She talks about how she moved from behind the camera as a wildlife filmmaker to being in front of it and presenting her own educational program to help kids understand the ocean better. We discuss her work as an underwater stunt person, and how she got to work with Westley from the Princess Bride!
If you’re looking for a half-woman, half-fish, search no more! Mermaid Linden has found herself surrounded by dozens of sharks at 50 feet down on a single breath – with no mask and no air tanks in the Bahamas, danced with manta rays at night in Hawaii, and been enveloped by millions of non-stinging golden jellyfish in Palau’s infamous Jellyfish Lake. She has dived with minke whales and mola mola fish in the pelagic open ocean, been dwarfed by aggregating whale sharks in the Caribbean and mingled with pods of dolphins and sea lions in the Sea of Cortez. She has been circled by 5 Great White Sharks while cage diving in Guadalupe….with a tail on, of course! All of these experiences are captured on film and video, which Linden shares in the form of mini-documentaries for children on her YouTube channel, in her Mermaid Minute series. She has done underwater modeling and pro in-water stunt doubling for films, TV and commercials and has appeared as a mermaid on TV, in feature films, and numerous commercials and music videos.
Brett Stanley: [00:00:00] Welcome back to the underwater podcast. And this week we’re slipping on the mermaid tail and chatting with Linden Wolbert linden is a professional mermaid. Who’s pioneered the world of mermaiding from creating her own tale with a special effects artist to now having her own line of body glove tales for kids available worldwide. She talks about how she moved from behind the camera as a wildlife filmmaker, to being in front of it and presenting our own educational program to help kids understand the ocean better. We discuss her work as an underwater stunt person and how she got to work with the Wesley from the princess bride.
Okay. Let’s dive in.
Linden welcome to the underwater podcast.
Linden Wolbert: [00:00:36] Brett. Thank you so much for having me on today,
Brett Stanley: [00:00:39] yeah. It’s exciting to have you on, because you’re such a kind of dare I say, legend in the whole mermaid world having kind of been one of the originators of the, kind of the professional mermaid sort of situation. Right?
Linden Wolbert: [00:00:51] I guess, by accident. Yes, I never intended to pioneer a subculture or an industry. I was just doing something that I loved and it just came in the form of a mermaid. Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:01:02] All right. And so how did that form come about? How did you become mermaid Linden?
Linden Wolbert: [00:01:07] Ooh, did I become mermaid Linden? It was a, it was an evolution. It was an evolution. I was obsessed with the underwater world and all things nature really. From the time I was a little sea squirt, I, you know, as a child, I. I grew up, my parents were always very supportive. If my sister or myself took an interest in anything at all, they’d say, Oh, okay, we’ll get you a book about ladybugs, if you like ladybugs or anything like that.
And, and I always was just very. Enchanted by the underwater world and watching, of course, you know, I grew up in Amish country, Pennsylvania. I was not Amish. We were not Amish, but we were in that dwelling. We didn’t have cable for much of my youth. And so we had three channels like you do in the U S if you didn’t have cable back in the eighties.
And uh, one of them was thankfully PBS. And I loved PBS. I loved all of the documentaries, wildlife documentary, specifically underwater wildlife documentaries that they would have on the airwaves. And I would watch and just dream that I was part of that underwater world. And of course the very trite I loved Jacques Cousteau, but it’s true.
I did. And Marty Stauffer’s wild America. So I. Would just read books about fish and aquatic wildlife and just by happenstance memorize species and find favorite animals. And, you know, as I now call them sea liberties, you know, I get more excited seeing a species I’ve never seen before than a celebrity on land.
You know, I work with a lot of celebrities I have in the past. I probably will in the future, but I get much more excited about animals. And habitats, I’m a science geek.
Brett Stanley: [00:02:56] and so, so, so as a kid, you kind of into the Underwood world where you, where you kind of thinking of a career in that,
Linden Wolbert: [00:03:03] I did from a young age. I wanted to be a wildlife cinematographer and filmmaker. So that was my initial pursuit. So my evolution of becoming mermaid Linden started forming unbeknownst to me. When I decided to go to film school, I went to Emerson college in Boston and I studied film and environmental science.
I took every science course, they offered and I became so excited at the idea of knowing. At the end of my senior year, my final semester would be spent if I was accepted into the program, the Los Angeles internship program that Emerson offered. So I knew I was coming out here. I was accepted. And so I moved from, you know, the bitter cold Northeast, which was so amazing to come to LA.
I saved up my little sand dollars. I worked as a residence director after I graduated through the program myself. I was hired as the residence director, and I did that for a time miserably, unfortunately, being in an office and. I became certified as soon as I had the money saved up to do scuba diving certification.
So I became a patio, open water diver, and very rapidly kept doing training and eventually became a master scuba diver. And I really just loved it so much and I’m a very energetic person. And so people started in the scuba world seeing me and lo and behold, I was offered a job as a Patti model. So Patty hired me in for some time.
I eventually quit my job as a residence director to pursue this underwater dream of underwater wildlife documentary filmmaking. Being an underwater model and being paid to travel around the world with Patty, my skills were obviously very honed in. We had to demonstrate perfect skills for manuals and training materials for Patti scuba divers, which I was in a bunch of them that still appear in a couple of those little manuals.
Yeah. It’s pretty funny. And and I became aware of the sport of free diving. And I didn’t know it existed and it, it blew my mind, you know, from Amish country, Pennsylvania to Boston, you don’t really hear about free diving. It’s it, wasn’t very prevalent. And when I found out about the sport of free diving, and then I was asked to to help film an underwater documentary about free diving in the Cayman islands.
And that’s really when the light bulbs went off, I was on scuba. Filming these gorgeous, elegant, graceful fit chest in elite athletes, diving and plummeting into the depths with mano fins there it was. Oh, my gosh, mono fins. So cool. It was the neatest thing I’d ever seen and having grown up as well. I was a competitive swimmer growing up.
