Mermaid school helps you channel your inner Ariel

THOUSAND OAKS (KABC) -- Hayley Smith has been perfecting her inner mermaid for the last two years.

"It's not only a confidence booster but it's like living a dream," she said.

"Ariel (from 'The Little Mermaid') was my favorite as a kid."

She's not alone.

"A lot of people think we have a lot of 5-year-olds, but it's not. We actually have a starting age of eight. The people that come around the world to come see us is, oddly enough, 20-to-35-year-old women," said Virginia Hankins, the lead "finstructor" of LA Mermaid School.

Although apparently guys like it too.

"Yes for the first time in my life I'm going to be a merman," said Paul Suda of North Hollywood.

It starts with "Mermaid 101" where you'll do safety skills swimming and learn to be "fintastic." The one-hour class costs $50.

"Mermaid school is where real live people get to take a tail for a spin and become a mermaid or merman for a day; how to be safe in the water, swim with the basic techniques, as well as a couple introduction tricks," said Hankins.

Hankins wants you to know that it is tough work to look that good in the water.

"The thing people don't realize about being a mermaid is that it's a really intense core as well as arm workout once you start doing tricks," said Hankins.

After checking to see if you can actually swim, getting the fins on is a feat. Think about putting both your legs in one side of pantyhose while you are wet.

Then learn to do the signature "tail then tummy" move with and without the use of your arms. Then on to floating, side swim, handstands, choreography and of course hair flips and tail waves.

Beyond Mermaid 101, there's underwater modeling workshops and even intense dives at 40 feet in the Caribbean.

While you can't become a certified mermaid, the training is the next best thing.

"All of the skills we teach were developed by myself and a lifeguard crew. So they were actually from the Red Cross combined with Apnea diving and scuba," said Hankins.

The class is popular with mommy and me and bachelorette groups. With heated pools and Southern California weather, mermaiding is a year-round sport.
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