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A mother-of-three has dedicated herself to becoming real-life mermaid who swims in the open sea all year round and can dive to depths of 65ft while holding her breath for up to four minutes. 

Emma Harper, 41, also known as Mischief the Mermaid, from Truro, Cornwall spends ‘most of her time’ in the open sea swimming, filling the water ‘with mermagic’ by teaching others how to safely be a mermaid, and even modelling.

The mother-of-three undergoes six hours of intense cardio training in and out of the ocean each week to ensure she’s in peak condition to tackle the waves and enchant thrilled onlookers.

Emma Harper,41, says that for her - being a mermaid is about more than 'sitting on a rock and looking pretty'

Emma Harper,41, says that for her – being a mermaid is about more than ‘sitting on a rock and looking pretty’ 

The Cornish mother-of-three says that she fell in love with the 'mystery' of mermaids and claims that they 'could exist'

The Cornish mother-of-three says that she fell in love with the ‘mystery’ of mermaids and claims that they ‘could exist’

The 41-year-old, along with the Cornish Merpod, also campaigns for cleaner oceans and champions the mental health benefits of being in the sea.

The ocean mermaid instructor and underwater artist, who’s married to on-trade sales manager Craig Harper,50, said although she’s able to hold her breath for four minutes she’s aiming for a whopping six in future.

Emma said: ‘I started mermaiding years ago when I did free-diving.

‘I was the mermaid that first swam into Newquay and infected the water and since then mermaid spores have turned everyone.

Emma with her husband Craig Harper, 50, who she says is supportive of her mythical lifestyle choice

Emma with her husband Craig Harper, 50, who she says is supportive of her mythical lifestyle choice 

Emma says that Cornish merpeople are unique to the profession as they swim with the swell of the sea

Emma says that Cornish merpeople are unique to the profession as they swim with the swell of the sea

‘There are lots and lots of mermaids but I think what makes Mischief the Mermaid, and Cornish mermaids, unique is that we actually do it in the ocean with the swell and the rips.

‘The wave of mermaid magic is happening, the mermaids are assembling.

‘I’m excited about it because I think it’s our chance to get people aware of the oceans so that they’re safer around water.

‘On the topic of mermaiding, people do roll their eyes and they straight away assume I’m a woman that just dresses up like cosplaying.

Emma and her Cornish merpod take part in conservation efforts, cleaning up the ocean as they swim

Emma and her Cornish merpod take part in conservation efforts, cleaning up the ocean as they swim 

‘We are mermaids because we have a living heartbeat, I dive happily 20 metres down, I spend most of my time in the sea so for me mermaids are real.

‘I can hold my breath for four minutes, but I want to do six minutes in future.’

Her love for the sea started when Emma was a youngster, spending hours in the water or sitting on the beach ‘squeaking like Madison’ from hit ’84 movie Splash.

Emma, who teaches Scuba Schools International (SSI) ocean mermaid courses, said: ‘I was a keen swimmer as a child and I’ve been mermaiding since I was a little one.

Emma now teaches others how to swim safely and gives mermaid lessons after getting a free diving qualification

Emma now teaches others how to swim safely and gives mermaid lessons after getting a free diving qualification 

Children and adults alike gather to get a glimpse of the real-life Little Mermaid as she frolics in the sea

Children and adults alike gather to get a glimpse of the real-life Little Mermaid as she frolics in the sea

After free-diving and snorkeling for a number of years, Emma then trained to be an instructor so she could teach others.

After free-diving and snorkeling for a number of years, Emma then trained to be an instructor so she could teach others.

Emma's love for the folklore and mystery of mermaids progressed to wild swimming and mono-finning all over the UK as an adult

Emma’s love for the folklore and mystery of mermaids progressed to wild swimming and mono-finning all over the UK as an adult

‘I was that child that would sit for hours on the beach with a sand tail around them and would squeak like Madison off Splash.

‘I just love the mystery, I love the fact that no-one could actually tell me they weren’t real and they still can’t because we don’t know what’s in the deepest fathoms of the ocean.

‘There are so many dark places we’ve not explored – we know more about space than we do about the ocean.

‘But because of our human fears we have to say they’re not real, but we don’t really know.’

Emma’s love for the folklore and mystery of mermaids progressed to wild swimming and mono-finning all over the UK as an adult.

