From Chris O'Brocki to Merman Christian
A lot of children say they want to be the President when they grow up or perhaps a astronaut who explores deep space.
Some children even strive to be something they cannot ever hope to become like a fairy, a wizard, or even a merman.
Their parents reply with “that’s nice honey, but what do you really want to be?”
After being told “you can’t” enough, sometimes these children start to believe it.
But the ones who continue to follow their dreams despite opposition are the ones who will one day change the world.
Chris or “Christian” O’Brocki grew up believing in the power of imagination.
As a child, Christian marveled at the beauty of life in the sea during his weekly visits to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland and became fascinated with mermaids after seeing the 1984 film “Splash” with his family as a small child.
In 1999, a teenage Christian found his calling after seeing the Disney Channel original movie “The Thirteenth Year”, a film about a teenage boy who discovers he’s a merman.
For over a decade Christian worked as a full time actor at “Medieval Times” and perused his love of the ocean through volunteering at the National Aquarium.
But in 2011 his love of mermaids “resurfaced.”
In the early 2010’s mermaids became a pop culture sensation, stealing the spotlight from “Twilight” and other Vampire fiction.
According to this Huffington Post article from March 2013,
To Christian, the world of professional mermaids also drew him around this same time with the promise of a creative and accepting community of people.
It was then that Christian found where he belonged and decided that mermen needed a voice in the world.
After much trial and error Christian completed his first merman tail in 2011.
Sporting this neon green and purple tail dubbed “Tropic Thunder”, Christian launched his career as the first professional merman in the United States.
The Beginning of Merman Christian
His dream was met with much skepticism.
As one of the only mermen in the world at the time, Christian had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously as a professional merman.
Despite the controversy, Merman Christian embarked on a mission to promote the conservation of the Chesapeake Bay and blaze the path for mermen all over the world.
He used his connections at the National Aquarium and talents as a tail maker to outfit the divers with tails of their own for the Aquarium shows on Halloween night in 2012.
Although Christian was a talented tail maker and began getting inquiries about making tails for others, he didn’t want his role in the mermaid community to be that of a tail maker.
Christian began participating in beach clean-ups, and advocating for Chesapeake bay conservation by taking photos along the scenic shoreline and continuing his volunteer work at the National Aquarium.
In a female dominated industry, it seemed like there was a new fish in town.
Merman Christian became a common name on the lips of many mermaids in the community by 2014.
His knack for networking made him a friend to many merfolk around the world and because of his promotion of mermen on his social media pages, more and more mermen felt comfortable introducing themselves to the community.
Merman Christian to is famous for changing his image frequently to keep his audience interested (a rather clever marketing tactic inspired by the legendary Madonna).
In 2015, to celebrate the 31st anniversary of “Splash”, Christian created a replica of the famous orange tail worn by Madison the mermaid played by Daryl Hannah in the movie.
This gender-bent version of the world’s most famous mermaid attracted a lot of attention for Merman Christian and soon he became known as “Madison’s son”.
This twist on a classic “tail” took the internet by storm.
Much like Christian, many other people also lovingly remember the movie Splash and loved seeing Madison the mermaid come to life in a new and unexpected way.
As Merman Christian started to gain momentum in the real world, he launched his first website
It would seem as though Merman Christian had come a long way since making his first tail in 2012, but he kept facing the same stigma over and over again.
“No one wants to hire a merman” people would say.
Being a resourceful fish, Christian thought of ways to change people’s minds.
By this time, professional mermaids were a common occurrence and children’s birthday parties and other family friendly events so Christian adopted the age old mantra,
“if you can’t beat em’, join ‘em”.
Mermaid Candeso and Mermaid Equa were happy to join Christian’s team. They also grew up in Maryland and shared the same love of the Chesapeake bay and quickly swam through the window of opportunity to get started as professional mermaids under the guidance of Merman Christian who already had a client base and tails for them to wear.
In the summer of 2015 Merman Christian appeared as a highlighted performer at Shark Con 2015, a largely publicized convention dedicated to promoting shark and ocean conservation.
This was the first time a public convention of this magnitude hired a merman as one of their featured acts.
Along with several other mermaids, Christian performed in a 1,200 gallon tank for the convention attendees.
Shark researchers even simulated a “fin tagging” on one of the mermaid’s fins to show how scientists track sharks in the wild.
