Meet mermaid Toni Hyde – the Florida Keys’ newest scuba diving attraction
To scuba divers, the Florida Keys are known for spectacular underwater colors, marine life and corals. Visitors to Islamorada, Florida in the Upper Keys have discovered a new attraction – a scuba diving “mermaid” who literally wears a tale and helps to promote the industry whenever possible.
Toni Hyde is a key member of the staff at Florida Keys Dive Center. The Florida State graduate has a strong affinity for the ocean and underwater world in general. “My graduation present from my mom was a dive trip to Grand Cayman. I was hooked from my first breath.” Toni worked her way though the various certifications at Florida Keys Dive Center and was quickly hired upon becoming a PADI Instructor back in 2008.
“Toni is someone that I wish I could clone,” says Tom Timmerman, owner of the Dive Center. “She’s like a daughter to me. We’re all very protective of Toni.” Timmerman said that her enthusiasm, diving skill and outgoing personality have a positive effect on the entire store. He points out that Toni is becoming an in-demand “personality” for photo shoots including a recent holiday shoot with Santa Claus for the local tourism board.
Toni’s busy life became a bit more hectic last year when she met Greg Holt, producer of ScubaRadio, a weekly national diving program. Holt recruits attractive ladies to become “mermaids” and appear at various scuba diving shows and events across the country and internationally. Toni quickly signed up to be one of the Scuba Radio Mermaids. Since then, she’s gone to dive shows, appeared on the radio program and traveled to such places as Fiji, the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos.
“She is the perfect mermaid,” says Holt. “Her enthusiasm and appeal draws a lot of attention. It’s not taking photos underwater – whether you’re in a mermaid costume or just scuba gear. Toni pulls it off with grace and is extremely photogenic. I see nothing but big things ahead for her.”
Open and easy to approach, Toni laughs when you ask her about her future. “Diving, diving and more diving,” she says. “I love it here in the Keys and see no reason to leave. I dive every chance I get.”
There haven’t been a lot of requests from divers wanting to “dive with a mermaid”, but it could be just a matter of time. “People know that I’m a mermaid both in costume and out. I’m proud of it.”