Nyad in September 2016
August 22, 1949
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Lake Forest College (1973)|
|Occupation||Author, journalist, swimmer|
|Known for||Championship swimming; endurance swimming; journalism; motivational speaking|
Diana Nyad // (née Sneed; born August 22, 1949) is an American author, journalist, motivational speaker, and long-distance swimmer. Nyad gained national attention in 1975 when she swam around Manhattan (28 mi or 45 km) and in 1979 when she swam from North Bimini, The Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Florida (102 mi (164 km)). In 2013, on her fifth attempt and at age 64, she became the first person confirmed to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage, swimming from Havana to Key West (110 mi or 180 km). Nyad was also once ranked thirteenth among US women squash players.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Career
- 3 Honors, awards and distinctions
- 4 Personal life
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Early life and education
Nyad was born in New York City on August 22, 1949, to stockbroker William L. Sneed Jr. and his wife Lucy Winslow Curtis (1925–2007). Her mother was a great-granddaughter of Charlotte N. Winslow, the inventor of Mrs Winslow's Soothing Syrup, a popular morphine-based medicine for children teething that was manufactured from 1849 until the 1930s. She is also a great-grandniece of women's-rights activist Laura Curtis Bullard.
The Sneeds divorced in 1952, after which Lucy Sneed married Aristotle Z. Nyad, a Greek-Egyptian land developer, who adopted Diana. The family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she began swimming seriously in seventh grade.
She was enrolled at the private Pine Crest School in the mid-1960s, swimming under the tutelage of Olympian and Hall of Fame coach Jack Nelson who, she has said, molested her when she was eleven years old. She won three Florida state high school championships in the Backstroke at 100 and 200 yards (91 and 183 m). She dreamed of swimming in the 1968 Summer Olympics, but in 1966 she spent three months in bed with endocarditis, an infection of the heart, and when she began swimming again she had lost speed.
After graduating from Pine Crest School in 1967, she entered Emory University, but was eventually expelled for jumping out a fourth-floor dormitory window wearing a parachute. She then enrolled at Lake Forest College in Illinois, where she played tennis for the Foresters and resumed swimming, concentrating on distance events. She soon came to the attention of Buck Dawson, director of the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Florida, who introduced her to marathon swimming. She began training at his Camp Ak-O-Mak in Ontario, Canada and set a women's world record of 4 hours and 22 minutes in her first race, a 10-mile (16 km) swim in Lake Ontario in July 1970, finishing 10th overall. After graduating from Lake Forest College in 1973, with a degree in English and French, Nyad returned to south Florida to continue training with Dawson.
Nyad has written four books: Other Shores (Random House: September 1978) about her life and distance swimming, Basic Training for Women (Harmony Books: 1981), Boss of Me: The Keyshawn Johnson Story (1999) about an NFL wide-receiver, and Find a Way: One Wild and Precious Life (Knopf Publishing Group: 2015). She has also written for The New York Times, NPR's "All Things Considered," Newsweek magazine, and other publications. Diana and her best friend Bonnie Stoll (former No. 3 in the world on the Pro Racquetball Tour) have formed a company called BravaBody which is aimed at providing online exercise advice to women over 40, with the two world-class athletes giving direct inspiration and custom-made work-outs. As of 2006, she also delivered motivational talks to groups through the Gold Star speakers agency, for a fee of between $10,000 to $15,000.
Nyad formerly hosted the public radio program "The Savvy Traveler." In addition, she was the subject of a short documentary "Diana" by the digital channel WIGS in 2012. As of 2006, she was a (long-time) weekly contributor to National Public Radio's afternoon news show All Things Considered (appearing on Thursdays), as well as the "business of sport" commentator for American Public Media's public radio program Marketplace business news. She was also a regular contributor to the CBS News television show Sunday Morning. In her 1978 autobiography Nyad described marathon swimming as a battle for survival against a brutal foe—the sea—and the only victory possible is to "touch the other shore."
An independently produced documentary film, The Other Shore, was released in early 2013, some months before Nyad's first successful swim from Cuba to Florida.
Over two days in 1979, Nyad swam from Bimini to Florida, setting a distance record for non-stop swimming without a wetsuit that still stands today. She broke numerous world records, including the 45-year-old mark for circling Manhattan Island (7 hrs, 57 min) in 1975.
- 1974: In June 1974, Nyad set a women's record of 8 hours, 11 minutes in the 22-mile (35 km) Bay of Naples race.
- 1975: At age 26, Nyad made national headlines by swimming 28 miles (45 km) around the island of Manhattan (New York City) in just under 8 hours (7 hours 57 minutes.) An account of her swim, published the next day, stated Nyad was 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 m) tall (1.7 m) and weighed 128 pounds (58 kg).
