Diana Nyad

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Diana Nyad, promotional photo
Diana Nyad, promotional photo
Diana Nyad is an endurance swimmer, professional marathon swimmer, author, journalist, and motivational speaker. She was inducted as an Honour Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1978. She completed three 32 km Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean professional marathon swims in 1973 (9h05m17s), 1974 (9h27m57s), and 1975 (11h23m35s), and withdrew from the 1972 race (after 5h47m).

In September 2013, she claimed to be the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage (which is not a recognized record category in marathon swimming). Her claims are widely debated within the marathon swimming community.

Her five attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida were the subject of a documentary film, The Other Shore.


Journalism Career

Nyad formerly hosted a weekly five-minute radio piece on sports for KCRW called 'The Score' (heard during KCRW's broadcast of NPR's "All Things Considered"), as well as for the Marketplace radio program. She also formerly hosted the public radio program "The Savvy Traveler."

Cuba to Florida Swims

Diana Nyad swimming in the Straits of Florida. Photo by Christi Barli

Since the late 1970s, it was Nyad's Xtreme Dream to swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida.

First Attempt: August 1978

Nyad first attempted to swim from Havana to Key West in 1978, at age 28, aided by a shark cage. After 42 hours, she was pulled from the water by team personnel.

Second Attempt: August 2011

Nyad attempted her second Cuba-Florida swim 33 years after her first attempt. She utilized shark shields but not a shark cage. After being pushed off course by strong cross-currents, she called off the attempt after 29 hours, at N 23 degrees 43.975' W 81 degrees 58.143' or 56.16 statute miles (48.8 nautical miles, 90.3776 km).

Third Attempt: September 2011

Nyad attempted the swim again approximately six weeks later. This time, she was pulled from the water after 37 hours due to jellyfish stings and strong cross-currents.

Nyad was nominated for the 2011 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year for her two attempts at swimming 103 miles from Cuba to Florida across the Straits of Florida at the age of 62 where she was ravaged by Box jellyfish.

Fourth Attempt: August 2012

Diana Nyad's box jellyfish stings from her Cuba swim in 2011 by Christi Barli

Nyad began her fourth attempt on August 18, 2012.

Fifth Attempt: 2013

On August 31, 2013 at 8:59am local time, Nyad began her fifth attempt to swim the Straits of Florida. 52 hours, 54 minutes later, 1:53pm local time on September 2nd, she walked ashore at Key West.

Her claims are widely contested by the marathon swimming community.

In an extensive discussion many questions were raised by the members of the Marathon Swimmers Forum discussion about feeding, currents, timing, Observers and assistance. These included analysis of the swim time and speeds by Andrew Malinak which seemed to indicate a faster than world record pace occurring over thirty hours into the swim.

A "review panel" teleconference populated by many well-known individual marathon swimmers and the members of the Diana Nyad team was held just over a week after the claimed end date of the swim, where many issues were discussed. When questioned about the lack of Qualified Observers, despite decades in the sport, Ms. Nyad said that she was unaware of the requirements. The speed was explained by navigator John Bartlett as an irregular current that runs counter to the normal south-west to north-east flow of the Florida Strait currents and of which there is no other record and no satellite record during the time period of the swim. Diana Nyad asserted no knowledge of pre-swim offers of assistance in setting up a Cuba to Florida swim association by IMSHOF member and honor administrator Ned Denison. Others who were on the same circulation confirmed receipt. Other issues were also discussed.

No public statement from the Review Panel was issued. Some individual panel members, all experienced marathon swimmers, have given a range of opinions from support to dismissal of her swim and claims. During the review panel repeated statements were made that actual hard data including charts and Observer's Logs would be subsequently released. No such disclosure of any supporting data or documentation has yet been made despite claims to the contrary by Diana Nyad or team members. The documentary The Other Shore, released within weeks of the swim, does not contain any footage from during the claimed successful swim.

Repeatedly since the swim, Diana Nyad has claimed a world record without any clarification of what record is being claimed and the lack of any Awarding OrganisationTwo people have previously done assisted swims from Cuba to Florida and lack of any awarding organisation. In a marathonswimmers.org vote on the simple matter of Assisted or Unassisted members of the Marathon Swimmers Forum overwhelmingly voted in favor of Assisted. This would make Diana Nyad nether the first or fastest Assisted (not marathon) Cuba to Florida swimmer. No vote was held on the question of the legitimacy of her swim.

In a reddit.com AMA interview in January of 2014, Diana Nyad has continued to claim a world record and untruthfully asserted that she and her team answered all panel questions.

Most of the questions raised by experienced marathon swimmers worldwide remain unanswered.

Early Marathon Swims

In her twenties, she raced on the professional marathon swimming circuit and did her own adventurous solo swims.

