One of the funniest men in New Zealand is walking the length of the North Island to bring awareness to one of the most serious issues facing the nation.

Award-winning comedian Rhian Wood-Hill will tell you he is walking most of the North Island as the result of a lost bet over a few drinks with friends - "500 miles" to see The Proclaimers, who play in Auckland in May.

"It is the most stupid thing I have ever done," he said.

"It's ironic that I lost a bet to become a comedian too...I'm essentially the world's worst gambler."


But dig a bit deeper and there is a sobering punch line to the comedian's journey. Behind the self-deprecation is a man donating half of his earnings at stand-up gigs along the way to Lifeline Aotearoa.

That's because Wood-Hill knows better than most the pain of losing loved ones to suicide. He has had friends and family members take their own lives, including a younger sister.

The walk was a tribute to his sister who lived partly with Rhian's father growing up and took her own life before he was able meet her.

When he was 18 there were three boys of similar age who died.

"One had been a childhood friend. It rocked my community," he said. "If you take out the romance of the song it's just a song about how much you'd do for another person."

"I believe everyone has a mate who they would walk 500 miles for if they were in mental pain."

The story of his relationship with his estranged father, who he didn't met until he was 21, makes the basis for some of his stand-up routine in what was an autobiographical comedy.

Wood-Hill trudged through the Horowhenua with two walking sticks and a 20kg backpack. He had family in Levin and stayed the night in town before breakfast and hitting the road.


He is now somewhere between Bulls and Whanganui.

So far he was on schedule, aside from a few detours. Going from Te Horo to Ōtaki he thought it would be nice to walk along the beach, but failed to conquer the Ōtaki River mouth and was forced to turn back and head towards the State Highway.

"I didn't think that one through," he said.

He was listening to audio books to break the monotony of the walk and had already finished eight books, including a murder-mystery written by former basketballer Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

"What a bizarre career shift. It's actually not bad," he said.

"I have the audio books going for about six hours then have a break where it is just myself," he said.

Wood-Hill, a professional poker player and top swimmer in the past, was donating half of the money from ticket sales from his shows on the tour to Lifeline Aotearoa.

He was also raising funds through a Givealittle page with almost $2000 already raised.

He was not taking an easy route to Auckland. He started at Raumati Beach and planned to reach Whanganui for a gig tomorrow night (THURS), then detour to Napier before another gig in Rotorua.

Lifeline Aotearoa received more than 10,000 calls per month and helped an average of six people a day at high risk of suicide. With no government funding, Lifeline relied on donations as it costs an average of $25 to respond to each call.

It had provided counselling and support for people in distress or crisis for more than 50 years and received more than 10,000 calls and 10,000 texts each month.

The community helplines (0800 LIFELINE, Suicide Crisis Helpline, 0800 KIDSLINE) were free and answered by trained volunteers and qualified paid staff from call centres in Auckland and Christchurch.

3 April – Reddin's, Raumati Beach. 11 April – Lucky Bar, Whanganui. 22 April – Cabana Bar, Napier. 27 April – Little Theatre, Rotorua.