The Byron Set: Kazzie Mahina from Mahina Mermaid | Images by Carly Brown
Tell us about your journey before starting Mahina Mermaid…
Before I began the Mahina Mermaid journey and brand, I was a professional dancer, professional ski Instructor and a certified surf coach. I usually worked across these careers, which allowed me to travel the world both dancing and ski instructing. The surf-coaching and dancing career allowed me to have a base and call Byron Bay home. I have lived in Byron Bay for 16 years, moving here in 2000.
It was in 2004 that a friend Hannah and I were invited to swim with dolphins for a community ‘water awareness’ commercial. Not content to just swim with dolphins, we decided to make our own dolphin/mermaid tails. This experience inspired a solo journey around the world where I began to manifest a rather more ambitious mermaid dream. With just a bag on my back and my mermaid tail over my shoulder the adventure began.
People say you’re a real life mermaid – why is that?
On that journey around the world, I learnt to free dive in Thailand acquiring the skills necessary to hold my breath for up to five minutes under controlled conditions. Upon returning home, with the assistance of special-effects artists, I started creating my own tails out of latex and silicone. Honing this craft, I soon created a design that not only looked realistic but was completely functional. People around me did not really understand what it was I was doing at that point, perhaps thinking I had gone completely mad! This is because there was no such thing as a ‘professional mermaid’ career at that stage. I forged ahead anyway, knowing this was the life for me and Mahina Mermaid was born. I have worked as a Professional Mermaid for 12 years now; travelling the world working as a mermaid for film, TV, advertising commercials, music videos, commercial and environmental photographic campaigns.
In addition to being a professional mermaid you have also developed a mermaid fin, can you tell us about how you created the Mahina Mermaid brand?
After a couple of years living life as a professional mermaid, I was simultaneously thinking about how I might share mermaiding with the rest of the world. There was not anything available on the market that offered people this experience and I felt passionately that this experience needed to be shared.
During an extensive proto-type design phase I quickly realized that putting children or inexperienced users into full-length Mermaid tail costumes was not a safe option. I then decided to modify my tail design and create a product that could still give the wearer the authentic feeling, excitement and experience of being a Mermaid, in the safest and most practical way possible. With safety and functionality as my priorities I designed the MerFin as a mermaid shaped mono fin to allow quick release for users whilst also experiencing the beauty of the ocean or water environments.
It was part of my mission to ensure the MerFins would be as environmentally friendly as possible. I was able to convince a factory I found who employ environmentally sensitive practices and machines to use recycled and natural rubber to produce the MerFins. In addition, I was also able to use organic pigment inks which made me very happy.
What is the ethos behind Mahina Mermaid?
To encourage and evoke imagination, play and connection with the feminine nature of ourselves & our natural world. To Inspire mindfulness and respect for our living planet, and the footprints we leave behind as we live our lives.Mahina Mermaid inspires a culture of connection. I create products that enable that culture, empowering women and girls to live it.Making beautiful waves in the world we generate a spirit of care, responsibility and ownership of our actions towards the ocean, ensuring its longevity.
“I crafted a product with the right fit to ensure an authentic feeling of swimming with a sense of fluidity, freedom and connection with oneself when entering the ocean. It’s about slowing down and being in touch with the flow of nature.”
Byron and your brand have a special affinity – could you do Mahina Mermaid anywhere else in the world?
Yes for sure there is a special affinity my brand has with its Byron Bay origins. But I always knew I wanted to take the brand to the wider world. From the very beginning I had a clear purpose, one far greater than simply designing a costume. I wanted to share mermaiding in a way that was more about lifestyle and watersports.
The purpose was to reshape the way women and ocean babies connect with the water; a brand that inspires a new culture with women at its heart. There is an inherent love and connection humans have with the ocean. And, for those that feel that connection it drives them, refreshes them, and grounds them.
Like surfing, boogie boarding and stand up allow us to play and enjoy our oceans, MerFins provide a feminine and fun way for women and girls to play in the sea. Basically my brand has spread organically around the world because people everywhere love the sea, natural water environments or simply swimming in a pool.
In 2010 when I released the MerFins to the world, it was the first functional, high performing mermaid fin of its kind in the world. Since their debut I have been awed by the response they have received. To my amazement they very quickly acquired a high degree of “cool factor” and have been sought out by the likes of Urban Outfitters, Chasing Fire Flies, Swim Outlet & major retailer Nordstrom in the USA, Hamleys in Dubai, and Harrods and Selfridges in the UK.
MerFins have become an established part of surf culture with the Roxy Quiksilver girls pro surf team taking them to Fiji on one of their photo shoots. They have also caught the attention of International media and have won prestigious product awards in both the USA and in the UK this year.
