By Meredith Schneider
Photos courtesy of Bernie Caalim.
Everyone grows up with a dream. Often these dreams are bigger than what people believe can be attained. Sometimes people go after their dream no matter how crazy it may seem.
Take Kari Roberts, for example. She successfully turned her dreams of being a mermaid into a reality, and—with a little bit of help from her friends at the luxury JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko Olina—is helping people from around the world to improve their self-esteem and reach their own goals.
Kari grew up with Auditory Processing Disorder which, according to her website, left “her to hear and see later than the normal person.” Her learning was an issue throughout school, and she was teased by her classmates. But the idea of becoming more than anyone expected of her kept her hope alive.
Kari remembers her grandmother and mother helping her put together a mermaid tail at the behest of her 4-year-old self.
“I can remember learning to cut fabric, pin, and sew on a sewing machine on my grandmother’s kitchen table!” says Kari. “Lucky for me my grandmother and mom were very hands on. Making a mermaid costume with both of them together was something I looked forward to every year!”
From that moment onward, the life of a mermaid became Kari’s personal goal. In 2009, she moved from Oregon to Hawaii and has since been living the lifestyle of a mermaid under the moniker “Mermaid Kariel”, swimming in the tails that she has handcrafted. She entertains thousands with an array of mermaid-themed events, shows, and underwater classes. Kariel and her friends will greet you at the airport in Oahu with their Mermaid Airport Arrivals, she does underwater modeling and acting, and she will show up at the right time and place for a mermaid spotting.
Kariel also entertains at weddings, greeting guests and swimming around. She hosts birthday parties (or “Mermaid Story Time and Swim Fun”), and creates lifetime memories with Siren photo shoots. She has even written a children’s book about self-esteem, which she wrote and illustrated herself.
Though playing hostess at airports, birthday parties, and weddings isn’t Kariel’s only area of expertise. “Fin To Fitness” is an underwater class she has created with the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa fitness center in Hawaii. Focusing on core muscles (including legs, back, abs, and hips), Mermaid Kariel takes swimmers on an hour-long swim to reduce stress and instill balance, coordination, and dexterity.
“I approached the hotel and the General Manager took to my passion,” clarifies Kariel. “We then had a large meeting at the hotel with all the managers of all the department. I’m blessed I got the chance to do that, but I’m also proud that I did it with conviction to make others believe in my idea. We sat at the table as the team tried to visualize how they could use this great concept. The spa director Robin Desha saw the potential in hosting a fitness class.”
The benefits of water exercise alone are phenomenal. According to Bucknell University’s Swimming Benefits Information, “the water offers 12%-14% more resistance than when you exercise on land”. Improvements can be seen in flexibility, endurance, strength, balance, circulation, and muscle structure. Swimming also has the psychological benefits of any other exercise, teaching patience and positivity as well as releasing tension and stress.
Add that extra mermaid fin into the mix, and the benefits are amplified. As David Bromberg M.S. HFS explains, “Water aerobics is good for those rehabbing and for those with joint issues since it is lower impact. The monofin helps you build your core through an increased undulating motion so you can improve performance in the water.”
According to Swimming World Magazine, “Monofinning can help swimmers improve streamline, body alignment, dolphin kick technique and general kicking efficiency, as well as provide a good core body workout”.
“My favorite is when a bachelorette party comes in or a group of friends!” exclaims Kariel. “They all learn from one another at the same time and get to experience a workout, bonding, and a moment where they get to live out their childhood fantasies. You take home a rejuvenated soul and a deeper connection with your friends. Teaching this class has really helped me see past others’ insecurities and know that I have the knowledge or skill to get them past their hurdles.”
Mermaid Kariel isn’t finished yet. In 2011, she gave birth to her first child, having been in the water into her ninth month of pregnancy. It is that willpower and ambition that allows her to visualize even more goals for her future.
“[What] amazes me is that now I am on the box of Finis. I’m a sponsored athlete next to Olympic medalists. I know in my heart of hearts that none of this came easy and I worked very hard for it and had millions of sleepless nights. I have ambition to be a global name so that I may inspire billions,” says Kariel. “Mermaid is who I am but it also gives me a voice! I just want to make a difference in peoples’ every day happiness.”
Mermaid Kariel has taken her enthusiasm for mermaid life and made it into a reality for herself. With her creative involvement, being a mermaid has become more attainable to all of those who believe in leading a life far beyond their wildest dreams.