At the Durango Community Recreation Center pool Wednesday, three young mermaids frolicked, laughed and executed underwater back flips under the careful supervision of the chief mermaid, Catherine Rathbone, 23, who is running a series of weeklong mermaid camps this summer.
As the mermaids – Avery Rike, 8; Breleigh Hanagan, 7; and Sofia Sieger, 8 – screamed with delight and somehow managed to stay above water with only the use of their arms, a young girl and boy, clad merely in bathing suits and increasingly dismayed by their legs, watched enviously from the pool’s deck.
Such is the potent mythological lure of mermaids, when the little girl started crying that she too wanted to be a mermaid, her very amused mother had to scoop her away, much as Odysseus needed to be physically restrained while aboard his ship in order to resist the call of the sirens.
Watching the girls navigate the water while their legs were bound – from waist to toe – within what, on closer inspection, appeared to be a tight spandex tube attached to a large Styrofoam flipper – made being a mermaid look like fun, if also arduous. (Lifeguards were on duty.)
If swimming with the mermaid tails looked athletically challenging for humans, the mermaid tails themselves were artistically convincing, replete with scales.
Rathbone, who swam competitively for 11 years, said she got the idea for mermaid camp when she started “mermaiding last summer” while enjoying the ocean every day in California.
Whether a man or a woman, “when you’re wearing a mermaid tail, you just feel so beautiful and strong and powerful.”