Diana Nyad

From Openwaterpedia
Diana Nyad after competing in the 1972 24 Heures La Tuque 24-hour relay competition in Quebec, Canada
Diana Nyad walking up the shore of Key West, Florida at the end of her Cuba-Florida swim in 2013. Courtesy of NPR
Annette Bening and Jodie Foster portray Diana Nyad and Bonnie Stoll in the biopic film NYAD, to be released in November 2023
Diana Nyad swimming alongside Voyager with coach Bonnie Stoll, escort pilot Dee Brady, and navigator John Bartlett on board from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida
Diana Nyad's face mask used to protect against the deadly stings of box jellyfish while swimming at night from Cuba to Florida
Diana Nyad swimming from Cuba to Florida
Diana Nyad, promotional photo
Find A Way, a memoir by Diana Nyad
Diana Nyad, author of Find a Way
Diana Nyad's Find A Way is nominated for the 2015 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year by the World Open Water Swimming Association for its WOWSA Awards, a recognition of outstanding men, women, performances and offerings around the globe
Diana Nyad in her stinger suit on her fourth attempt from Cuba to Florida. Photo by Christi Barli.

Diana Nyad (born 22 August 1949) is an endurance swimmer, professional marathon swimmer, author, journalist, and motivational speaker.


The feature-length film Nyad is based on her autobiography Find a Way and stars 5-time Academy Award-nominated Annette Bening, two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster, and Welsh actor Rhys Ifans. Bening was nominated for the Best Actress and Foster was nominated as the Best Supporting Actress at the 2024 Academy Awards.


Professional Marathon Swimming Career

1975 24 Heures La Tuque Results

1. Johan Schans (Holland, 90 laps) and Horacio Iglesias (Argentina, 89 laps)
2. Jon Erikson (USA, 90 laps) and Raul Villagomez (Argentina, 82 laps)
3. Marwan Shedid (Egypt, 86 laps) and Jan Van Scheyndel (Holland, 84 laps)
4. Dennis Matuch (USA, 83 laps) and Diana Nyad (USA, 83 laps)
5. Carlos Aguirre (Argentina, 82 laps) and Marcello Guiscardo (Argentina, 81 laps)
6. Yvon Monpetit (Canada, 82 laps) and Yves Lavoie (Canada, 77 laps)
7. Mohammed Gamie (Egypt, 78 laps) and Tabii El Enen (Egypt, 77 laps)
8. Mahmoud Khamis (Syria, 82 laps) and Said Masri (Syria, 69 laps)
9. Angel Bernatene (Argentina, 75 laps) and Philip Gollop (England, 72 laps)
10. Sultan Kigab (Sudan, 72 laps) and Naste Jonceski (Yugoslavia, 66 laps)
11. Edward Bennett (Canada, 76 laps) and Hassan Abdeen (Canada, 60 laps)
12. Samia Mandour (Egypt, 68 laps) and Fausto Ramirez (Mexico, 63 laps)
13. Mervyn Sharp (England, 71 laps) and Thomas Hetzel (USA, 56 laps)
14. Michel Poirier (Canada, 66 laps) and Daniel Boyle (Canada, 59 laps)

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" and was a sports broadcaster for National Public Radio, ABC's Wide World of Sports, Fox Sports, and The New York Times.

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 41 hours, 49 minutes and 79 miles, 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 on August 7, 2011 at 7:45pm and ended on August 9, 2011 at 12:28am. She utilized shark shields but not a shark cage. After being pushed off course by strong cross-currents, she called off the attempt after 28 hours, 43 minutes, 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

The third attempt was approximately six weeks later on September 23, 2011 at 6:05pm and ended on September 25, 2011 at 2:35pm. She was pulled from the water after 44 hours, 30 minutes and 92 miles due to box jellyfish stings and strong cross-currents.

Fourth Attempt: August 2012

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

The fourth attempt was on August 17, 2012 at 3:43pm and ended on August 19 6:48pm. There was a mid-swim declaration of a possible stage swim but because of weather, a tropical storm and box jellies the swim was aborted at 51 hours, 5 minutes and 55.4 miles.

