"Of course you can't turn down Linden," said Lesser. The two met while working for a nonprofit called Reef Check. Lesser said they began talking about the popularity of mermaids. For instance, Disney plans to do a live action version of "The Little Mermaid," and a reboot of "Splash" is in the works, this time with Channing Tatum as the mermaid.
"We were just talking about maybe we ought to have a line of mermaid products by Body Glove," Lesser said.
Three years ago they created monofins for kids carrying the Mermaid Linden logo. Wolbert was stunned. "I had had ideas for products for children, but never dreamed it would come to fruition," she said. "In 2017, it's looking like we're going to exceed $4.5 million in sales."
Wal-Mart will start carrying the products this spring, and up next, monofins for adults. Wolbert is also starting exercise classes using the fins.
Eventually, Mermaid Linden hopes to make enough money in merchandise that she can devote more time to edutainment. However, she knows she can't wear the tail forever. Plus, it's hard work.
Getting into the tail requires lubing up her legs with lotion and putting on socks to protect her feet. The tails are so heavy out of the water, one weighing 47 pounds, that Wolbert needs help getting to the edge of the pool. She can't wear a mask or goggles underwater, "so everything is blurry." And removing the tail requires an assistant. "Mermaiding is painful, but I love it."
It can also be a tad scary. When Mermaid Linden was hired to appear in a video promoting "Shark Week" on the Discovery Channel, producers put her into a shark tank. The sharks, however, wouldn't come near her because she was so large — 8-feet-long with the tail. "We actually had to chum the water to get sharks to come in the frame with me," she said. Again, she wore no goggles, so she depended on safety divers to protect her.