It feels amazing to have shared the beauty and magic of the lifestyle I have had the privilege of living here, and to be passing some of that joy onto others all over the world through my products.
And your brand has taken a bit of a new direction this year, tell us about that?
Yes this year has been an interesting one. The wonderful thing is that the demand for the women’s MerFin range has been triple the demand of the children’s range. I always envisioned moving more into the women’s market, but it happened so organically and a lot faster than I thought it would. As a result, I have been swimming as fast as I can to keep up with it all. The other thing that has shifted things this year is the emergence of other mermaid tail companies offering alternative products, they have been emerging rapidly over the last couple of years.
Unfortunately, some of these products have not put the same amount of thought into water safety, especially in regard to children. Some of these products wrap and bind children’s legs together all the way to the waist to create a full length leg enclosed mermaid tail costume, which I would not recommend for anyone other than a professionally experienced water person. By that I mean adults with the right professional water experience and certificates to be able to handle themselves in the water in these types of costumes. People need to be highly trained and experienced in the water before attempting to swim in these kinds of restricting suits.
This was something I thought long and hard about 10 years ago, which is why I chose to develop a mermaid monofin, rather than a full leg enclosed mermaid tail. Sadly, last year a little girl got into trouble in the water in one of these full length leg enclosed mermaid tails and her mother needed to pull her out of the water. The video of this incident went viral. This resulted in causing a bit of a media storm in Australia, and as a result it was nationally publicised that parents should NOT buy children mermaid tails for Christmas.
Unfortunately, by association, my brand has been affected by this media in Australia; even though my product is not a full mermaid tail. This year I have put a lot of effort into reinforcing what the difference is between a full mermaid tail and a mermaid mono fin. We have made an effort to distinguish ourselves from the full mermaid tail market space and re-emphasised our product safety messages.
We have developed comprehensive and beautiful safety videos that help educate people how simple and easy my products are to use and to demonstrate how safety has been built into my designs.
We have continued our direction with expansion of the women’s series. We launch a new MerFin in November called the Gypsea Series. Alongside this we have developed the ocean babies swim brand, and next year I am excited to be developing my women’s swimwear line.
Basically, I feel like the brand, and the business, is growing up. After ten years of hard work we are able to apply all the lessons we have learnt along the way and give the right expression to what is a truly unique product.
I am feeling confirmed and excited about my continued direction and focus on the lifestyle and recreational sports side of mermaiding and offering Mahina Mermaid as more of a women’s and girls swim brand that places safety as the priority. I am looking forward to the next chapter and continuing to grow the product range to suit the surf, swim and lifestyle space.
How do you juggle business and family life?
Sometimes gracefully and in a balanced way – other days, when things are just madness – maybe not so gracefully as I deal with toppling balls falling all over the place. I will be straight up and say it is far from easy. Some days I feel like super women and that I am kicking goals and then there are other days where I feel like I am doing everything poorly, and holding more than I can. Sometimes I know there simply isn’t enough of me to manage it all, so that is when I need to be gentle with myself and let go of some things and simplify my life to find my centre again.
At the end of the day though – all of it is worth it. Everything I do and have created around me, both with my business and family is an expression of my heart and deepest dreams. To see it manifest in front of me is worth all the hard work and resilience I have had to draw on to make it all a reality.
Any advice for mothers with young children trying to make their passion their career?
Firstly, I believe if we are in the position where we have our families, children and even the consideration that our passion can also be our career, then this is a super fortunate and blessed position to be in life. I think that this is a really helpful perspective to maintain as we traverse the challenges, high and lows that come with following our passions and our hearts.
Secondly, if it is in your heart and you are listening to the small whispers that call you to these dreams – it is amazing to see how life can unfold in miraculous and serendipitous ways to assist your dreams to come to life. But it is not without tribulation, for when we follow our hearts we are also following our own growth and potential as a human being. Following a path navigated by the heart will lead to LOTS of opportunities for personal growth and self-reflection. If we can see that growth as both necessary and an opportunity it certainly helps get us through some of the discomfort that arises when obstacles get in the way, it also helps us to not give up but to keep going and growing.
Thirdly… I have always believed that by being courageous and following my heart and passion in life, then, by default, that gives permission and inspiration for my children to do the same with their lives – if that’s what they may choose, in whatever way is unique to them. If I can be a role model, or an example to my children of what is possible, I immediately make their journey a little easier than mine, because they have witnessed it and so it becomes their idea of ‘normal’ – it is what Mummy did.
Mahina Mermaid have just launched their new website – check it out over at www.mahinamermaid.com