- 1978: At age 28 she first attempted to swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West, one year after the Kennedy-era travel restrictions were lifted. Diving into the ocean at 2PM on Sunday August 13 from Ortegosa Beach (50 miles; 80 km west of Havana), she swam inside a 20-by-40-foot (6.1 m × 12.2 m) steel shark cage for nearly 42 hours, before team doctors removed her during the 7 o'clock hour on the morning of Tuesday August 15 due to strong Westerly winds and 8-foot (2.4 m) swells that were slamming her against the cage and pushing her off-course towards Texas. She had covered about 76 miles (122 km), but not in a straight line.
- 1979: In what was to be her last "competitive" swim on her 30th birthday (August 21–22, 1979), she set a world record for distance swimming (both men and women) over open water by swimming 102 miles (164 km) from North Bimini Island, Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Florida (without the use of protective shark cage). Thanks to favorable winds and a following sea she averaged 3.7 miles per hour (6.0 kilometres per hour) and completed the swim in 27 and one-half hours.
Several experts who attended the 2011 Global Open Water Swimming Conference in New York City on June 17–19, 2011 expressed their strong belief that Nyad had both the physical ability and, more importantly, the positive mental stamina to be able to complete the Cuba-to-Florida swim: sports physiology studies have shown that in "extreme" marathon-type activities mental determination is a more important factor than the physical energy of youth.
Cuba to Florida swim attempts in 2011–2013
By early January 2010 Nyad began training for a summer attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. Taking up residence in the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, from January through June, she would go for 8-, 10-, 12-, and 14-hour-long swims every other week. She then moved her training to Key West and, while waiting for favorable weather conditions, she embarked on a 24-hour swim. On July 10, she reserved a 35-foot fishing vessel to take her 40 miles (64 km) out to sea. At 8:19 AM she jumped overboard and began swimming back towards Key West, with the boat following her. At 8:19 AM the next day her handlers helped her back on board, still about 10 miles (16 km) from land: she said she felt "tired and dehydrated" but still "strong" and "easily able to swim another 20 hours without any problem."
On July 10, 2010, at the age of 60, she began open water training in preparation for a 60-hour, 103-mile (166 km) swim from Cuba to Florida, a task she had failed to accomplish thirty years prior. When asked about her motivation, she answered, "Because I'd like to prove to the other 60 year-olds that it is never too late to start your dreams." She was scheduled to make the swim in August/September 2010, but bad weather forced her to cancel; she rescheduled for July 2011. In an October 15, 2010 interview with CNN, Nyad said she was trained and ready to swim by July 23, but a record stretch of high winds and dropping water temperatures prevented her from making the attempt.
While training in St. Maarten, she sat for an interview that was published March 25, 2011 by the island's online news agency, The Daily Herald, remarking that "It's a large operation, like an expedition. We've got about 25 people, navigators, managers, boat crew, weather routers, medical people, shark experts, you name it. That's the time also when the water starts to get to its hottest. I need the hottest possible ocean. As soon as we hit the right forecast, we'll be off to Havana. We won't know the exact starting point probably until the night before. And we don't know exactly where landfall will be...I'd love to wind up in Key West, but it will depend on trajectory of the Gulf Stream." Nyad estimated that the cost of her "expedition" was about $500,000.
Nyad moved her training site from the Caribbean island of St. Maarten to Key West, Florida, in June 2011. She was joined by key members of her support team on June 28, to wait for ideal weather conditions that typically occur only during the summer doldrums in July and August. For the marathon swim to be feasible, two main weather conditions needed to come together at the same time: a combination of low-to-light winds (to minimize sea chop), and water temperatures in the high 80s °F (high 20s/low 30s °C). These relatively "high" water temperatures produce a twin challenge: in the first half of her swim the warm water will dehydrate her body, while in the second half her body temperature will drop and she will face potential hypothermia. Nyad had bulked up her physique to about 150 pounds/70 kg (15 pounds/7 kg more than she weighed in 2010) to help counter the loss of body mass during her grueling swim.
To keep Nyad swimming in a straight line, her specially designed, slow-moving catamaran support boat deployed a 10-foot (3.0 m) streamer: a long pole keeps the streamer several yards away from the boat, and the streamer is designed to remain about 5 feet underwater, so that Nyad can swim above it, much like following a lane line in a swimming pool. At night, the white streamer was replaced by a string of red LED lights. Writing in her blog in July 2011, Nyad stated that the development of the submerged guide streamer, in early summer 2011, may be the single greatest aid to her marathon swim. In all of her previous swims, she had trouble keeping the support boat in sight and was prone to veer off-course. Keeping a boat headed in a straight line, in the ocean, while moving at only 1 to 2 knots is very difficult, and her catamaran is equipped with thrusters and a special sea anchor (in case of following seas) to stabilize its course.
