On Board With: Linden Wolbert, Mermaid

A fishy Q&A with a professional mermaid.

Linden Wolbert

It's hard to find an actual mermaid out swimming, seducing sailors and otherwise doing mermaid things, namely because there are no mermaids. Unless you count Linden Wolbert, a professional mermaid and the creator of the Web series "Mermaid Minute" (mermaidsinmotion.com). We asked her a few questions.

Which came first, the tail or the gills?
My gills. I was a little swimmer. As soon as I could walk, I was in the water. The tail came later, after going to college for film and science. I wondered, "How can I inspire kids?" I realized I could become a mermaid and teach kids how to love the oceans.

How did you get a tail?
Special effects artist Allan Holt built it. It's a 6-foot-long hydrodynamic tail that's silicon and weighs 35 pounds. He molded the tail to my body.

Sounds hard.
Not at all.

How fast can you go?
I go at least three times faster in my tail than without my tail. It is an extremely powerful technique. There's a reason dolphins have this form: It permits speed and agility in the water. By being a mermaid I'm emulating them.

Do you dive with tanks?
No, I hold my breath.

How long can you hold it?
I can hold it for five minutes — that's what's called a static breath-hold. You're not actively mermaiding or swimming; you're in your happy zen place, floating with your face in the water.

Gasp! Free diving just sounds dangerous.
That has to be done with professional training. Always have a safety buddy with you even on the land.

Is holding your breath for that long a good way to train?
Actually, yes. The diaphragm, the biggest muscle, is at the bottom of the lungs. The more flexible it becomes, the more comfortable you can be. The more in tune with the lungs it is, the more comfortable it is.

You've swum at Hollywood parties.
Being a mermaid is interaction with humans in a fun way. I educate them about the ocean. I educate at birthday parties, a lot of charity events, a lot of nonprofits like Reef Check Worldwide and Make-A-Wish — or "Make-A-Fish" as I like to call it. I also do a lot of free diving in the ocean for photographs and video purposes with ocean creatures, sharks, whales, dolphins, thousands of jellyfish. It's an incredible experience.

What are the coolest underwater beasts to swim with?
Whales. It's an emotional experience to look a whale in the eye. Initially I wear a mask. Then I start crying because it's so beautiful and I have to take it off.