I forgot to mention that I always loved the water, so I swam and, and. Went to the beach and loved it, but then seeing these free divers, I was like, Holy cow, these people are just, it’s just the beautiful motion I’ve ever witnessed underwater. And I thought, wow, they look like murder people. And so I asked Mandy Ray Cruickshank, who is a world champion free diver from Canada.
She is a founding member of performance, free diving international, and she was setting world records. At this experience that I was filming for this documentary. And I asked her one day, I was like, Mandy, what shoe size are you? And she told me she was an eight in the U S women’s. And I was so excited because that’s my size.
And I said, can I please draw your model foam? And she let me try it. And that was it. I just instantly knew I have to find a way. To make a mermaid tail, because what better way to teach children about the ocean, which was what I wanted to do through documentary filmmaking. Then as. A mermaid who’s half ocean creature and half human, and can speak on behalf of those ocean animals who have no voice to the other, the top half of the body, which is a human.
So I just had, it’s like Las Vegas lit up over my head, you know, being, and I had no idea how it was going to happen. No idea how I would materialize this. This monofin into a tail and I had to save up to buy one. They’re very expensive. They’re very delicate. But at all,
Brett Stanley: [00:07:31] a thing at that point or like, was it something you could buy off the shelf or did you have to kind of get it made.
Linden Wolbert: [00:07:36] There were not really any kind of mass producing tale makers in the world. At that time, to my knowledge, there were a couple of bespoke tail makers who would make, you know, silica like for prosthetics, for films. It was like a super expensive thing. Like I knew of Tom, the tail man, I knew a various people who had worked on films or commercials where a mermaid tail was needed and they would have either made a silicone or not even silicone at that time they were using like, I don’t even know different rubbers and materials.
Sometimes fabrics, but I did not know how I was going. I, at first I thought, Oh, I’ll just use like neoprene or fabric and I’ll paint it with like puff paints or at sea. I didn’t know. And there was no tutorial for anything like this. There was nothing. I scoured the internet. I scoured YouTube. There was nothing, nothing.
And I was like, okay, how am I going to do this? And like with everything in my life. If I know what my, as I call it, my Z my final destination, the end of the alphabet I know what, what I want. I know what my goal is. Suddenly the universe, whatever, just lines it all up for me. And th there was, this was no exception.
A friend of mine had an extra monofin and was like, Hey, I don’t use this old monument anymore. Do you want it? So I got a monofin. I had a. Perfect. Monofin and it is the fin that ultimately went into my first tail. Then a special effects artist. Magically found his way into my existence via a college friend who had met this guy who said, Oh, I want to make an underwater music video.
And my college friend was like, Oh my gosh, my friend Lyndon is doing underwater cinematography and work like she’s, she’s filming underwater. She’s a diver she’s she can help you with this. And it’s so happened when I met this, this gentleman, Alan Holt, who Wanted to make this music video and was going to just pepper me with questions.
I said, so what do you do? Are you a filmmaker? He’s like, no, actually I’m a special effects artist. I was like, what you are. That’s awesome. Cause I need you to help me. So there it all is. Boom, there was the monofin boom, here’s a special effects artist who actually wanted to do this project with me and had the desire to to really explore it.
Cause mermaid tails. Aren’t they’re not easy to make, as it turns out.
Brett Stanley: [00:09:49] No. So, so what was the process of, of getting that made? Cause I assume you had this monofin that you wanted to build it around.
Linden Wolbert: [00:09:56] Yeah. So, so I had quit my job, obviously at this point at, at Emerson, Los Angeles, as a residence director. And I temporarily moved into a room above the garage at my parents’ house. So that I could start this pursuit of underwater filmmaking through the vessel of a mermaid, not knowing how I was going to do it.
And so. Out in the yard at my parents’ place, Alan would come over and we started, you know, and I’m, I’m, you know, gradually getting materials that were strategizing. I did all this research because again, there was no tutorial out there or nobody had really put anything into public. I dunno, discovery of how to make a mermaid tail.
And Alan had experience with making other underwater special effects projects, but never a tail. And I had a high demand, you know, I wanted a realistic looking resilient form, fitted solid piece of equipment. That was beautiful, functional, resilient, but also I didn’t want. My knees to be visible my ankles and my feels to be visible my legs to, to be obvious.
And so I was asking it was a tall order. And Alan was up for it. So I was like, Oh, this is great. So we started by basically I researched what I wanted it to look like. I had to know what I wanted the outcome to be again. I needed my Z to have the other letters from a lineup to get me to that Z. And so I did a ton of research on fish and sharks and wildlife and.
I also didn’t want my tail to look like how, I guess at that point in time, traditionally, people think of a mermaid tail, which is sort of the fluke is shaped like a whale or a dolphin or you know, a cetacean I wanted,
my little design turned out to be basically a circle.
I have circle a Crescent and I chose that because I actually used what a term that was coined to after I did this biomimicry, I imitated nature. I wanted not just a unique visual tale that only if you even saw the silhouette of it, you would say, Oh, that’s mermaid Linden because there’s no other mermaid tail.
Like it But also one that would be really powerful. I like going fast in the water. I like using a modicum of effort and propelling. And this tail does that and it, so, yeah, it was a process, Brett, it took seven months. It took, I don’t even know how many actual man hours and woman hours, because Alan was coming over.
He was working on Terminator salvation at the time. Doing special effects on that movie. And I was working on sculpting skills during the day. We started with a fiberglass mold of my body and it was very complicated. We made fake legs, Linden legs, and then. Piled, you know, piled a clay over top of it, sculpted hand sculpted the scales, which again, I looked at different fish and chose the type of patterning I wanted.
