The Mermaid Academy: Kids Swim Like Mermaids at Hyatt Grand

    By Jennifer Audette

    “I’m a mermaid!” exclaims Raynah Morris from the shallow end of the pool at the Hyatt Grand Cypress in Orlando.

    If you’re 6 years old, it doesn’t get much better than dressing and swimming like a mermaid.

    Several times a day, young visitors to Orlando get that opportunity, thanks to the new Mermaid Academy.

    Kids at Mermaid Academy

    Young mermaids line the pool during The Mermaid Academy at the Hyatt Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando.

    - Scott Audette for VISIT FLORIDA

    Kids swimming at Mermaid Academy

    Students at The Mermaid Academy swim around the pool at the Hyatt Grand Cypress Resort.

    - Scott Audette for VISIT FLORIDA


    At 12 well-known hotel pools in the area, instructors will spend one hour each session allowing young girls and boys to experience life with a tail.

    During the class, participants practice swimming with a monofin, which is more challenging than it looks. Some pick up the “dolphin kick” right away, others take more practice.

    Girls in the class then cover their monofin with a choice of several shiny and colorful mermaid “skirts.” Think shimmering greens and iridescent oranges. Boys in the class can add a shark fin.

    Once they are comfortable with swimming with a tail, the mermaids and sharks can swim through hula hoops and dive for buried treasures. About 15 minutes at the end of class allows for free swim time and photos.
     

    A young shark swims through hula hoops during The Mermaid Academy at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando.

    A young shark swims through hula hoops during The Mermaid Academy at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando.

    - Scott Audette for VISIT FLORIDA

    Raynah Morris,6, dives through a set of hoops.

    Raynah Morris,6, dives through a set of hoops.

    - Scott Audette for VISIT FLORIDA


    Each class has two in-water instructors and generally no more than 12 participants.

    The class fee depends upon the hotel where it is being offered, but the typical range is $20 to $30.

    Most of the instructors are both CPR- and lifeguard-certified, and all have been background screened for working with children.

    The Mermaid Academy is the entrepreneurial brainchild of Joe O’Rourke, who lived in Flower Mound, Texas, at the time and was spending a lot of time away from home as a sales representative.

    Young mermaids line the pool edge during The Mermaid Academy.

    Young mermaids line the pool edge during The Mermaid Academy.

    - Scott Audette for VISIT FLORIDA

    The iridescent fin of Raynah Morris, 6, waves in the pool during The Mermaid Academy at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.

    The iridescent fin of Raynah Morris, 6, waves in the pool during The Mermaid Academy at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.

    - Scott Audette for VISIT FLORIDA

    Gianna Horne, 8, waves while swimming through hoops.

    Gianna Horne, 8, waves while swimming through hoops.

    - Scott Audette for VISIT FLORIDA

    Gianna Horne, 8, explores the pool using her monofin during The Mermaid Academy at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.

    Gianna Horne, 8, explores the pool using her monofin during The Mermaid Academy at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.

    - Scott Audette for VISIT FLORIDA


    “My daughter, like any other little girl, wants to be a princess, wants to be Ariel,” O’Rourke said of his 8-year-old daughter. “She would drive us crazy with wanting a mermaid tail.”

    He and his wife finally found one for a reasonable price and brought it with them on a recent trip to Florida.

    “We were fielding nonstop questions (from other guests),” O’Rourke said.

    He joked with one guest that she could have a mermaid tail for the made-up price of $150, and without blinking, she said, “OK, give me two.”

    That got him thinking. What if little girls like his could pay (or have their parents pay) to be a mermaid while on vacation?

    He moved his family to Central Florida in early 2013, and The Mermaid Academy was born.

    By the beginning of the summer, eight hotels already were offering mermaid classes. By the middle of the summer, four more had signed on. O’Rourke now has more than a dozen employees. The instructors are the most important facet of the classes, providing gentle encouragement and lots of entertainment.

    “These kids want to be like our instructors,” he said. “They like to think, ‘This is a real mermaid teaching me.’”

    Raynah’s mom, traveling from Sarasota to spend a long weekend with her family in Orlando, watched with awe at the class.

    “She just loves mermaids.”
     

    Raynah Morris, 6, fins through the pool.

    Raynah Morris, 6, fins through the pool.

    - Scott Audette for VISIT FLORIDA

    Gianna Horne, 8, dives to the bottom of the pool.

    Gianna Horne, 8, dives to the bottom of the pool.

    - Scott Audette for VISIT FLORIDA


    To learn more…
    Mermaid Academy
    855-407-0803

    Explore Weeki Wachee Springs Park with your kids to meet mermaids and watch breathtaking Mermaid Shows in Tampa.
     

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