She swam around the world for ten years, swimming 40 km (25-mile) in the Suez Canal in Egypt, 35.4 km (22-mile) in the Nile River, 51.4 km (32-mile) along the Mexican coast, 41.8 km (26-mile) in the Parana River in Argentina, 32 km (20-mile) in the Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli in Italy, 49.8 km (31-mile) from St. Thomas to Virgin Gorda in the Caribbean Sea, 80.4 km (50-mile) along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and 51.4 km (32-mile) in Lake Ontario. She also participated in the 24 Heures La Tuque (or Le Marathon de 24 Heures de La Tuque), a non-stop 24-hour professional marathon relay in Quebec, Canada together with Gaston Paré, and is a member of the 24-hour club.

On 31 August 1974, Nyad became the first person to cross Lake Ontario from north to south in 18 hours 20 minutes, during her attempt to complete the first two-way crossing as she was accompanied by Cliff Lumsdon. The swim was documented in her book, Other Shores. In August 1979, Nyad swam 60 miles from the Bahamas to Florida.

In 2013 NYCSwim Director Morty Berger NYCSwim Bio Link indicated on the New York Times website that since the 1970's NYCSwim had been trying to stop Diana Nyad falsely claiming a Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (MIMS) record NYT link.

The Other Shore

The Other Shore, a documentary film of Diana Nyad's quest to cross the Straits of Florida from Cuba to Florida, directed by Timothy Wheeler

The Other Shore is a film about Nyad's attempts across the Straits of Florida. Created by Timothy Wheeler, The Other Shore follows Nyad as she comes out of a 35-year retirement to re-attempt an elusive dream: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Her past and present collide in her obsession with a feat that nobody has ever accomplished. At the edge of The Devil's Triangle, tropical storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish, and one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, all prove to be life-threatening realities. Timothy Wheeler's documentary brings Nyad's extraordinary adventure to life as she sets out to prove that will and determination are all you need to make the unimaginable possible.

Walter Poenisch

Walter Poenisch was the first assisted Cuba to Florida swimmer, followed by Susie Maroney. Following his swim Diana Nyad cast aspersions on his swim and character, [1]. Mr Poenisch successfully sued Ms. Nyad for libel. His widow Faye Poenisch later reported that Diana Nyad had "ruined his life". In 2014 and almost 40 years after the events, when the matter was raised after her claimed Cuba to Florida swim Ms. Nyad said she >regretted her actions.


When asked her motivation for the Xtreme Dream, Diana explained, "Because I'd like to prove to the other 60-year-olds that it is never too late to start your dreams."

Nyad’s second attempt to complete this swim has gained the attention of thousands of supporters, including the official sponsorship by Secret Deodorant, which has created an entire social platform on Facebook for fans to share encouraging messages and support.

World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year Nominations


Nyad was nominated for the 2012 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year award. Her World Open Water Swimming Association nomination reads,

Charismatic and colorful. Engaging and eloquent. Persistent and popular. There are many adjectives to describe the well-known swimmer who has been attempting to swim from Cuba to Florida since 1978, but her love of the challenge and a deeply felt commitment to living her dream are in her DNA. While her attempts are reported widely in the press, it is her long hours of training that form the basis of her athleticism. Her inner drive to swim 5, 10, 15, and 20+ non-stop hours – repeatedly – as a 63-year-old enables her to keep her dream alive. Outside the swimming community, she is able to explain open water swimming and all its challenge in an educational and entertaining manner to the public. The popular motivation speaker wows non-swimming audiences with the allure of her Cuba Swim, the esoteric world of open water swimming, and its relationship to their own life goals. For her uncanny ability to connect with millions of non-swimmers, for her ability to live large, step on the accelerator and continue to seek her dreams at an age where most are slowing down, Diana Nyad is a worthy nominee for the 2012 WOWSA Open Water Swimmer of the Year.


Nyad was also nominated for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

Nyad's nomination reads:

Few people in the world fail at something four times, and try again. Even fewer people fail at something for 35 years, and keep trying. But Diana Nyad kept her athletic dream alive for decades and finally achieved it at the age of 64. The charismatic media magnet and a former professional marathon swimmer from the 1970s dreamed, plotted, planned, and willed her way across 110 miles in the Straits of Florida from Cuba to Florida. 52 hours after swimming from shore to shore, her Xtreme Dream was finally realized. Faced with non-believers even among her team, she dramatically demonstrated why it is important to never give up on a dream no matter what your age. For her patience, for her belief in herself and her team, and for her relentless pursuit of a lifetime goal in the face of widespread doubt, Diana Nyad is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.


How to Swim from Cuba to Florida

How to Swim from Cuba to Florida is a documentary film by Thiago Da Costa and Timothy Wheeler:

Dancing With The Stars

Nyad will dance with Henry Byalikov on the 18th season of Dancing With The Stars.

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