A Red Deer woman is a mermaid on a mission.
Jamie Boutin, 30, regularly swims wearing a mermaid tail with a monofin on her feet at Michener Aquatic Centre.
She says people have the wrong idea about the diving apparatus that has been banned in Edmonton public pools.
First of all, mermaid tails and fins are not toys.
“I think that is part of the problem, people thinking they are a toy,” Boutin said on Tuesday.
“As long as you know what you’re doing, it’s not dangerous. But if you don’t have the proper supervision, it could be.”
That’s why mermaids like Boutin always swim with someone.
“We have somebody in the pool not in a tail, just for our assistance. We generally don’t need them but it’s for safety reasons, and my pool is happy with that so they continue to let me swim.
“I personally feel that if you’re a parent and you’re buying your kid that type of thing, you need to be prepared to get on your swim suit and get in the pool with your kid. Lifeguards are trained but none of them have ever been trained to haul up a mermaid.”
Boutin was by her nine-year-old daughter’s side when she was learning how to swim with a monofin.
“It’s quite easy to learn if you have somebody right there with you.”
She said Calgary is testing swimmers before they are allowed to use the equipment in a public pool, and that makes sense for children.
“Kids like to push boundaries a lot. In the water, that’s not the appropriate place to be doing that.”
For about a year, Boutin has been swimming in Michener’s dive tank and participating in lane swimming where lifeguards know she is a capable swimmer in her tail and fins.
“They are so nice there. I am very luck to be able to do that there.”
But she does worry that the pool, which is operated by the City of Red Deer, could eventually impose a mermaid ban.
“Red Deer tends to follow suit with what Edmonton does and I’m scared they’re going to do the same thing, then I’ll have nowhere to swim.”
Boutin said she has wanted to be a mermaid since she was little girl. The Little Mermaid is her favourite movie.
And she is not the only mermaid in Alberta. There are other mermaids and even a merman.
“We connect over the Internet. It’s nice to have a community to talk about your tails and the things you do. It’s just like any other community, any other interest group. We just like to pretend we’re mythical creatures for a while.”
She said some mermaids volunteer with the Make A Wish Foundation to help sick children and some try to bring attention to preserving the ocean. Professional mermaids swim at events like birthday parties and weddings.
And many visitors at Michener Aquatic Centre enjoy sharing their pool with a mermaid, Boutin said.
“Lots of kids love it. I have had lot of adults tell me it’s adorable. I have people stopping and taking pictures.”
Tammy Greba, recreation facility supervisor with the City of Red Deer, said the city is not banning the mermaid gear from public pools. But users are tested to make sure they can swim 25 metres continuously, tread water for two minutes, and swim confidently while wearing the equipment.
“We just manage it with the lens of safety. We don’t want the person to get hurt or any of the other patrons to get hurt,” Greba said.
Not a lot of people have used mermaid gear at city pools, she said.