In the Little Mermaid, Ariel sings a whole song about wishing to be part of a world where people get to walk. Merle Liivand, on the other hand, wanted to do the opposite – and now holds the world record for the farthest swim as a mermaid. Liivand swam 26.22 miles wearing a silicone monofin, in just over 11 hours in choppy waters off the coast of Miami on 7 May. Billing herself as an “eco mermaid”, Liivand set out to use her accomplishment – the fourth time she has set a new record for monofin swimming – to raise awareness about the importance of clean oceans, according to Guinness World Records.
The record required that Liivand not use her arms: she could only kick with the monofin. Originally from Tallin, Estonia, she told Guinness that she first took up swimming to help her recover from collapsed lungs, the result of auto-immune health problems as a child. She became a competitive ice swimmer and Baltic champion before moving to Florida 11 years ago. She began subjecting herself to long-distance, open-water swims to advocate against marine pollution, which she described as “the plastic pandemic”. She nearly ingested some microplastics during a practice session in open water, which inspired her to do more for the ocean.