Have you ever watched The Little Mermaid and wondered what life would be like to be a merperson? Well, Ng Kah Wen did just that. Watching Ariel in the Disney movie at the age of 10 piqued his interest and curiosity about these mythical creatures and how they move so gracefully underwater.
But, he kept his curiosity bottled until his 35th birthday. Tired of the usual birthday celebrations, Wen decided to realise his long-suppressed curiosity by putting on his first tail and taking a swim with it… Since then, he has been hooked on this unique hobby.
What Does Being a Merman Entail?
For Wen, who works as a personal trainer and group instructor, being a merman is all about strength and grace, and cites King Triton (Ariel’s father in The Little Mermaid) as the perfect example.
“In the end though, all you need is the guts to be who you want to be. You just need to say yes and be brave enough to put on your tail and start your underwater adventures,” says Wen.
He adds that there’s a world of possibilities when one puts on a tail. It can be as simple as posing for photographs by the pool or beach to owning about 15 tails and paying SGD300 (approximately MYR913) an hour to upskill your mermaning techniques.
Wen says being underwater gives him a sense of calm and freedom. “I feel like I’m flying when I’m underwater and of course, being underwater allows me to feel like a real merman. It’s pure magic. I cannot quite describe it. You have to experience it for yourself and you’ll know what I mean.”
Becoming a Merman
The 38-year-old, who adopted the moniker MerWen when he started his passion, says to become a merman, one needs a proper monofin and a playful heart.
“For beginners, I would suggest getting a freediving mask as well. There are several monofins available in the market. My personal preference is by a brand called Mertailor. The brand’s founder Eric Ducharme was the first merman I found out about and he’s also my role model.”
When people usually hear about Wen’s unique hobby, most of them think he’s crazy. He believes that this is because the mermaid culture is still very new in Asia and that’s why people can get critical.
To overcome this, Wen prefers to surround himself with positive people and those who support and have the same mindset as him. One such example is his mother, who has always been his number one supporter. She has always stood by him and supported all his decisions, and it is because of her blessing that Wen is the man he has become today.
Making the Country Proud
Last month Wen and three other Malaysians represented the country at the World Mermaid Championship in Guangzhou, China. It was the first time that the country sent a contingent to the championships and Wen emerged as the King Champion, beating 69 other competitors from across the world including China, South Korea, Indonesia, Canada, Australia and the United States.
During the competition, participants were judged on two stages. The first stage – the technical drill – required participants to perform face down, side and face up dolphin kicks. These kicks are the foundation of mermaid swimming techniques.
In the second stage, participants were required to perform two songs underwater to a freestyle choreography. Wen captured the judges’ hearts with his superb and enigmatic performances to two instrumentals – Beneath the Starry Sky and Jane’s Lament. Contestants were collectively scored on their buoyancy control, choreography, knowledge of life-saving and rescue techniques, and most importantly, their ability to hold their breath underwater.
Wen says that participating in the World Mermaid Championship was an experience of a lifetime for him, especially as he was the first-ever merman to win the title.
“I am over the moon! The validation that I have received from the judges, as well as 69 of my peers from across the world, is nothing short of amazing,” gushes Wen. “I cried like a baby when I received my trophy. All the criticism that I received, all the bones I broke in the process and all the obstacles I had to go through to get here were not in vain!”
For those who are interested in exploring the world of merpeople, Wen has this to say: “If being a merperson makes you happy, go for it! If buying a luxury car makes one person happy, why is it different for a person who wants to be a merman? You have the right to be happy! Life is too short to seek approval from others.”
And we cannot agree more with Wen’s wise words!
Follow Wen’s merman adventures via his Instagram page.