I didn’t want it to be perfect. So it’s not, if you look closely at my silicone tails, you’ll see that it’s, it’s imperfect, which is like nature, you know? And Gosh. Yeah, I just, I wanted something very streamlined hydrodynamic no-frills so my tail is very minimalistic. It’s very sleek. You cannot see my knees.
You cannot see my heels, but it is, so on land it’s cumbersome, but I’ll tell you it’s I love it. And we have since made two other tales from that original mold that fiberglass mold has now made three mermaid dills tale, 1.0, the original tale, 2.0, which actually got heavier because we replaced some internal neoprene that lined tail 1.0 with solid silicone.
So it was more neutrally buoyant in the ocean. For example, I made a mistake and it was a little too buoyant in saltwater, the first iteration. So I had to. Strap led between my legs. Oh man. It was pretty gnarly. So. You know, we learn engineering is part of the process of creating these tails. At least in the version I wanted to create.
So Alan was amazing. I learned so much, he let me have hands-on, participation in the entire process. And so by nature of building this tale, I became like an apprentice. I feel in special effects and.
Brett Stanley: [00:14:21] learned a lot of the processes in there.
Linden Wolbert: [00:14:23] Yeah, it was great. So, you know, the final version of it. Oh, I do. I love my, my design and it’s still the design I use today.
It’s my signature. And I love it.
Brett Stanley: [00:14:35] That’s amazing. to have, you know, this light bulb moment, like you say, and then to come to something that is having a very intimate relationship with this tale, like it’s, it’s it’s it is your, it’s your craft, like this is your main tool for, for your career, right?
Linden Wolbert: [00:14:49] Yeah. I mean, I call it my baby for a reason. It really was my first born and subsequently second and third, because now I have two silicone swimming tails and then one land tale that we made out of a lightweight foam latex material. That is a replica. So yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:15:06] you, if you did have, yeah. If you did have one that was less functional for land, because you know, you obviously don’t need a monofin and all that sort of stuff in there. Cause you just need to look the part,
Linden Wolbert: [00:15:16] Yep. Yeah, we did. And the land tale what initiated that was actually a, had a residency at the LA County fair. And it was so amazing for, for several years. I had my own little stage and it was the mermaid Linden. An underwater education stage and kids could come up and you know, they’d watch mermaid minutes, which is a little educational documentary style thing I make for kids.
And then they’d watch that and then I’d come out on my shelf. Throne, I’d be rolled out and in my lightweight replica tail, which had just a little polycarbonate blade with actual monofin foot pockets inside, just so. I could flip the tail easily and the blade still had a firmness, but it was super lightweight.
Oh my gosh. Completely different from being in a 50 pounds, silicone tail of course, on land, which is just very cumbersome and impossibly uncomfortable. And um, yeah, th this tale, it, it, I, I take such good care of my gear, namely, my entails. So this, this tale has lasted me. In fact, the special effects artists who helped with it Who did the foam latex, like they’re different effects, artists who are specializing in certain areas of things.
And this is like the foam latex guy. He was amazing. And he made this thing for me now. I, how many years ago, I don’t even know how many years ago. And recently I had a chat with him and he’s like, you still have that tail. That tail still exists. I’m like, Oh yeah. He was like, Oh dude, usually that material degrades.
And like, it lasts for like a couple of scenes of a movie and it’s done. And I was like, Oh no, I’m taking care of it. It was expensive. And you know, it’s beautiful. And so I have all these, like underneath my bed, I have all these, it looks like dead bodies and body bags, but it’s actually mermaid tails. In wedding dress bags to keep them dust-free and bug free and dry and happy.
And in the dark, you know, it’s like vitamins stored in a cool dry place for best results. Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:17:06] So, so what happened? So then, so you built this tale and you had this project that you would, would that you’re wanting to do. What happened with that, with that project?
Linden Wolbert: [00:17:13] Oh, so I ultimately. Started taking the tail because I’m always doing a lot of things. At one time I was modeling for Patty I became a free diving in train or not trainer, but a, a judge for basically ADA, one of the governing bodies of free diving. And so I started traveling around the world as an ADA free diving judge.
And I was officiating, you know, judging world records, national records at competitions and such. So not only was I continuing my training and free diving, which had originated with performance free diving international with Mandy Ray cook. Cruickshank. Kirk crock and Martins to panic at the time who was part of PFI.
And then we branched off and created free diving instructors and trainers, which is now known as FII. So little known fact. I actually helped Martin with the inception of his free diving agency that he now has. FII. I did a lot of crazy things. In the interim of doing this in free diving as well. So yeah, doing modeling for scuba, starting free diving agencies training as a, to become a judge and then officiating as a judge at competitions.
And I would take my tail everywhere because. It was an incredible opportunity to not only get gorgeous footage and photographs while I was judging, you know, off duty a judge, I would be mermaiding and the freedivers loved it. And there are always underwater photographers at these events, you know, filming and photographing the competitors.
So of course they were thrilled on off days to play with the mermaid and the coral reef. Right. So we had a blast. So I, I started acquiring. Beautiful content and getting more and more experienced, not just free diving, but free diving without a mask on wearing a 50 pound silicone appendage. Getting used to buoyancy, understanding angles, knowing where is the shooter and how can I best accommodate between this sea creature or this coral reef and myself, and having come from being behind the camera prior to being suddenly a model, which was never really my intention.
And I don’t really interestingly love doing modeling. Like I always feel pretty uncomfortable in front of camera. But. Oh, the images and the footage, I would see it afterward and be like, Oh my gosh, this is so great for teaching kids.
Brett Stanley: [00:19:30] Oh, totally.
Linden Wolbert: [00:19:31] You know, like here’s this mermaid swimming with the ocean creature that they’re learning about that she’s discussing.
So it brings that it, it blurs that line again between the human world and the aquatic world and makes it a spectacle. It makes it unforgettable and it makes it really interesting for children.
