As per my previous post, Diana Nyad appeared on the New Yorker Festival’s Fearless!: Life on the Edge panel on Saturday, October 7. Except for her religious conversion (see below), I heard nothing new…with one important exception: Ms. Nyad’s “Titanium Cap of Will.”
All quotes below come from Nyad at Fearless!.
I grew up basically in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. And literally, on one day, we went from being a bunch of New York Jews to a bunch of Cubans.
Nyad has a way with words! I realize that she’s not being literally literal here. But my initial reaction was, “you’re already messing with my favorite sport, and now you’re messing with my religion?”
Speaking of religion, few people know that just before God gave Moses the 10 Commandments, the almighty presented him with something else: the one Commandment of Marathon Swimming—Thou Shalt Not Touch. Repeat after Diana:
I can’t touch [anyone]. . . .
You can never touch the boat. . . .
It is called continuous because you can’t touch anything.
But she did. Of course, few people in the audience knew that. Nyad also made sure to mention her “independent” observers while omitting a few facts, among them:
- The observers had little or no experience.
- They left hours-long gaps in their observations.
- They issued unprecedented post-swim defenses.
- They served, for all practical purposes, as porthole dressing.
But who’s counting?
I am! What would a day with Diana be without an appearance by that old meany, the Gulf Stream?
You’ve got a Gulf Stream that’s going . . . east and you’re going north. So any time you stop you’re getting dragged east, east, east.
No, no, no, at least not according to her GPS data. During her 2013 escapade, she didn’t get dragged anywhere but north, north, north, even while she stopped and treaded water for an hour-and-a-half. (See The Taming of the Stream and Treader Shredder for details.)
In response to the moderator’s question about how she prepares for a swim, Nyad launched into her Mount Everest monologue:
They call this stretch between Cuba and Florida, for a swimmer, the ocean swimmers, the Mt. Everest of the world’s oceans. Since 1950, the great swimmers—male, female, fast, strong—have been trying it.
But there’s no “they” there. Only one person equates the Florida Straits with Mt. Everest: Diana Nyad. As of 2017, approximately 4,500 climbers have summited Everest over 7,500 times (as per Everest By the Numbers). As of 2017, approximately two swimmers have crossed the Florida Straits, while approximately zero have swum it without a shark cage.
For the “since 1950” nugget, please see Everybody’s Doin’ It.
Who says Cuba-to-Florida is the Mt. Everest of marathon swimming?
We Will Never Forget . . . JELLYFISH!
When that tentacle touches, 95% of all people who have been touched by that tentacle die instantaneously. Not minutes later. Instant. Touch, you’re dead! And I swam into a swarm in 2011 where the pictures are just, you know, wrapped around the neck, down the bicep, down the forearm, across the back. I went into anaphalactic shock.
I survived those stings—I shouldn’t have, I couldn’t have—on will. And that’s what it’s all about—resolve and will.
All of her box jelly facts are nonsense, as usual, but there’s also this: in 2011, Portuguese Men O’War stung her, not box jellies. See ABC News’ Diana Nyad Ends Swim From Cuba to Florida After Two Man-of-War Stings.
But let’s pretend that Nyad was telling the truth, i.e., that they were box jellyfish and that box jellyfish stings do nearly always kill you and that Nyad did almost die that night. How did she survive? She survived thanks to her specially designed protective headgear:
There was such a titanium cap of will that was secured on that head.
So if her current business ventures don’t pan out, Nyad can always sell signed Titanium Caps of Will to survivalists. Go Diana!
Updated 20 Mar 2022 for grammar, punctuation, and ease-of-reading issues.