Professional Mermaid Nina, the Mermaid of Hilton Head
Author, Illustrator, Free Diver, and Co-Founder
Professional Mermaid Nina ironically did not grow up with an interest in mermaids. The idea of a mermaid show or a mermaid performance never excited her. She was most interested in the ocean and its wildlife with a concentration on Bottlenose Dolphins.
Unlike most professional mermaids, Mermaid Nina never wanted to be a mermaid swimming instructor, or run her own mermaid school. Her ideas of a fairy tale were much different.
Mermaid Nina actually grew up wanting to become a marine mammal trainer. This was her dream from before she could remember.
Working hard and overcoming obstacles to obtain her NAUI Open water SCUBA certification was a goal achieved at a young age after making the discovery that there is no place in the world she loves more than the underwater world.
Once she accomplished her goal of training marine mammals, and loved it, she also recognized the worldwide shift towards seeing these majestic animals in their natural environments.
Scuba divers often are limited by their equipment when it comes to interacting with skittish wildlife. Free diving gives Mermaid Nina the opportunity to be less threatening and make a stronger connection. Because of this, she has been able to learn who our local dolphins are as individuals and is always eager to introduce them to our guests on the boat.
As the Mermaid Encounter Boat Tours quickly became one of the most popular things to do with kids on Hilton Head, Mermaid Nina became an International Mermaid, expanding her message beyond her small island. She travels to places such as Singapore for the ADEX Dive Expo to give presentations on Ocean Conservation as well as expand education about dolphin captivity.
Nina also travels to various locations to give speeches to kids and adult audiences alike about ocean conservation. She emphasizes the small changes we are able to make on a daily basis that would not alter our lifestyles drastically, yet help our oceans (and our planet) drastically. She enjoys meeting people from different places and hearing their ideas about ocean conservation as well.
Mermaid Nina is also a children’s book author and illustrator and she writes books that inspire a younger generation to make the changes as well to help our oceans thrive. Her work has also been published in Nat Geo Travel. Her books initiate a new way of thinking for the children who read them. They begin to take notice of how their actions impact the ocean and even others.
Her first book, Sammy the Sand Dollar, teaches children that sand dollars are alive and that they need to stay in the ocean to survive.
With this realization, she soon became an anti-captivity activist for marine mammals. She had so much information to provide about the cruel world of captivity from an insider’s perspective, yet she noticed when she tried to educate people, they would soon lose interest.
Then Mermaid Nina had an idea: what if she could make the presentation of this material fun, so people would be inspired to make changes? And this could work for more than just dolphin captivity, but for other ocean conservation issues as well. Just like that, in a mermaid minute, the Mermaid of Hilton Head was born.
Mermaid Nina and her husband, Rick, started the business with a goal of inspiring change and educating about ocean conservation. They soon had a large social media following, and a platform for their messages.
Mermaid Nina had previous free diving experience and is a strong swimmer. She is able to hold her breath for 2-3 minutes depending on water conditions. So when they decided to begin their now Award-winning Mermaid Encounter Boat Tours and Turn into a Mermaid photo shoots, she found her place in life.
During tours, this professional mermaid not only connects with guests on the boat, but she also has a unique opportunity to connect with the wildlife in Hilton Head waters as well. Hilton Head Island is no Weeki Wachee Springs, though, and the water visibility is very poor, so she uses learned methods to connect with nature underwater.
She wrote this book after she began to notice that one of the issues Hilton Head faces is that people, when collecting sea shells, take living sand dollars as they do not know that they are alive.
Hilton Head’s sand dollar population has decreased drastically because of this, and really the only thing needed to restore the population is education. She hopes to paint a brighter future for not only our oceans, but human life as well.
Mermaid Nina is not a mermaid who will sit in a plastic clam shell at birthday parties while telling you how bad plastic is for our oceans.
In fact, you will never see this professional mermaid in a clam shell. She prefers not to be looked at as a professional mermaid, but rather a full-time ocean conservationist. Mermaid school, to her, is less about learning how to swim in a mermaid tail and more about learning how to protect our oceans.
Guests have said many times: “If you don’t believe that she is a real mermaid after going on this tour, you never will!”
There is just something magical about seeing a mermaid in the wild waters of Hilton Head, where the water visibility is low, and when she dives underwater she disappears.
When they are able to fit it in, the Mermaid of Hilton Head team also sponsors beach clean ups. Past beach clean ups have had great turn outs and help the community get involved with ocean conservation as well.
The most important role in being a real life mermaid is education. Everyone loves mermaids and when you have people’s attention, even just for a mermaid minute, there is no better way to use that than to educate about ocean conservation and inspire a change. Mermaid Nina says:
“To be a mermaid is to bring light to the issues that face our oceans and inspire others to make the changes needed to save our seas. Obtaining a career as a mermaid is not about sitting in a clam shell next to a pool and posing for photos.
We are not Santa Clause. We have a job to do. Our oceans are in real trouble right now and we need to work together to reverse the damage while we still have time.”
— Mermaid Nina