Maija Mottonen, Finland's first professional mermaid instructor, is giving lessons at a pool near Helsinki
Ever wanted just to give up on modern life and become a mermaid? That dream could become a reality thanks to special classes being taught in Finland.
Adult women and men are taking to the mermaid lifestyle at a swimming pool in Espoo, on the outskirts of Helsinki, where 28-year-old former Kindergarten teacher Maija Mottonen gives lessons in swimming like a mermaid or merman. She is FInland's first professional mermaid instructor.
Mottonen explains that she set her sights on becoming an aquatic mammal at an early age:
"It's my childhood dream-come-true. When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a mermaid or a dolphin but I think it's easier to become a mermaid because it's half human."
Since August, Mottonen has taught more than 200 mermaids and mermen how to swim with a tail on, one of them being 29-year-old construction worker Markus Parviainen.
"It's kind of magical or something," says Parviainen of the feeling of diving with the 170-Euro green merman tail that he bought online.
Parviainen, who is also into cheerleading, said his merman hobby has raised some eyebrows on the building site where he works.
"People think, or mostly men, are thinking that this is only for girls or women but I disagree, this is for everyone... as long as you love swimming," he said, adding it was an efficient way for keeping fit.
Mottonen teaches her pupils how to undulate their entire body from head to toe, "like a snake" as she described it, followed by a dolphin kick with the monofin flipper to move forward.
More advanced merpeople like Parviainen practise tricks such as flapping their tail on the surface while hanging with their head straight down towards the bottom.
"When I had tried this once, I was hooked. I feel real powerful in water," another pupil, Annika Ihatsu said, having dared a 40-minute drive on the icy roads from her hometown Hyvinkaa to attend the class.
While Finland may not be the first place on earth to cross people's minds for fairytail swimming, instructor Mottonen said in summertime she preferred the Finnish sweetwater lakes to practise over warmer beaches in other countries where salty seawater would make her tail float.
"We have a lot of lakes so it's easy in summer," she said, referring to the country's roughly 180,000 lakes.