THE ART OF MERMAIDING: ISLAMORADA DIVE INSTRUCTOR TEACHES OTHERS

In this underwater picture, Anna Capps strikes a pose in her custom-made silicone mermaid tail. JESSICA BAILEY PHOTOGRAPHY/Contributed

It’s green and gold, weighs 35 pounds, and is created from the highest quality silicone. 

“That cost me upwards of $4,000. It looks extremely realistic,” said Anna Capps of her custom-made, monofin mermaid tail.

Capps is a professional mermaid whose strength and passion lies in underwater performance.

“Who didn’t play mermaids when they were growing up? That’s what we did when we were kids in the pool,” said Capps of her childhood pastime that became a professional career. Since 2016, the South Carolina native has worked corporate events, birthday parties and renaissance festivals, donning her signature silicone tail and flawless make-up. 

A few years ago, the 30-year-old saw tens of thousands of dollars in mermaid gigs evaporate, practically overnight, when COVID shut down venues. Capps decided to relocate to Islamorada and began teaching scuba and freediving, traditionally male-dominated sports. 

“I wanted to be that female dive instructor that made other women feel comfortable in the water,” she said. 

Capps has always been comfortable in the water. She started scuba diving when she was only 8 years old. “My maternal grandfather was my own personal Jacques Cousteau. He was a dive instructor.” And Capps’ father, Andy Capps, is a safety dive instructor who teaches law enforcement search and recovery teams.

Anna Capps holds up her $4,000 mermaid performance tail. KELLIE BUTLER FARRELL/Keys Weekly

The Islamorada resident lives on a trawler and owns Deep Blue Aquatics. She teaches water safety, CPR and first aid, scuba diving, freediving, and of course, mermaid courses. 

“It’s for fun. You get to put on a tail, you get to feel like this magical, mystical creature,” explained Capps of the PADI mermaid course she offers through Deep Blue Aquatics.

PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, began offering mermaid certification courses in 2020. If you think the course only appeals to women, think again. Capps’ first mermaid clients were a man and woman visiting the Keys on their honeymoon. There have been a few other men along the way also seeking a mermaid certification. As is the case in any niche industry, mermaiding has its own jargon. A male mermaid is called a merman. And then there are the creepy mermaid stalkers. “There’s even a term for them within the industry; we call them merverts,” said Capps with a chuckle. 

The basic PADI mermaid course is a half-day pool experience. “You learn how to do an appropriate and efficient dolphin kick in the monofin and with the tail skin. You also learn proper breath hold techniques.” 

The advanced mermaid course is held over two days and includes an open ocean environment. It’s a lot more intense.

“You actually practice doing an underwater blackout rescue on someone who’s in a mermaid tail. And then the safety diver has to dive down in their bifins, rescue that mermaid diver, bring them up and resuscitate them,” explained Capps.

Anna Capps teaches a simulated blackout rescue procedure during a freediving class at a private pool. CONTRIBUTED

“She’s really phenomenal; I think she’s going places,” said Ed Martin, owner of Killshot Spearguns in Islamorada. For the last year, Capps has taught freediving to Martin’s clients. Martin said her skills as a freediver enable her to make mermaiding look effortless. 

In October, Capps will head up to North Carolina to work for four weekends at a renaissance festival. She will be on display in a 3,000-gallon, cylindrical aquarium. The aquarium is 8 feet deep and 8 feet in diameter. Capps can stay down on one breath for a minute to a minute and a half, exhaling to control her buoyancy. “She’s put a lot of work into it and practices a lot. What she does may look easy, but it certainly isn’t,” said Martin.

As if this real-life mermaid did not already have enough on her plate, Capps recently added yet another component to her business: cleaning boat hulls. 

Martin has no doubt Capps’ business is going to make a splash. “She’s gonna blow up in popularity around here,” he said.

To learn more about Capp’s business, including mermaid training and private events, visit deepbluemermaid.com.

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Kellie Butler Farrell is a journalist who calls Islamorada home. Kellie spent two decades in television news and also taught journalism at Barry University in Miami and Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, UAE. She loves being outside, whether spending time on the water or zipping down the Old Highway on her electric bike, Kellie is always soaking up the island lifestyle. Kellie and her husband own an electric bike rental company, Keys Ebikes.