Some 33 years after her first attempt in 1978, Nyad entered the water again at Havana on August 7, 2011 at 7:45PM, a CNN news team on board her support ship to provide live coverage of her swim, which involved electronic "Shark Shields" but no shark cage. Nyad stopped her attempt early in the morning on August 9 at 12:45AM after 29 hours in the water, after encountering strong currents and winds that pushed her miles off course to the east. Nyad also said she had been suffering shoulder pain since her third hour in the water, but what made her abandon the effort was a flare-up of her asthma, such that, throughout the final hour, she could only swim a few strokes before repeatedly having to roll on her back to catch her breath.
On September 23, 2011, Diana Nyad began a third attempt at the Cuba-to-Florida swim, again without a shark cage, but had to stop after about 41 hours, about 67 nautical miles (124 km) through the 103 nautical miles (191 km) passage, because of jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war stings and after currents pushed her off course. Nyad's October 2011 TED talk described how box jellyfish stings on her forearm and neck caused respiratory distress that eventually caused the swim to end.
On August 18, 2012, Nyad began her fourth attempt, without a protective shark cage. Nyad and her team ended the swim prematurely at 12:55 a.m. on August 21, 2012, reportedly because of two storms and nine jellyfish stings, after having covered more distance than her three previous attempts.
On the morning of August 31, 2013, Nyad began her fifth bid to swim from Havana, Cuba to Florida, a distance of about 110 miles (180 km), accompanied by a 35-person support team, swimming without a shark cage but protected from jellyfish by a silicone mask, a full bodysuit, gloves and booties. Before reaching Florida, Nyad broke Penny Palfrey's 2012 distance record for the Cuba to Florida swim,[discuss] putting Nyad closer to Key West than anyone swimming without a shark cage. At approximately 1:55 pm EDT on September 2, 2013, Nyad reached the beach in Key West, about 53 hours after she began her journey.
While not directly questioning the authenticity of her story, some skeptics, including long-distance swimmers, requested the swim's GPS history, surface current, weather, and Nyad's eating and drinking data. The swim's published GPS data was analyzed and graphed on September 8 by The New York Times. After Nyad's September 10 response to questions and her publishing path data and notes from her navigator and two observers, a University of Miami oceanography professor, Tamay Ozgokmen, confirmed the navigator's assertion that favorable Gulf Stream currents explained Nyad's apparently incredible total velocity during certain portions of the swim. The New York Times public editor observed on September 19 that the focus had shifted from serious questions about possibly resting aboard a boat, to more technical issues relating to whether her crews' touching her while helping with her protective suit formally rendered the swim an "assisted" swim. Nyad had explained that wearing the jellyfish-protection suit was a life-and-death measure that for her superseded the previous "traditions" of the sport.
On September 10, 2013, Nyad appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. She explained that she started her training in the Caribbean in January 2013 with 12-hour workouts of nonstop swimming and eventually worked up to 14, 18, 20, and 24 hours. Nyad also said that while she swims she remembers Stephen Hawking books, sings, counts numbers and has vivid hallucinations of The Wizard of Oz and the yellow brick road.
Dancing with the Stars performances
On March 4, 2014, Nyad was announced as one of the celebrities to compete on the 18th season of Dancing with the Stars, in which she finished in last place. She was partnered with professional dancer Henry Byalikov.
|Week #||Dance/song||Judges' score||Result|
|1||Foxtrot / "Beyond the Sea"||6||6||6||No Elimination|
|2||Cha-cha-cha / "Move Your Feet"||No||Score||Given||Eliminated|
Other media appearances
Also in 2014, Nyad performed in her solo show (which she had also written) called ONWARD – The Diana Nyad story,, which premiered that year at the NoHo Arts Centre Theater in Los Angeles, directed by Josh Ravetch.
Honors, awards and distinctions
Nyad was inducted into the United States National Women's Sports Hall of Fame in 1986. She is also an International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honoree (1978) and an ISHOF Al Schoenfield Media Award recipient (2002). She is a Hall of Famer at her college, Lake Forest College in Illinois, and at her high school, Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale.
- Nyad was awarded the first ESPN Sports Science Newton Award for Outstanding New Limit.
- Nyad was awarded the L.A. Sports Council's Athlete of the Year award.
- She was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.
