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Meet Shannon Subers of SD Mermaids in La Jolla

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shannon Subers.

Shannon, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As a little girl, I had always wanted to become a mermaid. From the time I was 8, I was creating “mermaid tails” out of blankets and wearing them while watching my favorite ocean documentaries. When I was in college, I discovered that there was, in fact, a “mermaiding” community, where people dressed up as mermaids for fun. Some purchased expensive, high-quality tails and others made their own elaborate outfits. What everyone shared in this community, however, was a love for the ocean and a whimsical spirit.

The joy that this hobby brought people really sparked my interest, and I started mermaiding for fun, too! It turns out that swimming with a monofin (the swim fin inside the tail) is also a great workout– professional swimmers and freedivers train with these tools! After being involved in the community and volunteering at local charity events, I wanted to help others experience the magic. I had done a few photo shoots but wanted to be on the other side of the lens, too. I wanted to create a mermaid makeover experience but didn’t have the resources to get started– that is until I applied to host an Airbnb Experience.

The Experiences platform debuted a little over a year ago and offers travelers unique local-led experiences in over 200 destination cities around the world (and constantly expanding!). When I heard Airbnb was expanding its Experiences to San Diego, I sent in a proposal for a mermaid makeover experience on a whim, never expecting to hear back. To my surprise, a few weeks later I was contacted by an Airbnb rep who said that my experience was one of the 30 that was selected to move forward out of thousands of applications in San Diego! It was a completely surreal moment, and since then, I’ve been expanding my availability of tails, tops, and accessories to make the experience bigger and better.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There were certainly some obstacles at the beginning. When I started, I had very little experience with professional photography equipment, although I had been interested in it for a long time. I didn’t even have a camera! After my experience was accepted, I bought a $60 DSLR on eBay and practiced fervently for the next few months. I watched a lot of tutorials online, did a month of Skillshare to learn camera skills, and took tons of photos of my friends.

There was a big learning curve in the beginning, but I stuck to it. I also had to invest some money in starting an inventory of mermaid tails, tops, and accessories for people to wear during the photoshoots– it was important for me to accommodate a range of sizes so that everyone could feel welcome. I DIYed a lot, too (including a few tops and mermaid crowns I’m still using to this day!). Now, my bookings are pretty steady, and I’ve been getting great feedback from clients on how much they enjoy the experience!

SD Mermaids – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I provide mermaid makeover photoshoots for Airbnb guests. Essentially, we meet up at a beautiful beach in La Jolla, and I bring all my mermaiding gear and expertise. We match you to a tail and mermaid top that’s right for you and adorn you with mermaid crowns, starfish clips, faux seaweed earrings, and bio-degradable glitter makeup (eco-friendly!). Once you’re all dressed up, we do a 30-45 minute sunset photo shoot complete with posing coaching on one of the most beautiful beaches in San Diego. Afterwards, you get 10-15 edited photos sent directly to you. It couldn’t be easier!

My experience is open to anyone, even if you’re not staying in an Airbnb home– so locals will come on the photoshoots, too. There are not many people offering this kind of experience in the U.S., so I saw a niche I could fill, especially in beautiful southern California. I’m also insistent on giving you the best experience you can have, including offering some of the most realistic fabric tails and seashell tops that you can get.

People of all ages walks of life, genders, and body types are welcome. We’ve had friends, solo travelers, mother/daughter shoots, and even a few mermen! It’s an amazing way to live out those childhood goals of becoming a mermaid, as well as an awesome souvenir of your California vacation. We’ve even had clients come to take mermaid pictures for bachelorette parties, birthday celebrations, and even for Christmas card photos!

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
It’s hard to pick just one. I love seeing the joy on a client’s face after their makeover when they proudly exclaim “Oh my god, I’m a mermaid!” and seeing their excitement when they get their final pictures. I’ve had clients write lovely reviews recommending the experience, and seeing their positive thoughts about it really warms my heart! I also enjoy seeing how the experience can help people feel more positive about their own bodies.

Positive self-image is something I’ve struggled with for most of my life, but the mermaiding community was very accepting of me, no matter my size. I realized that I didn’t have to be afraid to wear a two-piece swimsuit. Kids that saw a mermaid on the beach didn’t care what size I was, they just saw me for the magical creature I was performing. I want to share that with other people– mermaids can be any shape, size, or skin tone and be just as majestic!


  • Photoshoots are currently $75 per person for a 1.5-hour makeover, shoot, and edited photos.

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Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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