Inspiring Mermaids – Meet Freediving Instructor Rachel Novak

Meet current ‘Miss Mermaid Nevada’, Rachel Novak; an SSI Mermaid and Freediving Instructor, YouTuber, competition commentator, business owner… and all-round awesome water woman.

We reached out to Rachel to ask her some questions about her busy diving life. We learned all about her journey to becoming a professional freediver and mermaid and asked about her exciting plans for the future.

Get those glittery tails ready and join us as we learn how Rachel has become such a big name in the mermaiding and freediving world.

Hi Rachel! Please give us a quick overview of all the ways you are involved in the ocean.

"My fascination with the ocean has led me down multiple paths, including living on sailboats and working as sailing crew, organizing beach cleanups and participating in coral reef restoration.

I have worked as a Dive Guide and freediving instructor and created underwater art as a mermaid and performance artist.

I worked as a commentator at Vertical Blue in Dean’s Blue Hole last year, and I am so excited about sharing the world of freediving and ocean exploration with others through my work as an instructor.

I not only love the ocean, but I have recently gotten into organizing backpacking trips to alpine lakes with my freediving buddies to check them out on breath-hold as well."


How did you discover freediving?

"I originally discovered freediving on my first sailing voyage in 2017. I was on a 32 foot (9.7 meter) Pearson sailboat with one other person.

We sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, took a left turn, and sailed down the Pacific Coast all the way to Costa Rica for 8 months.

Breath-hold diving was an essential skill for catching food, helping to clean and repair the sailboat, and in documenting the trip both above and underwater.

A few years later, I was accepted into a divemaster internship on Koh Phi Phi in Thailand, where I enjoyed leading guests on SCUBA and snorkel tours.

I loved getting to the same depths and seeing the same sights as the scuba divers without the hindrance of tanks and BCDs.

It was not until a year later that I discovered that the activities I was doing fell under the umbrella of freediving.

As soon as I found out about the sport of freediving, my interest was piqued, and I had to learn more."


Why did you decide to become a freediving instructor?

"I decided to become a Freediving Instructor to boost my performance arts and stunt resume while learning freediving thoroughly enough for it to become a potential income source.

As a former competitive runner, I was curious about the world of competitions just to see what they were like.

As a mermaid artist and stunt performer, I viewed a professional freediving certification as a way to add legitimacy to my performance resume.

I found out about a freediving instructor internship in Panglao in the Philippines, and after becoming an SSI Level II Freediving Instructor, I continued my training in Israel.

I then gained comfort and familiarity with the chilly dive conditions and currents of the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest, USA."


Please tell us about your mermaiding journey.

"I got into mermaiding over 5 years ago through the circus arts. Character work and performance as a Mermaid was an additional skill that I could add to my repertoire of fire performance, stilt walking, acrobatics, and dance.

I got my first fully functional silicone tail in 2017, and that tail has been with me on every major dive trip I’ve ever been on!

As a mermaid performance artist, I perform at children’s parties, trade shows, private parties, pools, festivals, and aquariums.

Notable mermaid appearances include jobs with the Seattle Mariners, Paradiso Music Festival, the late musical artist DMX, and DEMA in Las Vegas this year.

I was also crowned Miss Mermaid Nevada 2021/2022 and placed within the top 10 at Miss Mermaid USA.

There are so many synergistic connections between mermaiding and freediving! I am excited to use my title of Miss Mermaid Nevada to better bring awareness to two communities I am passionate about."


What is your YouTube channel about, and why did you decide to start it?

"My YouTube Channel is called The Sailing Siren, and I decided to start it because there was very little information online about what to expect when a student decides to take their first freediving course.

My goal was to document my journey to go from having no formal freediving experience to becoming an SSI Level 2 Freediving Instructor, plus the challenges and successes I experienced along the way.

One of the biggest reasons that students do not meet their course requirements in the allotted time is due to equalization issues, and I was one of those students.

I wanted to humanize an obstacle that could be perceived as failure, share tips that worked for me, and hopefully encourage others not to give up in their freediving journey just because they hit a roadblock.

Learning to freedive is more than a certification, and I think that it is important to set realistic expectations for what students may experience when first starting out.

Since becoming an instructor, I have created content about freediving travel, gear and dive site reviews, plus artistic partnerships related to freediving and mermaiding."


What are your aspirations for the future?

"Last year, I was blessed with some very unique opportunities related to freediving, including working at the Vertical Blue Freediving Competition, becoming Miss Mermaid Nevada and joining the Scuba Radio Show cast.

I also worked as an underwater stunt performer in a feature film that is set to release at the end of this year.

I am hoping to connect with more stunt coordinators this year in order to pursue a career in stunts and help bring more visibility to freediving in mainstream media.

In addition to booking work as a mermaid performer, I am offering mermaid and freediving courses to share useful concepts with those who are just getting into the hobby of mermaiding.

There are so many skills that new mermaids can learn, including how to equalize, safely extend a breath hold to dive deeper, how to treat potential emergencies, and monofin techniques for effortless and graceful swimming."


Thanks for chatting with us, is there anything you would like to add?

"Absolutely, and thanks for chatting with me as well! I am always up for collaborating with others on artistic projects, and I coordinate safety for shoots on breath hold and compressed air.

For anyone who wants to reach out, I can be found at Aquanauts Freediving. I currently teach out of Washington state and Las Vegas, Nevada.

You can view upcoming courses and browse through a clothing line of athleisure gear catering to mermaids and freedivers on the Aquanauts Freediving website.

Be sure to check in to The Sailing Siren on YouTube for some exciting content in the next few months and keep an eye out for Vertical Blue announcements this year.

I hope to see you in the water sometime!"

After all that she has already achieved in the diving world, Rachel certainly has no plans to stop yet! Keep an eye on what she is up to by following her on Instagram.

Would you like to become a mermaid?

Check out the SSI Mermaid course. This certification course provides all the skills and techniques you need to be truly comfortable in the water and get the most out of your tail!