Brett Stanley: [00:19:52] That’s really, that’s a really interesting way of bringing it in like this fantasy sort of a creature kind of bringing the real world to these kids. I think that’s amazing.
Linden Wolbert: [00:20:03] Yeah, it’s fun. I love it.
Brett Stanley: [00:20:06] So, how were you going to use this footage? Like, what was your plan to use this footage of you underwater interacting with, with wildlife and, and, and the coral and all that sort of stuff. How are you going to sort of bring that all together and put it into a package that could be then shown.
Linden Wolbert: [00:20:21] I dreamed up. I think of most of my really good ideas into. Places one in my dreams actually I’ll have a dream about something and I’m like, Oh, I’ll wake up. And immediately do. Usually I do a voice memo to myself because you know how dreams kind of disappear if you, they just melt out of your memory. Oh, I can’t quite remember what happened.
So I immediately I’ve. I’ve. To S to, to have this habit of my phone is right there by my bed. I do a voice memo. So I really feel the feelings and remember the clarity and the detail of a dream. So that’s where I first come up with ideas that I then turn into my reality. Then also, when I’m shampooing my hair, I have this joke that I’m massaging my brain coral and it just like bursts with really fun ideas.
And so I was actually this, this particular idea, which was. For the mermaid minute, which is the thing I’m most proud of, of everything I’ve ever created in my mermaiding career, the mermaid minute, is it just, it’s a culmination of all of my passions and. And a delivery of my dream, which is ocean edutainment to children and anyone, really, anyone who wants to watch.
So the mermaid minute burst into my brain coral. I got a bubble of joy in the shower as I was massaging my hair. And there it was. So the idea was okay, one minute. With every single little bit of information or facts I can possibly pack into a minute of video content for children about a specific ocean creature or phenomenon or habitat or something ocean related.
It could be conservation minded. It could be just one little creature. Like I have an episode on barnacles. You know, anything, it seems benign like, Oh, how could you go on and on about a barnacle? Well, it’s actually really interesting if you look at them. So, you know, I just love that. And, and as a child I feel like we look at those little things, you know, when we were children, we stopped, at least I did, I would stop and I could look at a square foot of grass.
And just look at it and see, Oh my gosh, look, there’s a little bug down there. Oh wow. This is starting to bloom. Children are fascinated by details. And so I wanted to just kind of zoom in magnify on one subject at a time and only for a minute. And to my shock. It was incredible how much I could pack into one minute of video.
And so the mermaid minute I would film them. I was hosting them. I was editing them. I can post the music for them. I, you know, obviously produced and directed it. I did everything. I learned a nonlinear editing for the first time, because I’d come from a world of deck to deck editing, like physical splicing of film, and also cutting video, like a S VHS and Betamax and all that.
And, and then going into the world of nonlinear editing specifically for this project. So I started thank goodness, a neighbor of mine. Is a professional editor and was like, Hey, you know, I can help you. And he gave me some hints and sat with me for a couple of hours and wow. I was so off to the races and I started, I started a YouTube channel, which also shockingly and I think was it in 2000?
When did I start my YouTube channel? I think it was 2009. I finally started a YouTube channel and a video that I put up, just a promotional video for my company, mermaids emotion. Went viral. And I didn’t even realize it because I hadn’t posted anything else on the channel. And I went back one day and I had over a million views back in the, you know, this is in the, in the single digit two thousands.
I was like, Oh, well you see Dow. And then someone, someone told me you could monetize this. I didn’t know you could do this. I was like, he can. And so I monetized my YouTube channel and started creating mermaid minutes and it was sustainable. It was incredible. People were watching it. I was so. Honored at that people wanted to watch these a little videos.
I was creating, you know, in, in a room above the garage at my parents’ house. You know, with basically like zeros and dollars, cause I’d spent them all making a tale and, you know, I started, I made my website for my business and. That’s when word started getting around about me as a mermaid performer in, in Hollywood and in Los Angeles.
And there were another mermaid performers at the time. And so I was kind of the first to my knowledge in LA doing live performance based work, going to schools, doing educational talks for kids, creating educational content edutainment as I call it for the little sea squirts. And so like, you know, like the big parties and events that started happening.
You know, like celebrities and people who’s who of Hollywood started hiring me and it rapid fire, you know, the word of mouth goes quickly. And when there’s something new and hot, of course, then everybody wants it at their event. So it, it really was incredible. That was like the golden era for me of, of live performance that was non-education related.
But those performances were subsidizing my passion work, which was creating the mermaid minute.
Brett Stanley: [00:25:22] And, and what sort of performances were they, were they in, in swimming pools at, at parties or were they, were they dry in the corner of a, of an event or what sort of stuff?
Linden Wolbert: [00:25:31] Oh, they were namely aquatic. Yeah. This was you know, really just anything from which I love children’s birthday parties. Oh my gosh. So much fun. You know, I just. Little kids who are excited about anything are the sweetest and their enthusiasm is contagious. Their eyes light up. They are smiles for miles and to be the, the mythical creature that shows up in their backyard pool and surprises them and all their friends and.
Puts little mermaid fins on them and teaches them how to swim like mermaids and played games and just have a true magic in their life. Especially young children who believe in mermaids, Oh, there’s nothing sweeter. There’s just nothing sweeter in the world. And I would answer, I would infuse education into these experiences.
So of course the parents are thinking, Oh, it’s like a mermaid princess coming into the party and then I’d show up and I’d be like, what’s your favorite ocean animal?
Brett Stanley: [00:26:31] have
You heard of barnacles?
Linden Wolbert: [00:26:33] yeah. Have you heard about Burnet coasts? Have you heard about narwhals and you know, and, and these little kids, I call them my little sea fans, you know, these little sea fans, they’re sea sponges and they, they love hearing about.
