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Tails Have It With Mermaid Boot Camp

Bowfish Studios co-founder McKenna Robel leads her troops in Mermaid Boot Camp this week. (Photos courtesy Bowfish Studios)

By Maddy Vitale

Paddleboarding, surfing and jet skiing may be fun. They may be exciting. But they aren’t a match for well – the unusualness – that comes with this water sport. It involves a tail.

Mermaid Boot Camp, a concept created by McKenna Robel and Caitlin Quirk, co-founders of Bowfish Studios, 956 Asbury Ave. in Ocean City, gives children a four-day excursion into the world of make believe.

There are hair-braiding sessions, glittery makeovers and also some serious instruction about how to swim while wearing a long, shiny tail.

On top of it all, the Mermaid Boot Camp is being offered at OC Waterpark. It began this week and sessions run through August.

There are only 12 spots a session, and Robel and Quirk said it is booking up quickly. People should reserve spots by visiting www.Bowfishstudios.com/camp.

The new camp is an extension of a successful one-day camp, which Bowfish began last year. It is offered Mondays and Fridays in July and August and includes paddleboard lesson and tail lessons.

“Last year, when we debuted the one-day mermaid camp, I thought it would be cool to do a camp for a longer time,” Robel, 20, said. “The one-day camp at the docks with Ocean City Paddle Company gives the kids a full day of a variety of things. They get a paddleboard lesson, mermaid tail lesson, and they paint.”

Quirk noted that Robel was the driving force in creating both camps. Robel worked at OC Waterpark and the owners were very supportive of her hosting the camps there, they said.

“The one-day camp gives the kids a taste of everything. It is really good to get a paddleboard lesson, too, and is a great way for people to try a bit of everything,” Quirk said.

The four-day boot camp is focused more on the safety aspect of swimming with a tail.

“Anyone who has an interest in tails should know they are not toys,” Quirk emphasized. “It is like learning to surf on a board safely. We don’t advocate people using them in the ocean. It is a water sport and just like with any water activity, you need training.”

Campers learn how to swim safely wearing tails.

Camps take place throughout July and August. Mermaid Day Camp is $125 a day and is held from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Mondays or Fridays at the Ocean City Paddle Company at the 10th Street Wharf.

The camp includes:

  • Tail Swimming Lessons
  • Standup Paddle Board Lessons
  • Paint Sessions
  • T-shirt

Mermaid Boot Camp costs $275 per child for a four-day camp Monday through Thursday from 7:15 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. at OC Waterpark during hours when the park is closed to the public

The camp includes:

  • Tail Swimming Lesson
  • Crafts & Hair Braiding
  • Mermaid “Graduation” (Makeover/photoshoot)
  • T-shirt

Robel said parents should consider a few things before choosing either camp. Some people are on vacation and their kids can’t do the extended camp. Others might want to do the camp because they liked the one-day camp so much last year that they wanted more days in the world of mermaids.

“We kind of wanted to hit both markets. For the kids who could do the four-day camp, that is great,” Robel said.

An exciting aspect for the campers is using the waterpark slides. They get unlimited use at the end of their camp day. And since it is during hours when the park is closed, they don’t have to wait in line.

“The other day the girls went down the slides 10 times,” Robel said. “For those who only spend a day on the bay, they get to do a lot of things. It is nice, too.”

Children get to lounge on tubes in OC Waterpark as they learn what it is like to be mermaids.

And for parents who sign their kids up for the early morning boot camp, there are some perks.

Not only are there discounted family passes to the OC Waterpark for participants, but parents could enjoy the Boardwalk, hit the beach, or get an early breakfast while they wait to pick up their kids, Robel said.

At the end of the sessions there is a mini-graduation.

And then all of the campers receive certificates stating that they have officially graduated from mermaid school.