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Mermaid of Hilton Head® - Professional Mermaid, Conservationist and Author & Illustrator

professional mermaid nina


Professional Mermaid Nina grew up loving the water and having a fascination with all things ocean related when she was a little girl. She had always sought a career as a marine mammal trainer and worked hard to make the dream come true. Working hard and overcoming obstacles to obtain her NAUI Open water SCUBA certification was a goal achieved at a young age after making the discovery that there is no place in the world she loves more than the underwater world.

Once she accomplished her goal of training marine mammals, and loved it, she also recognized the worldwide shift towards seeing these majestic animals in their natural environments. With this realization, she began working towards obtaining her USCG Captain’s License when the opportunity was presented to her to become a mermaid.

Mermaid Nina has always had an affinity for free diving, and as a little girl she grew up practicing breath holds as well as deep water swimming, so this opportunity was welcomed with open arms. She is now able to hold her breath for an average of 3 minutes, however her personal best record was 5 minutes.

Now, Mermaid Nina is traveling across the world to places such as Singapore for the ADEX Dive Expo to present an Ocean Conservation topic and perform for a captivated audience. She enjoys these opportunities to travel the world speaking and performing to help spread the message of ocean conservation and inspire people around the world to make small changes to save our oceans.

Mermaid Nina also travels to locations to give speeches to kids and adult audiences alike about ocean conservation. She emphasizes the small changes we are able to make on a daily basis that would not alter our lifestyles drastically, yet help our oceans (and our planet) drastically. She enjoys meeting people from different places and hearing their ideas about conservation as well.

Mermaid Nina is also a children’s book author and illustrator and she writes books that inspire a younger generation to make the changes as well to help our oceans thrive. Her books also initiate a new way of thinking for the children who read them. They begin to take notice of how their actions impact the ocean and even others. Her first book, Sammy the Sand Dollar, teaches children that sand dollars are alive and that they need to stay in the ocean to survive. She wrote this book after she began to notice that one of the issues Hilton Head faces is that people, when collecting sea shells, take living sand dollars as they do not know that they are alive. Hilton Head’s sand dollar population has decreased drastically because of this, and really the only thing needed to restore the population is education. She hopes to paint a brighter future for not only our oceans, but human life as well.

Mermaid Nina’s daily routine consists of swimming around Hilton Head Island where she swims up to a boat and teaches the audience on the boat about her ocean home and what they can do to protect it. This is her passion. She loves to teach other and inspire change, and there is no better place to inspire others than from her home in the ocean, surrounded by dolphins and other marine wildlife. Mermaid Nina has grown to know the dolphins who are in the water with her every day and likewise, they have grown to know her. She is able to tell them apart and can introduce her new human friends to them by name! Guests have said many times: “If you don’t believe that she is a real life mermaid after going on this tour, you never will!” There is just something magical about seeing a mermaid in the wild waters of Hilton Head, where the water visibility is low, and when she dives underwater she disappears.


Below is a video of Professional Mermaid Nina on the Find the Mermaid Boat Tour:


Her evenings consist of assisting Rick Leipold, her significant other, with photography sessions where they turn people into mermaids. Mermaid Nina and Rick both enjoy this aspect of their business because they get to make dreams come true and make people feel good about themselves. They have even taken these photography sessions on the road to help bring the mermaid experience to people unable to travel to Hilton Head Island.



Mermaid Nina has also launched a new YouTube series, called Saltwater Saturday. This consists of a short video once a week with a message of ocean conservation to remember the next time you visit a beach. Along with this initiative, she has also been participating in filming for a TV series by the Mermaid Alliance, called Mermaids of the World with the goal being again, ocean conservation education.




Mermaid Nina also focuses her career on modeling, underwater modeling, as well as filming. She enjoys the weightlessness of being underwater and the freedom it gives her makes her want to share that feeling with the rest of the world. Mermaid Nina is definitely most comfortable underwater. The water around Hilton Head Island has very low visibility, so when she is able to travel and explore environments where she is able to see underwater, she jumps on it. Nina has secured multiple sponsors as well and enjoys promoting other businesses who share her message of conservation.   


Mermaid Nina stays busy with all of the above, but when she is able to snag some free time, she sponsors beach clean ups on Hilton Head Island. Past beach clean ups have had great turn outs and help the community get involved with ocean conservation as well. These do not only help our oceans, but they teach young children about the dangers that litter has on other species of animals and why it is important not to litter.  


The most important role in being a real life mermaid is education. When you have people’s attention, there is no better way to use that than to educate about ocean conservation and inspire a change. Mermaid Nina says “To be a mermaid is to bring light to the issues that face our oceans and inspire others to make the changes needed to save our seas.” Obtaining a career as a real life mermaid is not about sitting in a clam shell next to a pool and posing for photos. We are not Santa Claus. We have a job to do. Our oceans are in real trouble right now and we need to work together to reverse the damage while we still have time.