Ocean creatures. And you know, one kid would say, I love dolphins. I’d be like, I speak dolphin. And I’d be like, you know, I do a dolphin call and the kids, just their jaws drop. And then they’d be like, are you real though? And then I’d swim underwater for like a minute or two. And they come up still smiling out of breath and they’re like, Oh geez.
There’s it’s, you know, one could call it deception of, of the highest caliber, but also one could say. That it’s a life-changing moment where you have you know, you have a captive audience and then you can say, but do you love our oceans? Do you know that you impact our oceans and that, that animal that you love, the dolphins, the sea turtles, the, the sea horses, the sea stars.
You affect them every day by what you do here on land. And they’re like I do. And then I get to give a conservation
during the birthday party.
Brett Stanley: [00:27:33] There’s an interesting, interesting thing with, with sort of the ocean stuff. And then the people stuff I used to volunteer at the the aquarium of the Pacific here,
Linden Wolbert: [00:27:41] Oh, yay.
Brett Stanley: [00:27:43] to be in the tank doing the presentations and stuff. And it was really interesting because we would have these school groups come through and you’d watch these kids from, from above.
And they’d be kind of interested. Some of them really not interested at all. And it wasn’t until we sort of, as divers sort of came in and dropped down into the tank that they kind of looked through it. Oh my God, there’s a person in there. Oh, wow. That’s incredible. Oh my wow. People can be in there in the water.
That’s incredible. And then suddenly telling them about the place that we were from inside the tank. Blew their little minds, because they were like, ah, I want to be in there. I want to be a person who is under the water, you know, like it’s, it’s that kind of seeing themselves under the water suddenly makes this a place that they want to care about.
Linden Wolbert: [00:28:26] Yeah. It opens the scope, doesn’t it, it, it opens a scope of possibility for them, not just that they want to be there, that they could potentially work there. They could have a career like you do. They could, they could do something. Whether it’s of course, there’s always the, I want to be a Marine biologist.
That’s the first one that kids always think of, usually, you know, and it’s so cute, but that’s, that’s a seed planted that they that’s a possibility for them.
Brett Stanley: [00:28:52] That’s what I think what you’ve done is genius. You’ve taken a sea animal and a human and merged them together, you know, to sort of span that barrier between the two things to make it undeniable. It’s it’s brilliant.
Linden Wolbert: [00:29:03] Oh, well, thank you. It’s just what I wanted to do. And it came to be, and I’m just so glad the world is receiving it, you know, because if no one enjoyed it or liked it, then I guess I wouldn’t still be doing it.
Brett Stanley: [00:29:15] I mean, that’s an interesting, interesting point too, because at the moment, and I don’t know when this kind of started, but there is a massive mermaid kind of, industry at the moment.
Linden Wolbert: [00:29:25] Oh, it’s a movement.
a whole culture now.
Brett Stanley: [00:29:28] totally.
Linden Wolbert: [00:29:29] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:29:30] how does, does that feel to you to sort of have done something so, so early on, and then to now see how, how big a groundswell this is in terms of the mermaid movement.
Linden Wolbert: [00:29:41] So fascinating to have been almost like a fly on the wall, even though I was and have been actively mermaiding for, you know, the better part of 20 years now, frighteningly it’s like, it’s still shocks me and is delights me and tickles me when I walk into a store, for example, like a shop that has gifts and they’re mermaid things everywhere.
You know, th this just was not how it used to be. And you know, just this explosion of murder culture and the subculture of it. And there’s now just, there’s so many categories of it as it’s become more popular. So yeah, there was sort of this explosion of tale makers and Content creators and people kind of hobbyists who bought tails and, and now, and many people who are doing it professionally or making money from performances or however they’re doing it.
And, you know, I kind of joke around that. I was an artist who then started to have to learn business. And now I feel like the table has flipped and the, the scale has just gone. Poof, and I I’m now a business person. Who is also an artist, but out of necessity, yes. Watching all of this happening and having to really create a business model for which there was not one to my knowledge when I started create documents and waivers and negotiate payments.
And I mean, it just, the business behind it is really, it’s a lot of work and I had to gradually learn it. So yes, watching this industry. Kind of blossoming before my very eyes, especially over the past really five to seven years, I’d say it’s really exploding. Whereby yeah. And then just, and I don’t know what specifically.
Made that happen. Was it adjust timing? Was it just a coincidence? Was it that they started mermaid, started being in feature films, more like pirates of the Caribbean had mermaids, in, in some of their iterations or versions of their film? Was it that I don’t know. I mean, I got news coverage and things that I never could have anticipated things just started.
Again, falling in my lap. I never pursue. PR, and it just would come to me and people just were fascinated by the story, which was cool, but wow. I just never could have anticipated how it grew. And then, you know, doing these performances and these parties in these events and creating the YouTube channel and then suddenly I’m getting the news coverage and then having things come out of the woodwork, you know, opportunities like to design my own mano fins.
Like, how did this happen? I don’t even really know, you know, these things all evolved. And again, having those roots in the scuba industry from when I was modeling with Patty, And then I went to the scuba convention, the world’s largest Scooby convention, the DEMA show. And I met so many different people from manufacturers to underwater image makers and filmmakers and researchers and scientists.
And so the network of people that I met, I guess, in the right, a niche in a niche, for lack of a better term, everyone knew me as the mermaid and it just opportunities just came. Flying at me.
Brett Stanley: [00:33:02] I mean, cause you’ve started up a partnership with body glove to, to design children’s like, like mermaid accessories, right?
Linden Wolbert: [00:33:12] Yeah. So it started with children’s mano fins and little float suits and hoodie towels that looked like mermaids with little tails. And I designed tail skins that are now patented. I’m an inventor. I didn’t expect any of this stuff. And um, then I dreamed up the world’s first foldable monofin, which just came out on the market for children right now.
