The Truth Behind Mermaid (monofins) Fins and Mermaid Tails

Mermaid tails and mermaid fins have become controversial water toys that are targeted at children but may be utilized by adults as a form of abdominal swimming exercise.

Many countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.K. are beginning to ban the use of mermaid fins and mermaid tails in public pools.  Safety officials are disturbed by the fact that a swimmer’s legs are bound together thus making it more difficult to maneuver in the water and swim.3,5  It is also concerning to safety officials that breath-holding activities may be promoted through the wearing of mermaid swim accessories.3  Breath holding activities can lead to drowning as a result of Shallow water blackout.4

The question being asked is are they safe for children and or adults?

View the video that sparked this controversary.

A mermaid tail consists of a fully enclosed piece of fabric that fits from the waist down, wraps the user’s legs together, encloses the feet, and ends with a wide fin.1,5

Figure 1:  Mermaid Tail.  Photo by Royal Life Saving Western Australia

A mermaid fin, or monofin, is simply two feet fit into one fin.  These fins are typically larger and made of sturdier materials1.  Monofins are typically used in the competitive sport of Fin Swimming and for fitness purposes1.  However, when being marketed toward children, these Mermaid fins are often made of rubber.

Figure 2:  Mermaid Fin.  Photo by Royal Life Saving Western Australia

Now that we know what mermaid tails and mermaid fins are, lets discuss if they are safe.

The Royal Life Saving Society of Western Australia, with the assistance and funding of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, conducted a study to determined how these swim toys affected swimmers of varying ages and abilities2.  The study included 25 children two to twelve years of age as well as nine swim instructors and sixteen parents2.

It was discovered that the use of mermaid tails decreased a majority of the childrens’ swimming abilities by an average of 60%, while the mermaid fin resulted in an average decrease of 70% of ability to swim2.

Does this mean that mermaid fins and mermaid tails are unsafe?  Should they be banned from use?  What is your opinion?

What this study shows is that these swim toys, like all water toys, have the potential to be dangerous.

Parents and caregivers must consider the age and swim ability of the child before engaging in activities that increase the risk of child drowning.

According to The Royal Life Saving Society of Western Australia:2

The report into the review of mermaid tail and fin products recommends:

  • Mermaid Tail products are appropriate for children seven years or older or for children at Swim and Survive Stage 6 (can swim 50 metres freestyle, float on front and back, scull on back and tread water)2
  • Mermaid Fin products are not appropriate for children under the age of 10 years due to their limited strength and fitting issues with the products regularly slipping off2
  • Children should be directly supervised by a responsible adult at all times while wearing either tails or fins2
  • The products should only be used in controlled environments such as home swimming pools2
  • Aquatic centres should develop policies regarding the use of these products and implement them, with staff to be given information about their use and have a role to educate parents visiting the centre2
  • Safety messages and warnings highlighting the dangers, age restrictions and stressing the importance of supervision be displayed at points of sale and incorporated into packaging
  • Community safety campaigns to raise awareness among parents, product manufacturers and retailers2
Figure 3:

Like all swim toys, the use of mermaid fins and mermaid tails by children requires the constant supervision of a responsible adult other than, or in addition to, the pool lifeguard.  Additionally, for all swim toys the recommended safety instructions should be read and obeyed.

The use of mermaid swim accessories is NOT recommended in open water environments (non-pool locations) due to the occurrence of “currents, swells and rips.”1

The additional use of water wings will not ensure the safety of a child wearing mermaid swim accessories.

Only Constant – Active – Supervision can ensure the safety of children in the water!

Keep in mind that lifeguards are NOT baby sitters and cannot constantly or actively watch your child – only you can do that!

Furthermore, Mackenzie’s Mission, inc. does not encourage the use of mermaid tails or mermaid fins by children.  Mackenzie’s Mission, inc. also does not encourage the use of mermaid tails or mermaid fins by adults with limited swim ability.

The “Review of Mermaid Tail and Fin Products” report can be downloaded from the RLSSWA website.

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