately signed up for the AIDA 2* course – this gave me the entry level skills to develop my ability and technique, and I learned how important safety in freediving and mermaiding is. Being part of the club gave me the opportunity to practice those skills in a cohesive and supportive environment with likeminded people. Under Steve’s guidance and coaching, and with the support of the club, I began to develop my breath hold and freediving technique and successfully completed a monofin clinic which gave me a much better finning technique and reduced the dreaded “knee bend”. I then got my first tail and so “Mermaid Anita” was born. I was introduced to one of the club’s original mermaids – Mermaid Maša – who had already done a mermaiding charity event and was a former freediving record holder in her home country. We began attending regular pool sessions together, developing choreographed tricks and moves that we have showcased at different events. As more members entered the club, they were introduced to us and this facet of freediving within the club structure and the pod grew into a mermaid school.
4. What does mermaiding mean to you?
From a personal perspective, mermaiding represents a sense of liberation and freedom of expression without constraints for me as an individual and I do use mermaiding as respite from intensive training during preparation for a competition. I know some find mermaiding as a way to express their alter ego, however, this isn’t the case for me – it just feels a very natural and liberating thing to do, in the same way as other aspects of recreational freediving. If I could spend all day every day in the water, I would – its where I feel most at home. It also represents a strong sense of friendship and empowerment for me, I have developed some amazing relationships through the sport which I am forever grateful for – just one is the close friendship I have with Maša my mersister! We share a mutual sense of achievement when we successfully develop a new choreographed trick that we have been working on, and pure joy when we surface belly laughing together, bubbles everywhere, when the trick doesn’t quite work out as planned and we bang heads or fins – I’ve often said we should put together a “mermaid blooper” edit! I gain a sense of satisfaction by witnessing others’ enjoyment in mermaiding, especially when I’ve contributed to their experience in some way. Recently, I brought a tail to one of our pool sessions for one of our newest members to try after she had completed her monofin clinic with Apneists UK. Afterwards, she messaged me to thank me for helping her realize a childhood dream. I enjoy empowering others and giving the encouragement to those who may be nervous or are self-conscious about putting a mermaid tail on on for the first time – and seeing their reaction after they have tried it!
5. Which part of mermaiding is your favorite? (freediving, modeling, performing, etc.)
I am passionate about all aspects of mermaiding! – I love the experience of freediving with some amazing friends in a diverse range of environments, some with amazing creatures. I also love watching the short videos that have been created of us mermaiding in the red sea and at the great northern dive show. I sometimes look at them and the videography brings back the feelings I had when they were being made. Seeing pictures of our performances, positive feedback and reviews I also find very rewarding, especially if it captures the reactions of the crowd, particularly children – I can often hear excited children in a crowd, but not see them properly underwater during the dive. Once, a child held a picture they had drawn of a mermaid up to the window to show us, which was super cute!
6. What is your favorite mermaid tail?
My favourite tail has to be my red hologram spandex tail, mainly due to its sentimental value. – it was the first tail that I ever owned, and was custom made to fit me and my freediving monofin. I have worn it at almost every significant mermaiding moment for me so far. Sadly, it has now seen better days and is due for retirement. I also love making new spandex tails and created a gold one for the festive season instead of my signature red one – I love the fluidity of the material and the shine that I haven’t seen in silicone tails yet. However, I would love to design my own silicone tail and see it come to life in the future. I love the creativity of tail design and how each tail reflects each mermaid’s personality – it is an amazing expression of individuality and creativity!
7. Do you have any idols?
Not idols as such, however, there are many freedivers, mermaids and tail designers that I have found inspirational. When I met Mermaid Kat I was in awe of both her repertoire of accomplishments and also her enthusiasm and grace as a mermaid – something I had never heard of before, but knew I wanted to try and quickly fell in love with. I also admired her beautiful white, pale pink and blue silicone tail – it is simply stunning (and still my favourite Mermaid Kat tail)! I also feel my freediving journey has a tenouous affinity with Rebecca Coales, as I witnessed her national record at the first freediving competition I ever attended, she helped out on the monofin clinic I did with Steve Millard who was her coach at the time, and who now coaches me. She was also my coach for the dive I did at the first freediving competition I attended as an athelete. I have definitely admired her as an athelete from the beginning of my freediving career.
8. Do you have any tips for others who would like to turn into mermaids or mermen?
Make sure you do your research beforehand and never go mermaiding alone! Mermaiding is an amazing experience, but it is still apnea! the importance of appropriate freediving training, the correct safety measures and having a buddy that is trained to the right level and knows how to act effectively if you needed help cannot be underestimated. Contact a freediving club where you can learn the entry level skills and gain the knowledge to become a safe competent freediver first. They will also provide a supportive club structure as an outlet to practice your new found skills and gain experience. I also gained a great deal from also doing a monofin course – I was able to improve my technique in dynamic freediving with a monofin, which I was able to translate into my mermaiding. Make sure you are taught by a qualified freediving instructor and do your research into who they are, and their quality of teaching – a good way of doing this is to find out who they have taught in the past. Then see if they have a mermaid school! I would recommend buying a lycra mermaid tail initially, as they are easier to get used to putting on, using and caring for. Mermaid Kat Shop has a great range of quality fabric tails to buy, which is what I first used during my introduction to mermaiding – I loved the red one of course!
Thank you very much Mermaid Anita for answering all my mermaid questions. It was very lovely to meet you a few years back and introduce you to the mermaid world. I’m very happy that you found a new passion in your life and I’m looking forward to follow your future mermaid adventures.