Just came out. Last year in 2020, and then yeah. Now, and we have adult mano fins now, too. So now top selling mano fins on Amazon people, putting them into their tail company, manufacturing processes, and designing tail skins to go around them on orphans for both kids and adults. Like I just, I never knew I’d get into all of this
perjury to it happened.
Brett Stanley: [00:33:53] I mean, how, how would you think that this was going to happen? Like it’s, it’s such a, I feel like it’s such a perfect storm of, of. Of of good things happening that has kind of made this whole groundswell, you know, and every year I see it, cause I kind of am in that sort of community as well. Cause I photograph a lot of these mermaids and every year I just see more and more stuff coming out and more and more people involved and, and people finding new ways to, to change that industry a little bit.
Linden Wolbert: [00:34:21] Yeah, absolutely. It’s amazing. And you know, it’s, it’s so fun too, because I think, you know, kind of. The, the originals. I always think of Hannah Fraser, of course, who we were kind of on other sides of the planet from each other opposite side, she was in Australia and I was here and we started at pretty much around the same time doing what we were doing, unbeknownst to each other.
And then when our paths finally crossed, I was like, Oh, finally, someone else who understands. All this weird stuff that no one else does. You know, how does it feel to have your legs bound together, holding your breath without a mask on 40 feet below the surface, surrounded by sharks. Oh, you know how that feels and have to look good and smile.
Like this was the first person that I had met, who really like nobody else understood.
Nobody else. Understood. And then there was Medusa, Medusa, Renna Marina. They’ll do we able to put the fire eating mermaid who is in in Florida and she was doing just beautiful aquatic dance and just performance work.
And so I feel like we were kind of like the first three who were doing something that was mermaid related full-time it was our passion and our various ways of expressing that. That type of performance or that type of that, that half fish, half human, form,
Brett Stanley: [00:35:38] That’s incredible. And, and, and finding each other, like how did you find each other? Was it, was it through the internet or through people?
Linden Wolbert: [00:35:45] you know, Hannah and I initially connected, I don’t know if she remembers this. This is how long ago it was folks. My space.
Brett Stanley: [00:35:53] dating yourself
Linden Wolbert: [00:35:54] Oh, well, yes, yes. Yup. We are. We are Hannah and I are both in the over 40 clubs. So you know, and, and started in our twenties. So there it is.
Brett Stanley: [00:36:05] Yeah. That’s incredible though. I mean, my space is such a, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s so long ago for a lot of us, you know, like it, it feels like. That it was back in, it feels like ancient history a little bit in terms of the internet. And so did you guys have your own pages on there? Did you have profiles on, is that how you were marketing yourselves as well?
Through my space?
Linden Wolbert: [00:36:26] You know, I had not really marketed myself through my space. I had my own website at that point. I think it was someone else forwarded me her page and was like, Oh my God, look, there’s another mermaid. I was like, Oh my gosh. There’s a mermaid in Australia. How cool. And you know, so the first time we actually met, this was so funny, I was in a tea house in Hollywood and I was getting loose leaf tea for a gift for, I think my mother for mother’s day and irrelevant.
But anyway, I heard people, I, you know, I noticed people walked into the tea bar from the entrance and they’re chattering, chattering, chattering. And at this point I knew of Hannah. We had never actually communicated, but I knew of her. And that she was in Australia and I suddenly hear this, this voice behind me, this, you know, Australia, an accent saying, Oh, so what do you say?
Like, hi, I’m manmade. Or like, whatever, I’m doing a terrible accent. I’m so sorry, Hannah. I’m not doing you justice. And, and I, I look, I turned my head. I’m like, excuse me. Did you just say something about hire a mermaid? And then I looked at her and you know, Hannah you’ve worked with her, her eyes are just like piercing, gorgeous light.
And there was this blonde hair and these eyes and I was like, Oh, are you Hannah mermaid, mermaid, Linden. Are you in town tonight? I’m doing a performance downtown. Do you want to come? And like, I was so excited because I’d not met any other. Live professional, performing free diving mermaids ever. At this juncture.
And she was like, Oh my God. Oh my God. Hi. And we start chatting. And at that point, you know, I, you know, I’d already gone through the process and had my had been performing and had my silicone tail. She has, Oh, he’s got a silicone tail. I was like, I do. Anyway. It was just like this instant kind of bonding of someone who understands and can relate that many other people, of course at this time would look at me like I was an alien.
When I said I was a mermaid and he, or she, she completely understood. So we, since then of course have collaborated, we’ve performed together. We have had some really fun experiences. She is such an incredibly talented woman and just beautiful and incredible in the water as you know, having worked with her.
Brett Stanley: [00:38:39] yeah.
And just, just a lovely person. Like it’s, she’s just so open and and, and, and relaxed about everything. It’s, it’s such a nice thing.
Linden Wolbert: [00:38:47] Yeah. Yeah. She’s she is, she is such, she is the definition of a free spirit.
Brett Stanley: [00:38:52] Yes. Yep. And so my experience with Hannah, I know she’s done a lot of sort of TV work and movie work as a mermaid. And have you done the same sort of thing? Have you been in that side of, of Hollywood here?
Linden Wolbert: [00:39:03] I have, yeah, I have been in a bunch of music videos. I have done underwater stunt doubling. I have been, you know, featured in music videos as myself as a mermaid all kinds of different things. I’ve been in feature films. Like so funny, the one I always laugh about is the film. No one knows about because of the Kevin Spacey.
Conspiracies that broke out, but it’s like the film that no one ever heard about, but I was so excited cause I was in this feature film in the pool, in a tail and it featured you know, my favorite movie of all time is the princess bride. And in, in this movie that I was in, which is called gosh, what was it even called now?
