ERIC Ducharme was three-years old when he had his “aha” moment.
It happened at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Florida’s premiere mermaid attraction.
It was there he clapped eyes on his very first living, breathing water witch and it was love at first sight, as she swished by in her glamorous gold lame tail.
“From that moment on all I wanted to do was swim in the water with the mermaids,” recalls Eric. “They were just so magical and free.”
By the age of eight, Eric had confidently learnt how to sew his very own bedazzled tales on his nan’s sewing machine. By 16, he was making a splash as the mermaid prince in Weeki Wachee’s production of The Little Mermaid, where he mastered the art of being breathless and looking fabulous at the same time.
“Working underwater is something that requires a lot of practice and patience,” reveals Eric, who can hold his breath for up to 4 minutes.
“You have to know what you’re doing, trust yourself and remember that safety comes first.
“It also takes a lot of skill and a lot of hours of hard work to appear effortless,” he adds.
School life can be notoriously hard for kids who are creative or different. If you’re moonlighting as a merman on weekends, it can be unbearable cum Monday.
“For years I was judged and looked at weirdly and awkwardly by many because of my passion for mermaids and mermen,” recalls the 27-year old.
“Other kids just didn’t share my passion so I tended to hang by myself a lot.
“I’m just lucky I had a supportive family to help me get through it all.”
Today Eric is one of the top mermaid tailors in the business.
His company Mertailor, which creates tails and more for little kiddies and big kids alike, has even made bespoke creations for Lady Gaga and Disney. Yep, he’s that good.
“I have tails that are as real as the fish you just caught on your boat,” says Eric, who makes them out of silicone, urethanes, neoprene and latex.
And the good news is he still finds time to wriggle into his tale of choice for a bit of “me time” when he needs to decompress.
“At the end of the day everyone needs a way of escaping and getting away from the world and getting in the water does that for me,” he says. “As soon as I put on a tail and jump in I feel transformed. “It’s just the best feeling ever.”
If all this chitchat about glittering dugongs has whet your appetite, you’ll be pleased to know mermaids are white hot right now.
Not only is there a live-action version of The Little Mermaid scheduled to hit cinemas later this year, there’s even a new 10-part series called Siren about a mermaid-obsessed town that’s turned upside down after a mysterious “girl” starts wreaking havoc.
Looks like Eric was well ahead of his time.