Aberdeenshire woman conquers fear of swimming in the ocean - to become a professional mermaid

Kirsten's alter-ego - Belle the Stonehaven Mermaid
Kirsten's alter-ego - Belle the Stonehaven Mermaid
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An Aberdeenshire woman has conquered her fear of swimming in the ocean - to become a professional mermaid.

Kirsten Waddle, 24, has been obsessed with the mythical sea creatures since watching Disney classic 'The Little Mermaid' as a child.

After joining a Scottish mermaid pod, Kirsten began swimming in deep pools.

After joining a Scottish mermaid pod, Kirsten began swimming in deep pools.

Lead character Ariel inspired her alter-ego - Belle the Stonehaven Mermaid.

She took the plunge to go professional after attending a mermaid convention in London with her friend, the Cornish mermaid Scarlette Von Borowski.

Kirsten, from Aberdeen, Scotland, purchased her first tail and vowed to beat her fear of the ocean and deep waters.

After joining a Scottish mermaid pod, she began swimming in deep pools and her fear was alleviated when she saw how confident her peers were.

Kirsten with her mermaid tails.

Kirsten with her mermaid tails.

She now does paid appearances as the Disney princess Ariel.

Kirsten, a primary education student at the University of Aberdeen, said: "I remember watching The Little Mermaid 2 and just loving Ariel's daughter, Melody.

"I'd always been amazed at Ariel's tail, but I really identified with Melody - she was boisterous and a bit of a troublemaker, just like me.

"I spent half of my childhood pretending I was a mermaid and playing mermaid-themed games, but I'd always been really afraid of the sea and deep water.

"Somewhere along the line I'd developed anxiety about what was swimming underneath me in the sea - I even started to panic that there were sharks in my local swimming pool.

"Nothing really changed until earlier this year, when I saw a photo of an old friend, Scarlette, wearing a gorgeous green tail on Instagram - I needed it to be a reality for me too.

"I immediately messaged her asking about it and she offered to take me with her to a mermaid convention in London so I could see everything for myself.

"I couldn't believe it when I got there, it was like a dream.

"There were stalls with everything mermaid related that you could imagine - including old Barbie's that had been remodelled as mermaids - and, best of all, dozens of mermaids swimming together in a pool.

"Watching them, I just wanted to join in and forget about my nerves. There were mermaids of all shapes, sizes and styles - the only thing they had in common was the passion they had for being a mermaid."

Kirsten spent the entire train journey back to Scotland looking at tails online before purchasing her first tail - a beautiful blue number which cost £80.

She joined a pod of mermaid enthusiasts known as the 'Tartan Tails' and got to try out her new tail at a group swimming session in a local pool.

"Seeing everyone else just own it and embrace their mermaid-selves really made me feel good," she said.

"I started to let go of the fear and, just like I had at the convention, I could just enjoy the water for what it was."

Inspired by Scarlette's mer-name, Kirsten decided to pay homage to the harbour town near her home, where she had helped work on her grandfather's boat with her cousins growing up, and with that Belle the Stonehaven Mermaid was born.

As she grew in confidence, Kirsten even began working professionally as people began to hire her to make surprise appearances.

But Kirsten had still not had a chance to enter the ocean and face her fears head on - or tail first.

"I'd been swimming in pools in Glasgow for a while when Scarlette invited me to Cornwall to swim in the sea with her," she said.

"I wasn't sure if it would be scarier than the pool, but it ended up being better than ever!

"I followed Scarlette's lead and just got right in - the practice at the pool in Glasgow had built my core strength, and I just felt comfortable almost immediately.

"Families on the beach even came over with their children to take photos - it was amazing."