Emma, who’s been teaching mermaiding for a year, said: ‘I’ve lived all over the UK, I’ve swam in lochs and monofinned everywhere.

Emma monofins in Mexico - monofinning is the word used to describe the use of a singular, wearable mermaid tail, often made of silicone

Emma monofins in Mexico – monofinning is the word used to describe the use of a singular, wearable mermaid tail, often made of silicone

‘Some mermaids think it’s about posing on rocks and looking pretty, but mermaiding is a lifestyle for me.

‘It’s a connection to the ocean, a connection to my own body, my mental health and it’s inspiring young people to want to learn about the ocean.

‘Mermaiding is a reminder that we are a tiny part of something big and beautiful.

‘It’s such a freeing and meditative state that you become.

‘Everything peels away – stress, phone calls and emails – you have to stop and be in the moment, listen to your heartbeat, lower your heart rate and just fly.

‘It’s the most freeing, beautiful feeling to fly, it’s the best feeling in the world.

‘I’ve travelled to Mexico doing underwater modelling work and I also do talks for the police force and the fire brigade on how you can help with stress and anxiety through ocean work.’

After enjoying snorkeling and free-diving recreationally with friends, Emma decided to get professional training to ensure she and her merpod were safe in the water.

She then trained to be an instructor so she could teach others.

Emma said: ‘Free-diving is quite a recent thing, something I started in the last couple of years.

‘We would recreationally snorkel and free-dive and I said to my friend ‘this isn’t very safe. I think we’re diving a little bit too deep to not know how to rescue each other, so let’s go get our free dive training’.

Ghost nets and fishing debris are amongst the ocean pollutants that Emma and her merpod clean up

Ghost nets and fishing debris are amongst the ocean pollutants that Emma and her merpod clean up 

‘I did the SSI free-diving courses and I now teach the SSI ocean mermaid courses.

‘There are two – one qualifies you to be a mermaid in confined water – in a pool, in a controlled environment with no currents, rips or waves.

‘I discovered that I’ve got big lungs and I was naturally good at holding my breath. My first dive down was 15 meters (49ft).

‘As an ocean mermaid I take people out to deal with winds, swells, buoyancy and learning to equalize properly.’

When she’s not teaching others, Emma commits to training hard each week to ensure she’s in top condition to tackle the waves.

Emma said: ‘I make sure I do a proper swim a minimum of three times a week.

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‘I don’t just dip in, I swim for a good hour until I feel like my arms are falling off. It’s not worth getting wet otherwise.

‘Being underwater solves everything and gives a magic gentleness to everything whereas when I’m above water I’m stressed and I’m manic.

‘We all have the mammalian dive reflex. We’re all born with it, we just forget how to use it, it’s about reconnecting with that.

The mother-of-three travelled to Mexico doing underwater modelling work with her tail, affectionately dubbed 'Pollock'

The mother-of-three travelled to Mexico doing underwater modelling work with her tail, affectionately dubbed ‘Pollock’

‘We teach about safety, how to recover and we do a lot about ocean conservation and pollution.

‘Once you’ve got that you can get insurance and work professionally.

‘I avoid swimming with any mermaids who haven’t had any training because I have three children that I want to come home to.

‘My husband sees how happy it makes me and how good it is for my fitness.

‘I thought my children would be a bit embarrassed about me being a mermaid, but they’re quite proud.’

Not only does Emma, who swims in a 35lb bespoke silicone tail dubbed ‘Pollock’, take the safety of mermaids seriously, but also the safety of the marine life she swims alongside.

Emma said: ‘You don’t want to wear tat that’s going to come off in the ocean.

‘I hate the idea of me promoting ocean conservation and then going in and putting loads of glitter and sequins everywhere.

‘That’s why I look more minimal than other mermaids because I don’t want to dump stuff in the sea.

‘I wear a cheeky bikini with two shells and I made sure I got a silicone tail that’s safe in the open ocean, I don’t want to make the situation worse.

‘We regularly go into the water and do conservation work, removing rope and ‘ghost netting’ and other gear – including lobster pots that marine life can get trapped in.

‘I go in the sea all year round, I go in nearly every day.

‘In December last year it was hail stoning and I wore a wig, which I’ll occasionally do, as it helps me keep me warm on the beach.’

To anyone wanting to dip their toe into the world of mermaiding, Emma urges people to do their research and be respectful to the environment.

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