Last update: 11/26/2006
We at Otterbay – a nickname for our beautiful Monterey Bay in California, USA - are proud to be the pioneer of a wonderful new version of sport diving. We call it Mermaid Diving.
It is a beautiful new kind of diving, where the diver wears a sleek, sexy mermaid-type wetsuit and a special mono-fin. It can be done with or without SCUBA equipment.
We quietly developed this equipment over the last few years. Hundreds of mermaid dives have been done by the first ladies using this equipment. As we found a surprising interest in mermaid diving among scuba diving women - "where can I buy such a suit?" - we decided to make this equipment available to a wider audience of experienced divers.
We encourage you to take a closer look at this new equipment, read the stories, enjoy the photos and contemplate whether this is something you may want to try out yourself.
You will find that diving as a mermaid is not scary – rather it is a delight. This equipment will transform you into a streamlined creature of the sea, the star of the show, fast as a dophin (well, not quite,but you get the idea) However, do not do it if you cannot stand in the limelight of all these underwater cameras you'll face as a mermaid.
The next pages will describe what we were trying to achieve with this design, how it is designed, how to dive with it and how to go about ordering the equipment. We pride ourselves in providing the best, most beautifully fitted dive suits – wet, dry or mermaid style – and if you order one, please read carefully this section. We want you to have a fintastic experience!
We set ourselves very clear goals in the design of mermaid suits. The foremost are safety, easy of use and fun. We assume that you do not have the luxury to dive in a Hollywood-style movie production environment, where a large support group, safety-divers, hoists and other fancy gear is available. Rather, the intention was that a couple of experienced divers could comfortably do mermaid diving off a boat or beach, without external help.
We do assume, however, that only one of you wears a mermaid’s tail. It is self evident that you both must be experienced open-water Scuba divers and feel very comfortable in the water. Mermaid diving is not inherently more difficult, but it is different. Having both legs confined in a tight fitting tail may cause in some persons a claustrophobic feeling. It is true –obviously- that it is difficult to move above water in a mermaid tail, and the water entry/exit procedures must be modified. However, the mermaid suit and the procedures described have been tested extensively during many open water dives in the Caribbean and South Pacific by pioneering mermaids – and they liked the result very much.
We designed the mermaid suit for both Scuba diving and free diving and for capturing the grace and beauty of a woman playing a mermaid in tropical seas. A full-size scuba tank was designed to be part of the outfit, which is worn conventionally, on the back. However, special measures were taken to make the hardware as unobtrusive as possible, minimizing the clutter and to distract as little as possible from the grace of a beautiful mermaid. Look at the pictures and judge for yourself how well we achieved this goal!
Who knows, with the advance of technology, one day it may be possible to hide an extreme pressure oxygen tank inside the tail and rebreathing gear elsewhere in a mermaid suit, creating the perfect illusion of a mermaid by 2020…
The mermaid suit developed through extensive practical use. Initially, it was a far more complicated suit, with multiple zippers and parts. As experience was gathered, it gradually morphed to the simple, elegant form described here.
The suit is a one-piece, full body suit covering you from the neck to the tip of your fin. The monofin –of a special, "split" design- is worn INSIDE the suit. There is only a single zipper in the entire suit, running from a few inches below the waist to your neck. A very broad Velcro strip closes the trailing edge of the monofin.
Considerable thought and experience went into the decision to put the monofin inside the suit. This was mostly done to provide an elegant, integrated look, at the risk of exposing the fin cover to damage while diving close to rocks. Experience has shown that – even though the neoprene fin cover takes some beating in open ocean dives – its lifetime is at over 100 dives. We can easily replace the fin cover with a new one when it wears out. Certain non-obvious features of the suit are protected by a patent (pending).
The fin is the most important part of a mermaid suit. A well design fin can do wonders for the speed and agility
of the diver, whereas a soft, floppy fin or a fin with uncomfortable foot pockets can spoil the experience completely.
Since there is an art and a lot of science in designing a great fin, we decided to base our fin on well-regarded professional fins made by a respected dive equipment manufacturer. We choose the Pro Sport fins from the Italian manufacturer Cressi. The Pro Sport fins are conventional bi-fins, not monofins, But we convert them with some accessories into a “split monofin’.
There were three reasons for combining two bi-fins into a single monofin, rather than using a standard monofin.
