by Claire Corbett inCreative Conversations

Creative Conversations with Emma Harper

Mischief the Mermaid
Mischief the Mermaid, or Emma Harper is an experienced sea swimmer with a passion for all things merfolk and maritime. We constantly have our eyes open for new and unique experiences in Cornwall and when we found Emma’s beautiful mermaid imagery and discovered that she also offers Mermaid freediving taster courses, we felt compelled to get to know her better.

From her favourite secret tidal pool locations to her advice on how best to begin coldwater swimming, our creative conversation has us wanting to plunge into the sea in search of mermaids. You can book Emma’s Mermaid courses here.

Hi Emma, Could you tell us a bit about your background? Have you always lived in Cornwall? 

I have lived all over the UK in Lincoln, Edinburgh, Yorkshire and have wonderful friendships and memories from all of them, including water adventures from a very young age. Then I found my soul’s home in Cornwall. I’ve loved everywhere I’ve lived, but I’ve never felt as connected to a place as I do Cornwall. It’s such a beautiful feeling just being here, and finding my little place to call home has been everything. I moved to Cornwall after losing my Dad and with having three children, two with additional needs, the healing coastlines and magical waters called to me.

How did you get into freedive swimming? 

I have always been able to find my peace and calm underwater. I swam, was a lifeguard, and have competed in triathlons. Alongside this, I also trained in ballet from the age of 2-23, until I broke my ankle. University and broken bones lead to new directions. It hurt my heart having to move on from my dancing. Little did I know that my connection to the sea would reunite us. 

My sea swimming while in Cornwall progressed and I started a little group called MorSprites and Mermaids: a small personal group of individuals whose own stories have brought them to the ocean. Together we all fell more in love with the Cornish coast, diving deeper and adventuring further each time. I made the decision after doing a shoot in Mexico with Lexi Laine, the fine art photographer, and doing some freedive training with Cenotes Freediving, that as a group we should do our freedive training so that we could be safe in the water and support each other. Having fun in the ocean needs a balance of knowledge and safety. Training with Aquacity Freediving in Helston opened up the underwater world to me. My own journey took me on more trips to Mexico again for underwater modelling work. My favourite shoots of course are on location in Cornwall, with the extraordinary marine life and backdrops of Turner-esque headlands, I would say it’s one of the best places for freedive.

Where are your favourite places to swim in south Cornwall?

Grebe and Durgan will always be special places for me, as I’ve done some stunning photo shoots in the waters there. One by Lexi Laine even featured on the front cover of Artseen Magazine. The other was working alongside the Seagrass Project charity and appeared in The Times. Grebe has a stunning Seagrass conservation area and a committed local conservation community. My 40th birthday was also made extra special by travelling around the stunning Helford River beaches.

What first drew you to mermaids? 

Mermaids give me that connection between humans and the ocean. Before forms of communication even existed, folklores of Merfolk were logged all over the world. The genuine fact is we don’t know what lives in the deep dark secret spaces of the ocean deep. I love the mystery and magical effect it has on everyone. The smiles and joy mermaiding brings is outstanding. Merfolk have the opportunity to shout out for our oceans too. Helping to motivate the next generation to respect and protect our seas. 

How would you describe Cornwall to someone who’s never visited? 

Cornwall is a community of creative, inspiring people living in one of the most beautiful places on earth. You can’t not fall in love with Cornwall, it’s so hard to leave…

Where are your favourite Cornish beaches? 

I have so many favourites depending on the seas and winds. However, Falmouth has so much life and activity underneath the surface. Shipwrecks, swim throughs, so many options too in walking distance such as Swanpool, Maenporth, and Castle Beach, which are all bursting with life and turquoise waters. 

For you, what are the benefits of sea swimming? 

Be it a freediving adventure, a smooth snorkelling session, or a gentle healing swim, the sea offers the kind of therapy that can’t be bottled. You never regret a swim, just sitting and watching it helps you find some peace.

Where are your favourite tidal pools in Cornwall?

My favourite ones are those you find all by yourself when on an adventure. As you walk the coast path you spot them shining like jewels. Perranporth has a lovely pool which is great for safe swimming in, and Porthtowan’s tidal pool which is my local is definitely worth the scramble. Always check your tides and don’t get so cold that you can’t climb back to safety. Remember your phone, check the phone signal and always let someone know where you’re swimming and what time you expect to be back.

Do you have any advice for first-time sea swimmers? 

Apps and ask the locals! Magic Seaweed is a fantastic app which gives you tides times, winds and swell information. What 3 Words is also brilliant, should you need to call the coastguard. Plan your swims and be prepared for after your swim, getting warm should be a priority, and make sure you have a snack and dress from head to toe after you come out of the water. Avoid getting dressed in cold winds, keep your kit protected from bad weather and incoming tides while you swim. Never swim if you are tired or poorly and buddy up. Ask locals about the beach, where are the rips, are there any underwater obstacles, fallen harbour walls, or shipwrecks. If you’re new to cold water take your time entering the water and keep your breathing slow and calm. And most importantly Float to Live! Our RNLI give great advice for all coastal adventures.

Can you tell us a bit about your Mermaid Course and who it’s for? 

The Merfolk movement is here! Once you fall in love with the sea, why wouldn’t you fall in love with being a magical creature in the sea? Being there with the seals, fish and stunning seaweed gardens truly is an out-of-this-world experience. I run mermaid experience days where people can have a taster of mermaiding. For those that want to take it that step further and learn the skills of breath control, diving, ocean safety and all-round ocean mermaiding, I am the instructor for the SSI Ocean Mermaid Courses at Aquacity Freediving in Helston, which is such an outstanding place to do your training to become a certified Ocean Mermaid.

If you could stay at one of our properties, which one calls to you the most and why?

Ridifarne on the Helford Passage. It’s such a stunning home and the perfect distance to the water for a mermaid with land legs at times. I can just picture myself sitting in the garden drinking rose tea watching the water and listening to the world. It has a magical feel to it. 

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