In her first memoir, Other Shores, Diana Nyad lists the rules of a 1975 race in Argentina:
The swimmer must wear only regulation suit, cap, goggles and grease. The swimmer must swim to the side of his boat, not behind it. (Greta Andersen was once passed in a race in the Nile by an Egyptian with a wide grin on his face; he had a tight grip on a rope tied to the back of his boat, and was eating a banana.) The swimmer may not at any time touch the boat, the shore or another person. (p. 35)
The boom Nyad used for her directional streamer gave her an artificial stern. Swimming behind it allowed her to break the rule without breaking the rule, no banana required.
Diana Nyad did not, in my not-so-humble opinion, swim from Cuba to Florida under her own power. In the next three posts, I’ll describe—and give evidence for—my theory of how she made it look like she did.
Starting with the rules laid down in my house when I was a child, I have never much respected society’s expected standards…. When some television executive tells me the story I’m working on has to have a linear structure and start at the beginning, I revolt and take my case to the highest command, arguing that to embark on this particular story in the middle and work the early part in later hits the sublime emotion of it. Ask Shakespeare about in medias res.
Diana Nyad is well into the second night of her fifth and final attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. She has made miraculous progress over the last two days, often moving at speeds more than double and sometimes triple her usual 1.5-2 miles per hour. At 9 p.m. on Sunday night, she’s chugging along at about three miles per hour—with the ostensible help of a strong current flowing northeast. Continue reading →