Diana Nyad

From Open Water Swimming Wiki

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


Professional Marathon Swimming Career[edit]

Journalism Career[edit]

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[edit]

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

First Attempt: August 1978[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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]

Guinness World Record Revoked[edit]

Initially, Guinness World Records (GWR) had recognized Diana Nyad's 2013 swim from Cuba to Florida as a record-breaking achievement. However, subsequent to the findings and formal statement issued by the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA), GWR has reevaluated this recognition. GWR has confirmed that, in light of the new information provided by WOWSA, they no longer recognize Nyad’s 2013 swim as a record-breaking achievement. [14].

Ratification Denied[edit]

The World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) issued a formal statement, signed by 38 members of its advisory board, denying the ratification of Diana Nyad’s 2013 swim from Cuba to Florida. According to the statement, the swim was claimed to have been conducted in accordance with the rules and procedures of the Florida Straits Open Water Swimming Association (FSOWSA). It was revealed that FSOWSA did not formally exist at the time of the swim. The statement also highlighted discrepancies in the swim's documentation, including inconsistent statements from crew members and a lack of entries in the observer logs for a period exceeding nine hours during critical phases of the swim[15].

Early Marathon Swims[edit]

The Other Shore[edit]

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.


The feature-length film Nyad is based on her autobiography Find a Way and will star 4-time Academy Award-nominated Annette Bening.


2012 - Nyad was nominated for the 2012 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year award. 2013 - Nyad was also nominated for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year. 2015 - Diana Nyad's Find A Way for the 2015 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year by the World Open Water Swimming Association


Nyad talks about The Walk.

How to Swim from Cuba to Florida[edit]

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

Dancing With The Stars[edit]

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


  • 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[edit]

Nyad 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.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Tima Vlasto, "The Diana Nyad Cuba-Florida Swim 2013 Report", WOWSA, August 11, 2022.
  2. Suzanne Sataline,"Some demand more details about the record-setting open-water marathon swim.", National Geographic, September 6, 2013.
  3. Marathon Swimmers Forum discussion, 2013.
  4. David Adams,"Questions Linger Over U.S. Swimmer Diana Nyad's Record Swim", Reuters, September 11, 2013.
  5. ROFFS™, "Roffer responds to the controversy around the Diana Nyad Swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West, FL" Sep 16, 2013
  6. Lone Swimmer,"The Diana Nyad Controversy, a personal reflection – Part 5 – Probity & Integrity", LoneSwimmer October 8, 2013.
  7. "Observer Report: Janet Hinkle", Diana Nyad September 13, 2013.
  8. Michael Haskins, "America's Diana Nyad, 64, sets record with Cuba-to-Florida swim", Reuters September 2, 2013.
  9. "First person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage or fins", Guinness World Records September 2, 2013.
  10. "I am the world record swimmer Diana Nyad, ask me anything!" Reddit January 27, 2014.
  11. Hadar Aviram,"Troubled Waters Diana Nyad and the Birth of the Global Rules of Marathon Swimming" University of California 2015.
  12. "Forum Member Vote: Do You Consider Diana Nyad's Swim Assisted Or Unassisted?" marathonswimmers.org September 17, 2013.
  13. Daniel Slosberg, "The Cuba Crossing" Diana Nyad Fact Check.
  14. "Nyad” on Netflix: The Swim, The Scandal, The Silence", World Open Water Swimming Association August 21, 2023
  15. "WOWSA Advisory Board’s Decision on Diana Nyad’s 2013 Cuba to Florida Swim", World Open Water Swimming Association September 9, 2023.