Monique Ford/Stuff

Having lost 75kg, Lisa McGrath is now enjoying life and is determined to become more active.

Lisa McGrath has to overcome a fear of sharks and breaking her arm in a charity walk to take part in the Swim the Lighthouse ocean race in Wellington later this month.

Those, however, are not the biggest hurdle she has faced. The 52-year-old underwent stomach reduction surgery in 2017, after years of struggling to lose weight.

Having lost 75kg, McGrath is now enjoying life and is determined to become more active.

The weight loss has enabled her to exercise but just as importantly, it has also allowed her to take part in family activities with husband Bruce and their two adult children, Courtney and Liam.

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Lisa McGrath hopes to overcome a fear of sharks by entering the Swim the Lighthouse ocean race in Wellington later this month.

“I am enjoying being more active. I don’t tire as easily and I can enjoy exercise.”

Her exercise regime has gone from the occasional game of squash, to a daily routine involving the gym, swimming, walking with friends and preparing for triathlons.


Lisa McGrath broke her arm in the lead-up to the Swim the Lighthouse ocean race.

Her problems with weight go back to growing up in Murupara, where her family ran a grocery store.

“Basically my whole life involved the family grocery store and there was food on tap.”

Her new-found interest in swimming came from a women’s triathlon in Mt Maunganui. She enjoyed the swim section and decided to give ocean swimming a go.

Her ultimate goal is to do the one kilometre Auckland Harbour Bridge swim in April.

Preparing for the two ocean swims has not been easy. In November, she broke her arm in a charity cancer walk. The cast only came off just before Christmas and that has limited her training.


Lisa McGrath has lost 75 kilograms since having stomach reduction surgery in 2017. She is now participating in ocean swims, including Swim the Lighthouse in Wellington later this month.

Then there is the issue of sharks. McGrath acknowledges the risk of sharks is almost non-existent but it is a hard fear to shake-off.

The desire to push herself and overcome her fear is part of the new lease on life that has come from losing so much weight.

McGrath is not the only one taking part in Swim The Lighthouse with a special motivation to change.

Anna Demartini is determined to overcome the trauma of nearly drowning during a recent holiday in Brazil.

After many years of swim training and a period spent as a lifeguard, she regarded herself as a strong swimmer.

Although conditions were good, she swam into an unexpected rip and got into serious difficulty.

“I screamed for help, but I was too far for anyone to hear. I prayed to God to give me strength enough to pull me out of the ocean, to save me as I became weaker and more breathless.”

She eventually made it to shore but was very weak and was taken to hospital.

“Thankfully I recovered without any long term injuries, but my emotional recovery has been a long one.”

Her experience has left her cautious near water, but she is determined to get her love of swimming back, and she is competing in a number of ocean swims to regain her confidence.

“I know when I finish, the achievement will be more than just a physical one, each event brings me closer to my love of the ocean.”

* The Interislander Swim the Lighthouse is in Wellington on January 31. The course features the Pt Jerningham lighthouse and the Oriental Bay fountain. It is part of the Banana Boat New Zealand Swim Series.

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