- Nyad received the Jack LaLanne Award.
- She received the "Orden al Mérito Deportivo" [Order of Sporting Merit] Award, from Cuba.
- A bronze plaque honoring Nyad was unveiled on a concrete wall bordering Smathers Beach, where she ended her successful Cuba to Florida swim.
- Nyad was named one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year.
- Nyad was shown in Marie Claire magazine's "The 8 Greatest Moments for Women in Sports."
- The book The Right Side of History: 100 Years of LGBTQ Activism by Adrian Brooks, was published; chapter 30 of the book, by Rita Mae Brown, was titled and was about Diana Nyad.
Nyad has said a factor in her determination while swimming was her anger about, and her desire to overcome, sexual abuse she said she experienced as a child. Nyad has spoken publicly about this issue.
From October 8–10, 2013, Nyad participated in "Swim for Relief" by doing a 48-hour continuous swim in New York City's Herald Square in a specially constructed, 120-foot long, two lane pool. It raised $105,001.00 for AmeriCares to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
- Duncan, Joyce (2002). "Diana Sneed Nyad". Ahead of Their Time: A Biographical Dictionary of Risk-Taking women. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing. pp. 245–47. ISBN 978-1-280-90869-9. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
- Anne-Marie Garcia (September 2, 2013). "Diana Nyad completes Cuba-Florida swim". USA Today.
- "Nyad 1st to Swim to Florida From Cuba Without Cage". The New York Times. Associated Press. September 2, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
- Alvarez, Lizette (September 2, 2013). "Nyad Completes Cuba-to-Florida Swim". The New York Times.
- U.S. Social Security Death Index, accessed online on 16 February 2014
- Ariel Levy (10 February 2014). "Breaking the Waves". The New Yorker. p. 29. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
- "Jack and Diana", Broward-Palm Beach New Times, June 14, 2004. Retrieved July 19, 2011.
- Osinski, Alison. "Diana Nyad, 1949–" (PDF). Aquatic Consulting Services. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- High school career and expulsion from Emory described in Nyad's 2002 induction as Al Schoenfield Media Award winner; 
- Thuma, Cynthia A. (2007). "Diana Nyad". Sport Lauderdale: Big Names and Big Games: A Sports Enthusiast's Guide to Broward County, Florida. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 62. ISBN 9781596291454. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
- Harnick, Chris (March 4, 2014). "Diana Nyad on Dancing With the Stars: Will Swimming With Sharks Prepare Her for the Dance Floor?". Eonline. Archived from the original on April 3, 2014.
- "Find A Way – Diana Nyad". Conacher Rosenfeld. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
- "Say hello to Savvy Traveler host Diana Nyad...". publicradio.org. Retrieved May 27, 2011.
- ""Diana", A WIGS Real documentary now playing!". Diana Nyad. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
- Pipkin, James W (2008). Sporting Lives: Metaphor and Myth in American Sports Autobiographies. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. pp. 90–92. ISBN 9780826266415. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
- King, Susan (July 18, 2013). "Outfest 2013: Diana Nyad swims to 'The Other Shore'". Los Angeles Times. Debut was at SXSW in March 2013.
- "Woman Swimmers Circles Manhattan on Her Second Attempt"; published in NYC Swim on October 7, 1975. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
- The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: Sports Figures Vol.2, edited by Arnie Markoe (New York:2002)
- "Can Diana Nyad Make from Cuba to Florida?". The Daily News of Open Water Swimming. July 14, 2011.
- Matt Sloane, CNN Medical Producer (October 15, 2010). "Nyad delays attempt to break distance-swim record". Edition.cnn.com. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
- "Diana Nyad: Swimming the Dream". KCRW. July 2010. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
- Alvarez, Lizette (July 18, 2011). "Swimming With the Sharks, for 103 Miles". The New York Times. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
- "Marathon swimmer poised for Cuba-Florida attempt", The Daily Herald, March 25, 2011. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
- Source for Nyad's use of SharkShield deployed in escort kayak, is September 3, 2010 blog entry by Diana Nyad, "Steve Munatones will verify the swim"; . Retrieved July 18, 2011.
- Yahoo! Sports, July 15, 2011, "World Record Holder Diana Nyad Set to Conquer Sharks, Distance and Time". Retrieved July 18, 2011.
- Sloane, Matt (August 8, 2011). "Nyad: Today's swim shows 60s not too late for goals". CNN.
- CNN Wire Staff (September 26, 2011). "Jellyfish, currents cut short Cuba-to-Florida swim". CNN.
