The American, who is taking part in the new season of Red Bull’s cliff diving series, has since dedicated herself to cleaning up the world’s oceans, beach by beach.
Now that she travels the world with her sport, she finds time to give back to the stunning places where she feels so privileged to immerse herself.
“I came up and that hit me really hard because I think a lot of it is stuff that you can’t necessarily see.
“If you don’t see it for yourself it can be very difficult to get involved or take care of, but I think the problem with the issue is that it’s really everywhere.
“And it’s not that countries don’t care or that they’re not trying to make a difference, but it’s just a process that every single person has to put a little bit of themselves into to help the problem.”
The initiative started as a simple beach clean-up, but spurred on by the positive response, Smart tried to develop the concept.
The project now has global ambassadors who help run expeditions with the common goal of cleaning up the beaches they dive on.
The initiative also has an education program that aims to raise awareness of plastic pollution around the world.
“If you’re not educated about something, there’s nothing you can do about it,” adds Smart.
“We get a lot of feedback or criticism, you know, ‘beach cleans don’t do anything, the trash just comes back’ and yes that’s true, but it’s about actually collecting it.
“People get involved, then they start to realize, ‘Oh, I can get better at my daily life.’
“And you don’t have to be a total environmentalist. There are these people and it’s their mission and their message, but to make a difference you don’t necessarily have to change 100% of your lifestyle.
“Even changing 10% and then 12 and then 15 and then maybe 20 is still more than doing nothing.”
Smart says she is “excited” to be back among the athletes competing in its fifth season of the cliff diving series, which begins June 4 in Boston, USA.
The tour covers some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, but it’s a sport that didn’t initially appeal to Smart.
The American began scuba diving regularly at the age of five, competing for her college before moving to Barcelona for a fashion internship.
It wasn’t until a friend invited her to jump off a cliff that she realized the appeal.
“The last thing I wanted to do was get muddy and dirty, but for some reason I was like, ‘Okay, fine, I’ll go with you, pick me up in the morning.’
“I went with her and jumped off a cliff for the first time in my life and I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s so cool.'”
From that point on, Smart didn’t look back and even helped set up the first dedicated high diving training facility in the United States.
She now wants the sport to be part of the Olympics one day and hopes there is enough support for it to be included in Los Angeles in 2028.
“I think the end goal for all of us as athletes is for it to become an Olympic sport because we train for it like any other Olympic sport. We put our hearts and souls into training for it,” she says with a beaming smile, adding that she’s in touch with the relevant governing bodies.
“It’s really moving in that direction and we’re starting to see more women and men involved in the sport and more countries represented, which is key to being able to compete in the Olympics.”
Make a positive impact
But until then, it’s all about using their platform for good – a growing trend among athletes with a social media presence.
“I also coach scuba diving and I have a lot of younger athletes and I want them to know that your identity isn’t about whether you win or lose,” she said.
“It’s great to win but I think as professional athletes we really have an impact on the younger generations or even our own peers.
“To show that there is more than just winning and that there are other things in life that are really important, I think it’s extremely important.
“I’d much rather be remembered for making a difference than for winning.”