I can’t remember it. We were filming the night. David Bowie died in Hollywood and. No one on set, like all the, all the extras didn’t know they were in there, like 20 something. Oh my God. David Bowie died. And they were like, who? I was like, no, I’m a hold. And anyway, I digress. But yeah, billionaire boys club.
That’s what it was called. Billionaire boys club. And so I was in this movie and I was so excited because the, the guy who played Westley in the princess bride was in that movie. And I thought, okay, I can now. Leave this earth because I’ve been in a movie with Wesley from the princess, but then no one ever saw the movie.
So it didn’t matter anyway. But Oh, do do. Oh, that’s so funny. That’s so funny. Yeah. So anyway, yeah, I’ve done a bunch of underwater stunts and, and music videos and films and commercials, and Hannah and I did a really fun little commercial for herbal essences a while ago, we were the, we were the stunt doubles for the, you know, the models who were like these mermaids in the top side.
Then we were the ones who were in the actual water doing the things. And yeah, we’ve had some fun little adventures.
Brett Stanley: [00:40:44] So, so are there productions that you’re on where you’re not a mermaid? Are you, do you do stunt work and double work where you’re just a person with legs?
Linden Wolbert: [00:40:53] Yes. Yep. We’re in all kinds of weird outfits and wigs and stuff where I am doubles. I’m a stunt double. So nobody knows it’s me
Brett Stanley: [00:41:02] Do you like that work?
Linden Wolbert: [00:41:03] I do I do. I really enjoy it because for me it’s easy and it really helps someone who doesn’t have that skillset still get whatever they need conveyed as a character across.
So, you know, I think that that’s a neat thing to be able to offer that. So it relieves, you know, if there’s an actor who really loves the role that they’re playing, but they just, they just are not a water person, but they have an underwater scene and they’re terrified the water. I’m just so happy that I get to help them express their, hopefully to, to the degree that they want.
That experience on, on the screen underwater, where they don’t have to go through that terrifying thing for them that makes them uncomfortable. And it saves the, the crew time. It saves the director, the stress of dealing with a freaked out talent. And I love being in the water. So it’s great. I love it.
Brett Stanley: [00:41:53] that’s awesome. Yeah. So, I mean, we’ve, we’ve kind of talked about the fun, fluffy side of stuff. Let’s talk about. The more uncomfortable side of being a mermaid, which is, you know, having to spend time in, in chlorinated water and maybe like the lakes and swimming pools and all that sort of stuff. What are you doing in terms of protecting your body when you’re in these sort of situations?
Linden Wolbert: [00:42:16] Oh, Brett, you know, there’s a, there’s a thing that I’ve said in the past, which I, I’m usually a very positive person and I believe in our, our words become our realities, but the truth is mermaiding is pain. Mermaiding is great discomfort. It is generally I mean, gosh, foot cramps, blisters, all kinds of you’re freezing cold muscle spasms.
Eyes are stinging and burning sinuses are burning when you flood your sinuses. You know, you’re scraping yourself on rocks or sand, depending on if you’re in the ocean. Even if you’re in a swimming pool that has bad chemistry, or it’s not heated for the length of time, you need to be in the water because, you know, we, we cool off fast in the water.
It’s it’s 400 times denser than air and boy, do you feel it when it’s cold? It does. It’s it’s bone entail chilling stuff. So yeah, that there is a lot of discomfort. I mean, I’ve done things that. It was like torture hen. You have to smile and look natural and make it look like you are just in complete heaven and your element for the camera when you truly are screaming on the inside.
Brett Stanley: [00:43:19] Right. The thing too, is that it is such a beautiful look, you know, like it’s this beautiful tail. It looks so effortless, but the mechanics of what’s happening inside that tail is not apparent. Like I think we uneducated people look at it and think, well, that must be amazing, but, but knowing that your feet are rubbing against each other or rubbing against the fin, you’ve got to keep your toes pointed to get
Linden Wolbert: [00:43:42] S
you’re surrounded by sharks holding your breath. Yeah. Oh, without a mask you can’t see. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It’s it’s nuts. I mean, really, really th th one of the things that you know, when people who are just observing it or the final product, people observing the final product from the outside.
And sometimes I don’t even realize, cause it’s almost like I go into survival mode. It’s like these endorphins kick in this, this fight or flight response happens. And yet you’re supposed to be remaining calm with your heart rate, you know, as calm as can be. So you can hold your breath and stay underwater for as long as possible to get the shot or do the action or have the sharks went by in the frame or have the manta rays swim around you or whatever it is, and working and communicating with your shooter. Knowing your angles, looking at the light understanding. And I think that. A good model. Of course, as you know, being on the, behind the lens of, of many of these incredible shoots, my God, some of the stuff that you are producing, Oh my gosh, Brett, like your underwater sets like I do, I dream of experiencing your pool, cause I’m sure that you have it heated properly, and the balance is nice for the pH for the eyes.
And you have these sets and you get, Oh, Oh yeah. I’ve heard all about you and your. Five sea star, VIP experiences in your pool. But trust me, it’s, it’s on my list of things to experience one day, but you know, when a model knows and understands and intuitively without you having to direct them, they know what to do.
Brett Stanley: [00:45:13] Yes.
Linden Wolbert: [00:45:14] They know, to clear their hair out of their face. They know which angle, the light is most flattering. They understand how to point their body angle, their body. They know to get the bubbles out of their nose. They know to have a slight parting of the lips. So it doesn’t look like you’re a puffer fish and how to cork the back of their mouth so that the, you know, all of these things that, you know, people like Hannah and I, we do it intuitively because we’ve been doing it forever.
And you don’t really think about it until you work with someone who hasn’t.
