Mermaid Freediver Spotlight - Myrissa Yokie
Myrissa Yokie (she/her) age 32
How did you first begin your mermaid journey and why?
I think I began my mermaid journey at 9 months old when my first word was “boat”. I grew up on the water. When I was younger my dad told us that we could swim in Lake Erie by ourselves if we could swim a mile to the shore without any help. And I have always been determined. I have also always loved being center stage and being a goofball character. I went to college for theater and being in the water has always come so naturally to me, so being able to put the two together just made so much sense.
To get technical though my mermaid journey began when I stumbled upon Vero Beach Mermaid on social media. I followed her and stalked her internet journey as a mermaid. She was so inspiring as a female entrepreneur making her dreams work for her. Through her I found Finfolk, ordered my first tail and just said, “Bam! I’m a mermaid.” I got a job working as a mermaid at Ripley’s Aquarium and created my mersona of Mermaid Merue.
Merue is a special name to me. It took a lot of thought. I am half Russian and Mermaid in Russian is “rusalka”. My name is Myrissa, some friends call me Roo. So I kind of took “roo”, “myrissa”, “rusalka”, and “mermaid” and put them all together to come up with Merue. Then I sprinkled in some other elements, I like the cold, I love meeting new people and seeing new places. And the adventurous mermaid from the Arctic Ocean who travels around to make friends with and learn about all the other sea creatures was born.
What does being a PADI mermaid mean to you?
Being a PADI mermaid is being part of a larger family. It is terrific, as an instructor, to be able to share this dream with so many others. Having a world known company like PADI to support the mermaid community is very validating. Knowing that PADI mermaids have the background to keep safety in the water a priority as well and protecting the water and everything in it.
What are you doing with your certifications?
I received my first PADI Mermaid certification from a retreat with Mermaid Freedive and from there went on to get my instructor certification. So now I am teaching others how to be a mermaid. I travel quite a lot and this is a job I can do from anywhere as long as there is water nearby. Having my PADI certification has also helped from a professionalism perspective and has allowed me to be taken more seriously by aquariums and other performance venues.
What goals do you have in the future?
I am working on starting some mermaid camps this summer in Ohio. Some of these are like a summer day camp for young mermaids and some are geared toward adult mermaids and just having fun. I hope to be able to do these camps all around the world teaching people to have fun as a mermaid and helping them to learn about ocean conservation. My main goal for my mermaid career is to become a loud enough presence to really make a difference in ocean conservation. Hannah Mermaid has done some amazing work on that level and that is what I strive for. I am specifically passionate about sharks conservation.
What made you decide to go with Mermaid Freedive for your mermaid and/or freedive certifications?
Honestly, it was 60% getting to meet Brandee, and 40% it was an absolutely new experience that I had never heard of being done anywhere else. I was working at Ripley’s Aquarium at the time and I wanted to improve my mermaiding skills and my breath hold and I thought who better to learn from than the legend herself.
How has the mermaid freedive community helped you?
I have to say I came out of my retreat weekend with Mermaid Freedive with much more than I thought I would. I met one of my now best friends that weekend. I have gotten to keep in contact with some really cool people. Last summer I took my friends to meet up with Keke and they got PADI scuba certified. They are nervous people and I knew how amazing of an instructor she was from my time at the retreat. I knew they would be in good hands. I am also heading down to Florida to meet up with a photographer I met through Mermaid Freedive and work on some creative projects with @underwaterfantasy photography. I am honestly astounded at the helpfulness of the Mermaid Freedive community from what I thought was only going to be a nice weekend away.
What is your favorite part about Mermaid Freedive?
I went into my retreat terrified of the breath hold and freediving elements. I knew I could hit depths, but the whole concept of freediving scared me. Keke and Farrell were such calming and patient instructors. I went from not being able to hold my breath more than 30 seconds to over two minutes in just one day. It definitely helped my confidence in and out of the water.
The community that Brandee has created, both in the people I met through Mermaid Freedive, and what she is constantly cultivating with all her work definitely makes my Mermaid Freedive experience shine.
What is your conservation initiative and how do you plan to use it?
Sharks are such misunderstood creatures, as is the plight surrounding them. You may have heard of shark finning, and while, yes, this is a problem for sharks it is only a small percentage. One of the biggest threats to sharks is bycatch from overfishing. I know that lots of people fear sharks, I use Mermaid Merue as a way to teach people starting from a young age, that sharks are to be respected not feared. Little kids will come up to me and ask, “Do you ever see sharks when you’re swimming? Is it scary?” and I inform them that, “Sharks aren’t scary at all, in fact, some of my best friends are sharks!” People are moved much more by images and art rather than statistics. My goal is to use the mermaid image and entertainment value to bring facts to life. I am currently talking with some shark conservationists on how we can work together to better inform people.
xx Myrissa Yokie