Under the sea: Alum becomes professional mermaid

by Emily Murphy / Beacon Staff • April 11, 2013

Mermaid copy
Emerson alumna Linden Wolbert can hold her breath for up to five minutes.
photo by Mathew Addison courtesy of Linden Wolbert
Emerson alumna Linden Wolbert can hold her breath for up to five minutes.
photo by Mathew Addison courtesy of Linden Wolbert

Linden Wolbert, an Emerson alumna, loves the ocean. Her job consists of modeling underwater, being an ocean videographer, and attending events to raise awareness about wildlife conservation. During almost all of these activities, she dons a 35-pound, silicone mermaid tail. 

Wolbert, a self-proclaimed professional mermaid, said her tail creates a persona that people, specifically children, will pay attention to. She attends a number of charity events and fundraisers. Primarily working with Reef Check, a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving reef wildlife, Wolbert said an important aspect of her job is teaching others how they can help protect the ocean. 

“The core of what I do is inspiring and educating children about the ocean so that they wish to explore and conserve the oceans themselves,” Wolbert, 32, said. 

Her fully functional tail piece, which is around 6-feet long, took over seven months to create. Special effects artist Allan Holt helped Wolbert construct the massive tail for her transformation, custom fitting the mold to Wolbert’s body. 

“Basically she just wanted a mermaid tail that had a really artistic look to it that would also function in the ocean,” Holt said. “It had to be something that she could swim in and that would have a powerful kick.”

In addition to fundraisers and charity events, Wolbert does plenty of children’s parties and performances at celebrity hosted events. 

“I actually just had a request from someone who wanted me to help propose to his girlfriend,” she said. “Apparently she really loves mermaids and he was thinking that I could swim up with the ring.” 

Wolbert’s website, mermaidsinmotion.com, features photos, “Mermaid Minute” educational videos for children, and a place to request a quote for Wolbert’s appearances. 

With a degree in visual and media arts and a minor in science from Emerson, Wolbert said she focused her undergraduate years at school on combining her love of the ocean with her fondness for making movies. She said she even bought a small aquarium and put her camera in it so she could take footage underwater.  

“Basically I had to create my own little world of making underwater film because it didn’t really exist at Emerson,” Wolbert said. 

Wolbert said her knowledge in this field manifests itself in a children’s web series on YouTube she created, called the Mermaid Minute. The videos, which Wolbert films, scripts, and edits herself, focus on teaching kids about different creatures in the ocean. 

“Editing my Mermaid Minute videos is my passion,” Wolbert said. “[I want] to really inspire children, educate children, and to get them to see the animals in the ocean itself rather than being in an aquarium or where animals are kept in captivity.”

Wolbert said she first decided she wanted to become a professional mermaid after her graduation in 2003, when she was offered a resident director job at Emerson’s Los Angeles campus. 

While in LA, Wolbert learned to scuba dive, and became a Master Scuba Diver through the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, an organization that also offered her a position as an underwater model after her resignation at Emerson. 

Apart from scuba diving, Wolbert said she also learned to free-dive — diving for depth and distance underwater in a single breath. Wolbert holds personal records for depth at 115 feet, and static breath hold (staying still underwater while holding her breath) at five minutes, she said.

According to Wolbert, an experience at a freediving tournament is what inspired her to become a mermaid. 

“The first time I went and actually watched free-divers do a competition,” Wolbert said, “I saw a monofin for the first time.”

As soon as she saw the monofin, which is one piece attached at the feet, Wolbert said she thought it looked just like a mermaid and wanted to try one on. 

“My mind was reeling with the possibilities,” she said. “At the time I didn’t know how that was going to manifest itself. It was such an organic process of trying that, swimming like a mermaid, and imagining the concept of a mermaid who teaches people about the ocean.”

Other “professional mermaids” include performers like those at Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida. In contrast to Wolbert’s job, these mermaids focus on choreographing underwater routines for entertainment purposes at the water park.  

“Those mermaids have been there for a very long time,” Wolbert said. “My dream was to create something very different from that because I wanted to educate people.”

However, other tail-clad swimmers seem to share Wolberts love of wildlife reservation. For example, a professional called Hannah Mermaid also performs for charity events and is an ocean activist, according to her website.

Despite the existence of others in her field, Wolbert  said she still ran into many difficulties in creating her career, including shaping her own brand, running her own website, and staying in good shape to still fit into the silicon tail that was molded to her when she was in her twenties.  

“This has been the hardest thing in the world to do,” Wolbert said. “No one could teach me how to do this. I had to make everything up.” 

Holt said he was surprised and amazed at how much Wolbert has accomplished. 

“When she first came to me [about building her tail], it sounded like a neat idea,” Holt said, “But I never thought she’d do as much as she’s done. She was always very passionate about it, and within five years, she’s been doing all these things, traveling. You see photos on her website of her swimming with sharks. It’s very cool.”

Wolbert said she believes she’s found the job she’s always wanted.  

“There were days when I woke up and I thought ‘What am I doing? Why did I decide to become a mermaid, and have I wasted all of my time and energy?’” Wolbert said. “Thank goodness, because I never gave up. I had family and friends who believed in me and didn’t think this was just some silly dream.”

A previous version of this article stated that Wolbert was a certified scuba diving instructor with PADI. She is a Master Scuba Diver.