Brett Stanley: [00:45:42] Oh, that that sort of skillset is, is priceless on set, especially if you’re working for a client. So if you’re doing a client job and you have a budget and you have a timeframe, and if you’re suddenly working with, with talent who very willing, but don’t mess necessarily have the experience, then you spend so much time. correcting them and just teaching them how to do the things that people like you and Hannah do instinctively. And, and the often times that I get to work with people like you, it is like we have an ESP because I’ll be under the water and, you know, we can’t communicate. There’s no communication once we, once we’re shooting, but I’ll be like, Ooh, if you can just move that.
Oh, you did it. Oh, cool. Okay. Well, that’s fine. I can just concentrate on doing my job and not having to worry about yours.
Linden Wolbert: [00:46:29] Yes. And equally from, from the perspective of a model I can tell when I’m working with a shooter who doesn’t know what they’re doing and doesn’t have it together on their side, because I’ll get very frustrated when I have, I’ve cleared my nose, I’ve moved my hair. I’m in a pose. The buoyancy is perfect.
There’s a moment with an animal and I don’t hear their shutter go off and I’m like, yeah, dad, you weren’t ready. You know, so it does, it works both ways when you have a team working together and we know you and I have both experienced this with different people that we worked with where it’s like, Oh God, there’s this dance.
We’re doing a dance. And I love it when a shooter, you know, it’s not always possible in the open ocean, but in a pool setting when everyone’s working on breath, hold. And you come up and there’s this dance, and there’s also an empathy of the shooter with the model who has to go up to take a breath, or, you know, if you don’t have a hookah there to take a breath off underwater and stay under water, which is always great.
That’s wonderful too. But if you have that dance where you’re going up and down, and then you have the bubbles and you have this gorgeous flow of up and down and up and down and. You can just capture so many beautiful things with the right team, the right lighting, the right temperature of water, the right pH balance.
If, if you have control over that and it’s even more magical when that can happen.
Brett Stanley: [00:47:47] Yes. So, so what sort of projects have you done in the sea? Cause I’ve seen, I’ve seen footage and images of you swimming with some, some very large animals.
Linden Wolbert: [00:47:54] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:47:55] those for me.
Linden Wolbert: [00:47:56] Oh, gosh. Oh, you’re just done so many things. And again, many of those things aren’t even planned. They happen spontaneously. Cause I pretty much bring a tail everywhere, you know, just in case there’s something that comes up or there happens to be an opportunity and some of my most magical content and experiences and images and video have come from really.
As I like to say, the sea stars aligning and you know, like, I’ll go to a beautiful place, you know, like I go to The Bahamas or I go to pullout or I go to Mexico and of course I’m in a place where we might see animals, we might see certain things and it could, the timing could work out, but Oh, wow.
Gosh, I mean, a lot of it is just, Oh wow. Here’s an opportunity. Let’s go do this. Can you do this? Yes. I can too. Oh my gosh. Cool. And people always want to fill mermaids. That’s never an issue. No one’s ever been like, I’m sorry, I just, at this mermaid thing now, I don’t want to, I don’t want to photograph that everyone wants this for their portfolios.
So it’s always really fun and easy. And, and, and I mean, I’ve dived with whale sharks. I have dived with manta rays. I’ve dived with a, a variety of different types of sharks and gosh, just swimming over coral reefs. Jellyfish Lake in powwow was amazing. Unexpected things come up. Like I work with a lot of wish foundations.
This is another favorite thing of mine is doing Make-A-Wish for terminally ill children, or they have a terminal or, or just a life-threatening illness. And, Oh my gosh, I swam out of Loch Lomond in Scotland to surprise a little girl. The water was 47 degrees. It was painful, but you know what? I forgot how uncomfortable I was because that little girl was so happy.
Brett Stanley: [00:49:34] that’s sorry.
Linden Wolbert: [00:49:35] So this career has taken me into emotional places, geographic spaces, Subaquatic experiences, interactions with animals and people that I never could have dreamed upon the inception of realizing that day. When I put on Mandy raised monofin and came in. Would occur in my future and continues to unfold.
Like it continues to unfold, you know, sitting, sitting in the bedroom of, of some like famous celebrity who shall not be named because I signed an NDA and I’m sitting in their bedroom waiting to be carried out by their bodyguard, into their swimming pool for a private event. It like. The weird things that have come up, and the skill sets to the, the understanding of how to move in the water, free diving, special effects, work product, and, and like development and testing, marketing, Instagramming image, creating editing videos, creating entertainment for children doing Make-A-Wish is like who ever could have dreamed?
Brett Stanley: [00:50:35] I know. I mean, you’ve done such a, you know, you’ll, you’ll mermaid Linden, but you’re so much more than that, you know, you’ve, you’ve created this whole industry around yourself, which I think is amazing. Like you’ve, you’ve really kind of pushed the envelope and it’s, it’s, it’s inspiring.
Linden Wolbert: [00:50:50] Cause an accident, Brett.
Brett Stanley: [00:50:52] accidents of the best thing is that most of my career is an accident as well. So it’s, I love the accidents. That’s when you, the universe is kind of making things happen for you.
Linden Wolbert: [00:51:01] yeah, I agree. It’s been so much fun.
Brett Stanley: [00:51:04] And, and this has been amazing just to hear your story and, and just to, to learn all this stuff that I never even knew about you. This has been, this has been entertainment.
Linden Wolbert: [00:51:13] Oh, hooray. My goal has been achieved. I am so honored to be on here with you. I mean, Brett, this is, this is truly an honor. I really look forward to the day when we get to work together.
Brett Stanley: [00:51:26] I do too. And I’ve, I’ve been wanting to work with you for, for quite a while. Just getting those stars to align and then the right project come along would be amazing.
Linden Wolbert: [00:51:36] Well, let’s let’s Mer, make it happen.
Brett Stanley: [00:51:39] Sounds good. Thanks Linden.
Linden Wolbert: [00:51:40] Thank you, Brett.