Early Manhattan Women Swimmers on Film

As part of the festivities surrounding the 5th anniversary of Diana Nyad’s Cuba-Florida crossing, this open letter to the most reputable historians revisits one of Nyad’s biggest lies.

15 September 2018

Dear Reputable Historians,

You’ll recall that, back in 2011, CNN caught Diana Nyad lying about being the first woman to swim around Manhattan Island. In response, Ms. Nyad posted (then deleted) a disingenuous non-mea-culpa. You can still find it here.

An excerpt:

The history is unclear. The dissemination of accurate information has not followed an empirical path. I am waiting for the most reputable historians of the sport to dig further and publish their research as to their collective best versions as to who did in fact circle Manhattan, when and how.

Still from “Swim around Manhattan–outtakes” (via MIRC) showing Anne Priller Benoit joking with an unidentified competitor before the start of the 1930 race around Manhattan. Benoit finished 5th overall and 1st among the women.

I write to you, most reputable historians, in the hope that you’ll grab your shovels and resume digging.

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Caveat Scriptor: 5th Anniversary video #2

Diana Nyad again demonstrates her abysmal kindness and generosity while talking about all of the good that she does in the world.

In Tuesday’s installment—“SHARE with us YOUR Xtreme Dreams! Are you fulfilling your potential? What do you imagine doing with your next five years? Inspire us all by commenting below…”—Diana’s followers did not let her down. Check out the torrent of reverential responses.

Here in the eye of the Cult of Diana storm, Nyad continues to construct a levee against the flood of those who know her to be a charlatan. How could Diana—she who causeth the waters to part, the sitters to walk, and the smokers to smoketh not—ever lie? Wouldn’t happen in a million years, or so her believers can’t help but believe. (C.f. Lance Armstrong and LiveStrong.)

Here’s my favorite part of the video:
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Nyad’s 5th Anniversary Facebook Live Video — a Quick Look

Diana Nyad got through this paean to herself with a few well-worn fabrications, a warning about a future endeavor, and one horrifying episode of insensitivity.

Diane Strubel whispering to “I’ve Got a Secret” host Garry Moore,  4 Nov 1959. (Full episode here.) Diana Nyad swam around Manhattan in 1975 and still claims to be the first woman to do so. She was the seventh.

Yesterday’s Facebook Live Video — “Join us in celebration, today, the 5th Anniversary of the Cuba Swim Expedition…”—mainly involved Diana Nyad, before a small audience on the deck of a boat, talking about herself. She also introduced friends and family who, when they spoke, talked about Diana Nyad.

She couldn’t get through her part without a nod to the backlist:

The best men, women, fast, strong, young swimmers in the world have tried this swim. It’s the Mt. Everest of the earth’s oceans.

To review: Only five people besides Nyad have attempted solo crossings of the Florida Strait: See “Everybody’s Doin’ It.” And the Florida Strait is NOT the Mt. Everest of the earth’s oceans. Only one person claims that it is. See “p. 244.

Earlier, Nyad had enumerated her bilge-bucket list of what “the next things are.” Here’s the final entry:

I want to perform on stage and bring this story to life in a dramatic, storytelling way, and be known as one of the better storytellers of our time.

In other words, she’s gotta be storyteller #1, and she’s not going away any time soon.
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Diana Nyad and the Case of the Vanishing Video

To verify her 2013 Cuba-Florida crossing and protect herself from skeptics, why didn’t Diana Nyad film the entire 2013 attempt? Because she was protecting herself by NOT filming the crossing.

Members of Nyad’s crew filmed parts of the swim. But, within a few months of her 2013 conquest, almost all video from the event disappeared.

For example:

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