Fifth Attempt: 2013

Diana Nyad entered the water at 8:58.46 AM CDT (UTC -4) on August 31, 2013 from Marina Hemingway (23°05’06.4″N 82°30’14.5″W) on the shore of Havana, Cuba and exited the water at 1:54:18.6 PM EDT (UTC -4) on September 2, 2013 at Smathers Beach (24°33’03.6″N 81°46’24.6″W) on the shore of Key West, Florida.[1]


Nyad's swim is widely contested within the marathon swimming community.[2]

The questions raised by the members of the Marathon Swim Community Forum were about feeding, currents, timing, observers and assistance. These forum discussions included analysis of the swim time and speeds which indicated a faster than world record pace occurring over thirty hours into the swim.[3]

A "review panel" teleconference which included well-known individual marathon swimmers and the members of the Diana Nyad team was held on September 10, 2013.[4]

One panelist questioned Nyad about her observers' lack of qualifications. She claimed that, despite decades of experience in the sport, 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. Mitchell Roffer, a biological oceanographer who independently checked the currents after the swim when the criticisms mounted, said Nyad was swept along by a moving gyre, a large counterclockwise rotating current that moves from the Gulf of Mexico into the Keys. [5]

No public statement from the review panel was issued. Individual panel members, all experienced marathon swimmers, have given a wide range of opinions from support to dismissal of her swim and claims.[6] During the review panel repeated requests were made for hard data including charts and observer's logs. Typed observer logs were released on the Diana Nyad website on September 13, 2013.[7] Handwritten logs, Garmin GPS data, video and photos were released nine years later for The Diana Nyad Report in 2022.[1]

The controversy continued because Nyad claimed a marathon swimming world record immediately after her swim without any clarification of what marathon swimming record was being claimed and before an official ratification from a marathon swimming organization.[8] Even though a Guinness World Record was given for "First person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage or fins" on September 2, 2013,[9] GWR's are not the same as marathon swimming records. In an AMA interview on Reddit in January of 2014, Diana Nyad continued to claim a world record and falsely asserted that she and her team answered all panel questions. [10] Steven Munatones who in 2013 was the founder of the World Open Water Swimming Association claimed he wrote the rules governing the attempts and approved the onboard observers. Munatones also claimed he ratified/verified/recognized the swim in 2013 but this was only announced publically when he made an Openwaterpedia entry on August 15, 2019. This claim is analyzed in detail in the Diana Nyad report in 2022.[1]

Nyad's 2013 swim had many technical deviations from the standards in marathon swimming at the time (stinger suit, directional streamer and face mask etc.).[11] On September 17, 2013 on the Marathon Swimmers Community Forum a poll was created in order to assert their right to vote if the swim was "assisted" or "unassisted". The forum voted in favor of "assisted". [12] No vote was held on the question of the legitimacy of her swim.

The issue of assisted or unassisted was important to the community because two swimmers, Susie Maroney and Walter Poenisch both of whom used a shark cage had previously completed swims from Cuba to Florida. Nyad claimed her swim was unassisted and her rules of engagement allowed her technical exceptions because they did not give the forward advantage or propulsion of a shark cage. The rules of engagement though were not clearly declared before the swim.[1] The controversy surrounding the rules and why she did not accept pre-swim offers of assistance in setting up a Cuba to Florida swim association by IMSHOF member and honor administrator Ned Denison in order to establish the rules of the Florida Straits is still unanswered.[1][13]

The Diana Nyad Cuba-Florida Swim Report

In 2022 an independent report was published which retrieved, presented and analyzed the historical data of Diana Nyad’s Cuba to Florida swim in 2013. To retrieve this data, 650+ email exchanges, 36 Zoom calls, fifteen interviews were conducted and over 2000+ photos, over 100 videos, crew statements and over 50 documents were recovered. Part 1 of this report examines the swim.[1]

The evidence from the observer and navigator logs, archival photos, and video, present at least one log entry or more and/or photo or video for each hour for all 53 hours of the swim. Gaps in observer log reporting is cross checked and supplemented with photo and/or video evidence.[1]

All equipment used was identified. All crew members and their roles were identified. All fleet vessels identified. The GPX file for the route of the swim was analyzed and confirmed to be a valid SPOT tracker export from the SPOT tracker website. The GPX and logged speeds reported coincided with weather data maps presenting a gyre and eddies and GPS speeds cross checked against the navigator’s logs (waypoints, course changes, wind speeds, stroke count etc.), maps and vectoring equations.[1]