Merman Christian Goes to Canada
In July 2015, Merman Christian became the first merman to visit Canada and appear at the Halifax celebration of Canada day along with the well known Halifax Mermaids.
Raina the Halifax Mermaid, one of the first professional mermaids supported Christian’s ambitions since he first launched his “mer-sona” back in 2012.
Despite living thousands of miles away from each other, Merman Christian and Mermaid Raina kept in contact using the MerNetwork, an online forum where merfolk from all around the world come together to talk about their experiences and discuss events happening in the community.
Raina and Merman Christian finally met in person at NC Merfest 2014 and now consider each other “mer-siblings”.
Christian and the Halifax mermaids explored the rugged beauty of Nova Scotia and on Canada Day, they appeared in front of hundreds of families to celebrate the national holiday.
This appearance was extremely influential in the lives of many children regardless of gender. These young eyes saw men and women following their dreams and defying the rules of a conventional career, something that not every child gets to experience.
During the winter months, the Halifax Mermaid’s spend most of their time at The Aquatron, a salt water research aquarium in Halifax but they opened their doors to Merman Christian, making him the first merman to swim in an aquarium facility.
With this memorable experience, Christian continued to move forward with his job as a professional merman when he returned to the United States, and continued to push himself to achieve new goals for mermen.
It was time for Merman Christian to stand on his own two feet.
In the late summer of 2015 Merman Christian took a step forward in his journey as a professional Merman.
He invested in a professional grade silicone merman tail from the tail making company FinFolk Productions.
Christian and the brilliant artists of FinFolk Productions worked together for over a year creating a tail inspired by the movie that started it all, The Thirteenth Year.
He lovingly named his new tail after the water way he calls home, “Chesapeake”.
With an electrifying new tail and a team of mermaids at his side, Merman Christian appeared at numerous events in the fall of 2015 including Maryland’s FaerieCon.
In the winter of 2015 NC Mermania 2016, the largest mermaid convention to date, asked Christian to be one of their keynote speakers and lead a seminar on “Merman in Society”.
During this seminar, Christian spoke in front of 30 mermaids and merman about his experience as a pioneer as a professional merman.
He spoke of the stigma professional merman have to overcome that mermaids never have to.
He gave out tips on building image and confidence and answered questions from the audience that included around a dozen aspiring mermen.
During NC Mermania, Merman Christian appeared alongside his role model, Hannah Fraser for the CNN article “Professional mermaids work their tails off”.
This CNN interview was not the first time a merman was featured on national television
In 2013, Eric Ducharme aka “The Mertailor” was featured on TLC’s My Crazy Obsession. However, this feature portrayed the young tail maker as a mermaid obsessed crazy person, not a serious professional entertainer.
Merman Christian’s feature on CNN was the first positive angle on professional merman and was viewed over 5 million times.
This national attention grabbed the attention of FINIS Inc., the international swim apparel company.
FINIS monofins are the highest quality fins on the market and often used inside professional and armature mermaid tails alike.
Merman Christian has a FINIS Competitor inside of his FinFolk Productions tail and trains regularly with a Finis Rapid monofin.
After seeing the CNN article, FINIS contracted Merman Christian as an official FINIS ambassador.
Christian is the first merman to be sponsored by such a large corporation and alongside Hannah Fraser, Mermaid Kariel, and Mermaid Linden.
Partnering with FINIS proved to the world that Merman Christian was a force to be reckoned with.
After his moment in the spotlight, Merman Christian gained a staggering number of fans on social media.
While he was happy with his success, Christian wanted to use his popularity for a better cause.
On Earth Day 2016, Christian launched a new conservation campaign that will make conservation the focus of his social media pages in the coming year.
In an interview with Fae Doorway Magazine, Christian says he has plans to “involve myself with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation”.
The Chesapeake Bay clean up initiative has been slowly restoring the health of the famous water way but it is far from complete.
Merman Christian promotes simple tasks like recycling to reduce waste that travels to the ocean.
Other mermaids such as Hannah Fraser and Mermaid Melissa also promote ocean conversation.
In a TED talk Hannah Fraser refers to herself as a “Servant of the sea”.
While Christian may not be a “maid” of the sea he is a living example of the success you can achieve if you follow your dreams.
The some say the best lived life is one that can bring good to your fellow man (or fish).
For Merman Christian, that journey is only just beginning.