At the Blue Wild Expo in Fort Lauderdale this weekend, there was no shortage of booths offering water-themed apparel for scuba divers, freedivers, spearfishers, and other ocean enthusiasts. One of the most notable was a brand called Mermaid Spearo. Founded in July of 2018, it’s a young company with a single staff member—creator and owner Michelle del Rey.

Several years ago at the behest of a close friend, Michelle got into spearfishing, and by extension freediving, but it wasn’t long before she began running into a problem familiar to many women in so-called extreme sports:

“It’s really male-dominated,” she observed. “And women don’t always want to go out with a bunch of guys and get hit on.” Craving the relaxed atmosphere of women-only excursions, she began networking with other women in the South Florida area, but as she continued to get further into the sport, she noticed another area where women were under-represented—topside apparel that represented their passion.

Already a graphic designer and printer, Michelle was perfectly set up to begin filling that gap. Thus was born Mermaid Spearo, a line of shirts, hats, and stickers that feature spearfisherwomen front and center. You’ll still see sexy mermaids and the edgy skeletal imagery that’s common to extreme underwater sports, but instead of purely decorative symbols of the deep floating around for decoration, these sirens are badass, speargun-toting predators.

Representation matters, and while it may not seem ground-breaking, having access to gear that centers women as active participants in spearfishing normalize their presence, and can go a long way toward attracting new enthusiasts who might not otherwise be able to see themselves in the sport. And the Mermaid Spearo line definitely represents Michelle’s values—empowerment, community, and making things women want, but also quality and sustainability. The clothes are made of high-quality materials, and she’s meticulous about making sure they’re comfortable—the screen-printed images are nearly as soft and flexible as the fabric itself in styles women will wear. Several of her designs make reference to sustainable fishing, and she actively seeks out non-profits to partner with so that she can parlay her passion into a way to give back to the community.

In the future, Michelle plans to expand into designs featuring women in other extreme (and usually male-dominated) sports. In the meantime, check out her current offerings at www.mermaidspearo.com. Grab some gear and drop her a line—she loves feedback, and as the sole-proprietor, she’s got all the decision-making power for new designs. If you’re a lady who loves to Spearfish (or if you know one), Mermaid Spearo gives you a great opportunity to represent!

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