The fins are modified to be used inside the suit. Their tips are trimmed to give the pair of fins a triangular fishtail shape when they are laying side-by-side, and there are three items needed to assemble them into a single, split monofin.
(1) A nylon tie-wrap holds the two blades tightly together. A small hole is drilled in each blade, close to its inside edge and near the foot pockets to accommodate the tie wrap. The 2-cent tie wrap is a disposable item. A nail-clipper works perfectly well in cutting a tie-wrap and is legal to carry onto an airliner.
(2) A metal blade is inserted between the tips of the two fins. It holds the fins in place and covers part of the gap between them. This blade is custom made by Otterbay.
(3) A pair of small lead weights is permanently mounted on the fin, to compensate for the buoyancy of the neoprene fin cover. (See later more on this).
The whole assembly process takes only a couple of minute and requires no tools except the optional tie wrap (nail) clipper.
The suits are both made from high quality neoprene, 1/8” (3mm) thick, with double-sided lycra lining. Otterbay suits are double-glued and professionally blind stitched. The entire suit, without the fin inside, weights about 4 pounds. We choose neoprene because it has proven itself for decades in tough underwater use and gives a smooth, skintight fit without requiring complex molds..
Special materials -such as metallic lycra linings, coloring and pattern options (such as hand-painted scales) are available as options.
A certified diver is responsible for maintaining the proper buoyancy during the dive and needs to choose the
equipment she or he feels is best suited to accomplish this task. We do not give advice to the users of our suits
how to achieve proper and safe buoyancy.
This said, we simply wish to report on the experience of lady divers wearing these suits. None of them used a Buoyancy Compensator (BC) with her mermaid suit.. They felt that the lift provided was unnecessary while swimming with a powerful mermaid tail, they didn’t like the drag it produces and the fact that it obscured their shapes.
Instead, they simply used two standard lead weights on a belt (for ocean dives, between 2x5 pounds to 2x8 pounds, depending on the divers) plus two 1-pound weights attached to the blades of the fin. The latter are create crescent shaped lead weights, attached to the fin blades with stainless steel screws just forward of the foot pockets. They are available from Otterbay as part of the mermaid suit package.
Once the correct amount of the two weights for the waist belt is determined, we recommend highly to trim the weight belt to the minimal length required. A heated, very sharp knife to melt through the belt’s webbing is the preferred tool. Few things are as distracting on a video as a loose belt flapping while swimming.. It is also advisable to secure even a short loose end of the belt with a rubber band to the main body of the belt.
Scuba tank, pressure gage and regulator are all standard items. Large, round masks as preferred by professional
underwater models are highly recommended. They show the face and eyes of thediver to her best advantage.
In a standard diver’s setup, there are two belts around the waist – the weight belt and the belt of the harness or BC. We, in collaboration with the divers, changed this design to provide a more elegant look. In the mermaid design, the weight belt doubles as the harness. This is not standard practice and may be considered dangerous, because a diver should be able to drop the weight belt, while retaining the tank. Use it at your own risk. However, the following arrangement provides a rather quick weight/tank disconnect.
The tank is held in place by a neoprene strap (¼” thick and 2” wide) which is connected to the weight belt. The strap is closed with a Velcro fastener. Therefore, if the diver suddenly needs to unfasten the tank, she can reach back and rip the Velcro closure open. Thus the tank and the weight belt disconnect in an instant. The strap is connected to the weight belt with a rectangular stainless steel loop.
Wearing rubber gloves is very strongly recommended when diving with a tail, because one is more likely to touch rocks while in a tail. As always, one must avoid touching living things. We strongly recommend using a glove size, which will barely fit. Gloves which are even slightly too big will look baggy under water. There is no need to wear webbed swim gloves. Ordinary household rubber gloves in a color matching the suit color work very well.
We recommend wearing thin nylon or neoprene socks, to cushion the feet from chafing.
Standard knife straps will not fit around a tail. You may want to let the dive buddy carry a knife and perhaps even your snorkel once submerged for the dive, or you could attach these to your tank.
All our experience has been with mermaids, and the remainder of this website exclusively uses the term mermaid. However, we see no reason why this type of suit wouldn't work equally well for male divers.
Tails or Suits
Tails starting at the waist are fine for above water use, but are not recommended for serious diving. They don't protect agains the underwater environment and tend to open up noticeably around the waist as the user swims, both distracting from the elegant looks and allowing cold water to rush in. But we can provide them on special request.
How to dive as a mermaid
Return to Mermaid Home