Eric Ducharme remembers the first time he saw a mermaid. He was just 4 or 5 years old when his grandparents took him to Weeki Wachee Springs, the unusual Florida tourist spot that features a mermaid show that visitors can watch through a massive glass wall that looks into the spring.
For Eric, it's been love ever since.
Ducharme, now in his 20's, has turned his love of mermaids into a business. He creates and sells mermaid tails made from rubber, silicon, and other materials.
He begins the process with clay sculptures and finishes with colorful paint. Each tail is different. They're all custom-made.
He sells most of his creations through his website, www.mertailor.com. Prices range from $150 to $5,000, depending on the design of the tail.
"Anything that comes out of my studio doors is specifically made to be worn on land or in the water," he explained.
HOW DO MERMAIDS SWIM?
Ducharme says mermaid tails aren't just for women. "I mean, how do you get a mermaid without mermen?" he asked.
In a documentary film produced by local videographer Chris Rish, Ducharme and two female models swim in a spring wearing his tails.
Chelsea, who works as a model for Ducharme, says wearing a tail takes swimming to a new level.
"Everything from the waist down is just one fluid movement," she offered. "It's just the way you see dolphins swim or manatees swim, exact same motion. You bend at the waste and kind of roll through."
TAILS FOR EVERYONE
Ducharme has sold tails to Weeki Wachee, but most of his business now is for commercials, films, children, and adults looking to fulfill a dream.
"Now that there is somebody like myself creating these mermaid tails, these women and men who had the same thoughts when they were kids can actually purchase them and live that dream."
The little boy who loved mermaids has grown up to become a merman entrepreneur.