Deeper analysis was given to swim hours with above average speeds and below average speeds. All feeding hours were analyzed against observer log entries and statements by crew members to clarify gaps and/or miscommunication. Incidental touching was noted.[1]

The evidence supports the conclusion that Diana Nyad entered the water at 8:58.46 AM CDT (UTC -4) on August 31, 2013 from Marina Hemingway (23°05’06.4″N 82°30’14.5″W) on the shore of Havana, Cuba and exited the water at 1:54:18.6 PM EDT (UTC -4) on September 2, 2013 from Smathers Beach (24°33’03.6″N 81°46’24.6″W) on the shore of Key West, Florida. There is no known evidence that she exited the water or gained forward momentum from a support vessel or other object or person during the swim. [1]

Part 2 of the report examined the 9-year pending ratification process of the 2013 Cuba-Florida swim. The report concludes that Diana Nyad’s Cuba-Florida crossing was never ratified.[1]

Early Marathon Swims

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.


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.

2015 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year Nominees

Diana Nyad's Find A Way for the 2015 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year by the World Open Water Swimming Association along with the following nominees:

1. Axis Buoy by FINIS (U.S.A.)
2. Best Places To Swim by Orca (New Zealand)
3. Chillswim Coniston by Chillswim (Great Britain)
4. Find A Way by Diana Nyad (U.S.A.)
5. IOLITE by Stephen Holm, Raymond Rogers, Justin Peck (U.S.A.)
6. Lake Geneva Swimming Association by Ben Barham (Switzerland)
7. Madswimmers Charity Swims by Jean Craven (South Africa)
8. Samsung Boğaziçi Kıtalararası Yüzme Yarışı (Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim) by the National Olympic Committee of Turkey (Turkey)
9. Sting No More™ by Dr. Angel Yanagihara (U.S.A.)
10. Swim Across America (U.S.A.)
11. SwimCross (Switzerland)
12. SwimEars® by Hans Henrik Heming (Denmark)
13. Swimmit by Ivan Peralta (Spain)
14. SwimTrack by Evan Morrison (U.S.A.)
15. WEST (Water World Swimming Therapy) (Israel)
16. World Ice Swimming Championships (Russia)

2015 WOWSA Award Nomination

Find A Way by Diana Nyad
Diana Nyad wrote her memoirs about her tenacious 52 hour 54 minute swim from Havana, Cuba to the shores of Florida across the Gulf Stream and the Straits of Florida. Although her Cuba swim is the focus of the 304-page book, all kinds of lifetime experiences and recollections keep readers engaged throughout. Her eloquence comes through loud and clear as readers can derive a number of inspirational messages on how they can reach their own shores – no matter what the age or goals of the reader. For triumphantly completing her dream to dramatically swim from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64, for sharing her difficult, multi-decade path to realize this dream and infusing her story with all kinds of heart-felt advice, and for always encouraging and showing others how to chase their dreams no matter what their age, Diana Nyad’s Find A Way is a worthy nominee for the 2015 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year.



Nyad talks about The Walk.

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 danced with Henry Byalikov on the 18th season of Dancing With The Stars.

World's 50 Most Adventurous Open Water Women

She was named to the list of World's 50 Most Adventurous Open Water Women by the World Open Water Swimming Association in 2015.

FINIS Duo Underwater MP3 Player Advertisement


Nyad has written four books:

  • Find A Way won the International Autobiography of the Year in Sports Writing & Publishing from the Cross Sports Book Awards in June 2017.
  • Other Shores is the story of a woman who fulfilled her psychological and emotional goals by pushing her body to its physical limits, published in 1978.
  • Diana Nyad's Basic Training For Women includes a detailed physical fitness program which emphasizes aerobic activity, stretching exercises, and weight training and provides understanding and emotional support for pursuing physical fitness goals, published in September 1981 by Rh Value Publishing.
  • Boss Of Me, The Keyshawn Johnson Story recounts how football player Keyshawn Johnson overcame homelessness, petty crime, troubles with the law that led to imprisonment in youth correctional facilities, and other problems, to become the highest-paid rookie in the National Football League.

The Swimmer: The Diana Nyad Story

She wrote and starred in a stage show at the Audible Theater in the Minetta Lane Theater in New York City on 26-28 September 2019 called The Swimmer: The Diana Nyad Story.


External links