Mermaid Fins: Pleasure or Peril?

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Mermaid fins, a popular pool accouterment, were a hot topic at the annual Alberta Association of Recreation Facility Personnel Conference in April.

Although kids have taken to the slip on fins in a big way, officials in Alberta decided to establish a policy aimed at ensuring kids wearing the fins will do so safely while using the city's public swimming pools. Some cities in the province have taken the issue a step further and banned them altogether.

"They bind legs together and make it difficult to safely maneuver in the water," explained Edmonton's Supervisor of Aquatic Strategies Rob Campbell to CBC News.

Campbell said Edmonton banned fins at its public pools in April because they are aimed at young children, who are often weak swimmers. Swimming with a fin "promotes breath-holding, which can result in blackouts."

"I was very mad and very, very sad," said nine-year-old Alexis Mayer, who was recently asked to remove her mermaid fin at an Edmonton city pool. "They told us because our legs are bound together we could drown in the deep end and it would be hard for the lifeguards to come and save us," she added.

The City of Calgary is considering similar action for the same reasons but has not yet adopted an official policy on mermaid fins, but in the meantime does not allow them to be worn when a pool is crowded.

For now, Calgary lifeguards are making swimmers take the following test before they can wear their toys in a public pool. They must:

  • Swim 25 meters continuously.
  • Tread water for two minutes.
  • Swim with confidence while wearing the mermaid fin.

"There's concerns that people won't be able to save themselves or they might not be able to make it to the edge or stand up and that's why we have a safety test," said Jack Birkett, aquatic operations coordinator for the City of Calgary.

The Lifesaving Society of Alberta recommends pools across the province also adopt a "mermaid swim test," but not ban them outright.

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