- Diana Nyad (October 2011). "Extreme swimming with the world's most dangerous jellyfish". TED. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
- Schilken, Chuck (August 21, 2012). "Diana Nyad ends her latest attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
- "Woman to brave sharks, jellyfish and storms in final Cuba-Florida swim attempt". The Washington Times. August 31, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
- "US swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, makes historic Cuba-Florida crossing". BBC News. September 2, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
- "Diana Nyad's Cuba to Florida swim breaks one record". CNN. September 2, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
- Marquez, Miguel (CNN video narrator) (September 9, 2013). "Skeptics question Diana Nyad's swim". CNN. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- Holpuch, Amanda (September 10, 2013). "Skeptics debate the conditions of Diana Nyad's record swim from Cuba". The Guardian. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
- "A Swimmer's Path and a Derived Pace". The New York Times. September 8, 2013. Archived from the original on October 8, 2013. Contains graph depicting path and speed based on GPS data provided by Nyad's website developer Chris Moschini.
- "Diana Nyad defends Cuba-to-Florida swim as skeptics question use of gear". The Guardian. Associated Press in Miami. September 11, 2013. Archived from the original on October 18, 2013.
- Sullivan, Margaret (public editor) (September 19, 2013). "With a Swimmer's Honesty Questioned, The Times Should Follow Up". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 18, 2013.
- Next Post » Diana Nyad on Her Mask. "Diana Nyad on How She Did It". EllenTV.com. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
- "Dancing With the Stars Cast Revealed! Cody Simpson, Nene Leakes and James Maslow Are Among the Names—See the Full List!". E! Online. March 4, 2014.
- "Morning Brew – Diana Nyad stars in Macy Gray's very lesbian music video". AfterEllen.com.
- "Global Truth Center".
- "Diana Nyad had the best year ever". AfterEllen.
- "International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame / IMSHOF Honorees / 1978". International Swimming Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on March 20, 2013. Retrieved September 9, 2013. • "Al Schoenfield Media Award / 2002". International Swimming Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- HickokSports.com, "Sports Biographies/Swimming: Nyad, Diana". Retrieved July 18, 2011.
- Bendix, Trish (March 31, 2014). "Morning Brew – Tegan and Sara win big at the Junos". After Ellen. Archived from the original on April 3, 2014.
- "Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame welcomes 15 new inductees this week". Outsports. July 9, 2014.
- "Diana Nyad on Twitter: "Unreal at 88, Elaine LaLanne honors me today with @Jack LaLanne Lifetime Fitness Award. Jack a National Treasure.".
- "IDEA Health & Fitness Association to Honor Diana Nyad with the Prestigious Jack LaLanne Award at the 2014 IDEA World Fitness Convention".
- "Cuba concede la Orden al Mérito Deportivo a la nadadora Diana Nyad". Cubadebate.
- "Key West installs plaque honoring Diana Nyad". TBO.com. Associated Press. September 1, 2014.
- Friedman, Megan. "Historic Moments in Female Sports – Athletic Women". Marieclaire.com. Retrieved 2015-04-16.
- Adrian Brooks (9 June 2015). The Right Side of History: 100 Years of LGBTQ Activism. Cleis Press. pp. 224–. ISBN 978-1-62778-131-2.
- Weil, Elizabeth (December 1, 2011). "Marathon Swimmer Diana Nyad Takes On the Demons of the Sea". The New York Times.
- "The Swimmer | Out Magazine". Out.com. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
- Ashley Harrell (June 14, 2007). "Jack and Diana – Page 1 – News – Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach – New Times Broward-Palm Beach". Browardpalmbeach.com. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
- "Diana Nyad: Penn State Shocker. Really?". Huffingtonpost.com. December 1, 2011. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
- Lipsyte, Robert (September 12, 1999). "Reflections on a Secret Life in Professional Sports". The New York Times. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
- Lipsyte, Robert (September 12, 1999). "Reflections on a Secret Life in Professional Sports". The New York Times.
- David Edwards (October 14, 2013). "Oprah tells atheist swimmer Diana Nyad that atheists don't believe in 'awe' and 'wonder'". The Raw Story. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
- "Nyad Swim for Relief". Huffington Post. October 7, 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- "Nyad ends NY swim, raises $105K for Sandy victims". MyFoxNY. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
- Official website
- Official bio on American Public Media
- Nyad's December 2013 TED Talk "Never, ever give up" after having completed the Cuba-to-Florida swim in September
- Sports Illustrated, August 28, 1978; "An Ill Wind That Blew No Good"
- 1978 Nyad interview with John Calloway after her first Cuba-Florida attempt, Chicago Tonight, full video
- Works by or about Diana Nyad in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Diana Nyad at TED