Diana Nyad Addresses Marathon Open Water Swim Community

Mike Lewis
by Mike Lewis 9

September 10th, 2013 News, Open Water

Today a panel of marathon swimmers (including several who spearheaded skepticism regarding the validity of her Cuba to Florida swim) and media convened via teleconference to hear directly from Diana Nyad, her navigator John Bartlett, and her crew chief Bonnie Stoll.

Nyad led off the call by thanking the group for the opportunity to address the group and offered complete transparency with regard to data and information regarding the swim. She affirmed her respect for general rules of marathon swim community: never grab on to the boat or another person. She affirmed her and her teams’ commitment to the “basic rules of having any aid for floatation or propulsion”

John Bartlett conducted 100’s ‘modeling’ exercises over the past several years on the route between Cuba and Key West. In fact, one model showed that the swim could have been completed in 37 hours. Bartlett explained in great detail when the weather lined up the currents were ideal for the swim. “The good gulf steam is what allowed this thing to happen.”

Panel members appeared to be mixed between skeptical and curious. Many of the questioned were very nuanced and concentrated on ocean currents which were very favorable for Nyad’s swim.

Nyad affirmed to the group – what I witnessed during her second 2011 attempted – the orders were clear and consistent that she was not to be touched while in the water.

“I never touched the boat in any way” Diana Nyad emphatically reported to the group.

After 3 hours of discussion, it was clear the marathon swimmers are passionate about putting ‘fence posts’ around the definitions of what constitutes a ‘real’ swim. But ultimately Nyad and her team were forthcoming and open in answering all the question posed by the group.

Here’s a few things that seem clear:

1) Diana Nyad did swim from Cuba to Florida,

2) Diana Nyad didn’t touch a boat,

3) Diana Nyad didn’t float on anything, including the boat,

4) the currents were favorable,

5) She didn’t adhere to all the rules that some feel are important (purist call for only a suit, cap and goggles – Nyad wore a protective mask and non buoyant body suit),

6) what she did was phenomenal by all standards of human physical achievement.

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9 years ago

Asked about reports she had gone for hours without food or water, Nyad said she never went more than 90 minutes.

Getting into the suit that protected her against potentially deadly box jellyfish required duct taping her booties and gloves. That meant she was touched, she said, but never supported.

There were “no handlers grabbing my ankles,” Nyad said. “I was on my own steam entirely, but I was touched. I agree with it.”

If the group of her swimming peers determines that the suit and the touching mean her swim was assisted, that could nullify her record claim.

9 years ago

It amazes me that people would want to question anything about Diana Nyad’s swim. It is easily one of the most remarkable feats a human being has ever accomplished. Who cares what she wore, who cares if she touched a boat or even rode on the back of a dolphin, she did something that for all intents and purposes is SUPERHUMAN! Oh, and lest we forget, she is a senior citizen. So let’s take a step back, let’s respect our elders and let’s tell the marathon swimming world to get a life. Why anyone in the swim world would try to besmirch such an achievement is a mystery. Swimming needs Diana Nyad just as much as it needs Michael Phelps… Read more »

Reply to  Amazed
9 years ago

If you set a world record, you should be able to prove it. I think maybe there was a bit of a sour-grapes cast to the questions, but I don’t think that questioning how she did it, in and of itself, is a bad thing. What we learned about her crossing will help other swimmers do it in the future. Sharing all the information helps everyone, Nyad included.

Dan Simonelli
Reply to  Amazed
9 years ago

I’m amazed at “Amazed”…
You really don’t get the purpose of any sport endeavor claiming world record status needing to be verified and ratified. It absolutely matters “how” she did it, for the sport and the world! If you don’t see that importance and imperative, then you’re obviously not understanding the issue and dilemma.

9 years ago

She’s nuts. Without a large support crew during her five attempts, she would not be living today.

I’m finished reading about this lunatic.

9 years ago

So, on #5, while I’m by no means a purist and will be the first to don a wetsuit below 64 degree water temps, these are not just arbitrary rules that a few folks in the OW community adhere to … these are the rules that the majority of the recognized major OW events (e.g., English Channel, Catalina Channel, Manhattan Island Marathon, etc.) abide by. I think a more accurate statement would be, “She didn’t adhere to the standards/rules set by the major swims in the marathon swimming community.”

9 years ago

This article didn’t clarify #5, the vague “She didn’t adhere to the rules that some feel are important.” But I noticed paragraph 5 got cut off, so maybe that’s where the information was. Please update it, thanks.

Reply to  liquidassets
9 years ago

it seems the naysayers are quiet today!, Were they satisfied, no facebook post, no haters, what was the open water peoples opinion? NO interviews today, is an apology posted? JUST CURIOUS? There are no rules in making the cuba to florida swim except not in a cage, YES< I would have loved to see Penny Palfrey make it, my swimmers were on her crew, MS, NYAD on her 5th try got lucky with currents, as we all know the swim Gods said we will give her the current, she deserves it.. An open apology should be coming, but where is it.
YES , she maybe a little crazy, I say anyone who does these swims are, I would not,… Read more »

Kirk Nelson
Reply to  John Grzeszczak
9 years ago

I don’t see why an apology is needed, but I do think they need to issue a statement on whether their questions have been answered to their satisfaction.

About Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis is a freelance commercial, sport and lifestyle photographer based in San Diego.  Mike began making photos in the early 80’s and immersed himself in all aspects of the photographic arts.  Mike’s professional career in in photography began after 12 years working within the United States Olympic movement; he …

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