By: Kai Wang
On May 7 Merle Liivand the ‘eco mermaid’ broke her own world record for swimming with one fin. This was a Guinness World Record and a way to send an important message.
As a child, Liivand had health problems and swam to help her lungs get stronger. Liivand soon was taking part in swimming contests. When she moved to Miami, Florida Liivand continued to swim in the ocean. In one training session, she almost swallowed up plastic floating in the sea.
The experience made Liivand think of the ocean creatures that had to face pollution every day. Thinking of the sea animals gave Liivand the idea to swim like one. She began swimming with a ‘monofin’ which is a special fin that straps both of her feet.
“Swimming with the monofin without using my arms is similar to how dolphins and marine animals swim,” says Ms. Liivand. She believes that swimming with a monofin “sends a bigger message”.
Liivand has set multiple records in this category, like last year, swimming 18.6 miles in 9 hours and 19 minutes. But Liivand knew she could go farther.
Liivand has been training for the last year, waking up at four in the morning, every day and towed other people in the water to improve strength.
On May 7 she broke her record again for the third time, swimming entire marathons worth (26.2 miles) in 11 hours. “I got stung by jellyfish,” she said, “And kept telling myself that it was not the time to cry.”
Liivand had a friend that followed her on a kayak and gave her food and water. Along the way, Liivand picked up trash and put it in the kayak. By the end of the marathon, she picked up three bags of trash.
“At the end of the day,” she says, “This isn’t just about a record. It’s about helping the community and the world.”