May Feature

May Feature 696 934 The Flyer Magazine

Unchartered Waters


Liana Smith is not afraid to take the plunge into unchartered waters and make a splash, all for a good cause. Last month (April) she set off to swim the length of Lake Taupo in the first of a gruelling series of New Zealand ultra-marathon swims only completed by seven people before her. Known as the Triple Crown Marathon Swim — Lake Taupo (40.2kms); Cook Strait (26kms) and Foveaux Strait (26kms) — Liana hopes to polish all three completely unassisted swims before the end of this year.

She’s raising funds along the way for ‘I Am Hope’, which she says does a sterling job of supporting youth mental health in New Zealand. “I have the highest respect for the work I Am Hope does so I’ve decided to use these swims to help support them and raise crucial funds and awareness for youth mental health support here in New Zealand,” says Liana.


Liana after a dip in the lake.

At 24, the local Active Adventures guide is always up to trying something new. Since the Covid crisis and locked borders slowed her work as a guide last year, the QRC adventure tourism graduate has dabbled in kiwifruit picking, tractor contracting, calf rearing and shepherding up the Crown Range.

For Liana, every day of full health and wellness is a bonus. She’s passionate about mental health after, as a champion swimmer, an injury and resultant spinal fusion left her laid up and out of action for several years.

A New Zealand record holder for three years in the 16-year-old girls’ Individual Medley for swimming, Liana says she went through a huge life adjustment, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. Growing up in rural Glenbrook, South Auckland, Liana had been used to high intensive training, swimming 26 hours a week, Olympic lifting three times a week and other dry land training. “I lost who I was for four years,” she says. “My whole life I’d been a swimmer. That was my identity and I found it quite hard to figure out who I was without being an athlete. I’d given my heart, body and soul to sport and it knocked me for a six.”

She travelled overseas and once she returned she ever so slowly got back into the water as she healed.

“We don’t open up our emotions well in New Zealand and there’s a stigma in high-level sport that you have to be strong and always have yourself together,” says Liana. She has the greatest respect for organisations like I Am Hope that are working with young people of all backgrounds to address that.

She was hoping to nail the Taupo swim in about 12 hours last month (April), Cook Strait next on her hit list in hopefully six or seven hours, then Foveaux Strait in seven to eight hours, both depending on the tides.

Liana is obviously no stranger to endurance and an IRB inflatable rescue boat, carrying marathon swimming logistics legend Phil Rush and support crew, will travel alongside within a metre, carrying all of her essential food and guiding navigation. Family and friends will take shifts helping out too. “You’re allowed your first food one hour in and I’ll be using easily digestible carbs like peanut butter and Vegemite sandwiches, high carb energy drinks and gels to keep me going,” she says.

“I’m well aware that I’m not the first, youngest, or most likely the fastest to do this—just a small town girl chasing some big time dreams,” says Liana. “I figured that if I’m set to do the swims, I may as well do a bit of good in the world and swim them for a cause.”

It’s been a challenging year these past 12 months for all ages so Liana says she’s hoping to raise up to $10,000 to help I Am Hope, if possible, bearing in mind people may not have too much money to donate in these financial times. “Any donation will be good, whatever people can afford,” she says.

Follow Liana’s progress Facebook and Instagram – ‘Swim For Something’.

All donations are welcome at her Give A Little page.