Diana Nyad Spills at Bold Missy Brewery

The Bold Missy Brewery of Charlotte, North Carolina, created a beer to honor Diana Nyad. Something is wrong with this pitcher.

At Bold Missy, they name their brews for inspiring women. Right now, they’ll pour you beers that honor astronaut Sally Ride, sharpshooter Annie Oakley, aviator Amelia Earhart, and mountaineer/explorer Alison Levine.

And they recently added a new one for Diana Nyad:

Later on, I’ll suggest a few alternatives to Find a Way Wheat. First, though, I want to point out some highs and lows from Nyad’s recent appearance with Levine at Bold Missy. The highs all came, by the way, via Levine, whose integrity and authenticity provided an uplifting counterpoint to Nyad’s narcissism and deceit.

That Special Someone

Bold Missy Brewery founder Carol Waggener asked Nyad and Levine about the origins of their boldness and the inspiration for their adventures. Levine gave a funny, heartfelt answer that included her tough-love family and the veterinarian down the street (32:09).

Nyad answered, for all practical purposes, “me”:

…I don’t really have any memories of you know, sort of, you know, inspiration and aspiration and character development and all that. And I honestly, you know, don’t think of myself as something special (35:10).

But she does think of herself as something special, which is why she has to tell you that she doesn’t. She knows that it would be weird if she told the truth.

Waggener also asked Levine and Nyad what they had been working on lately. Levine said that she’d completed her last big climb two years ago. Now, though, she’s helping to honor another great mountaineer:

I’ve been working on a documentary film about the first female Sherpa to summit Mount Everest. Yeah, she’s amazing. So her name was Pasang Lhamu Sherpa… (49:50).

Pasang Lhamu Sherpa is amazing. To summit Everest, she battled not only the elements but something much more treacherous and unyielding—her culture. It didn’t believe that women should climb mountains. Pasang Lhamu Sherpa disagreed. She finally summited Everest on her fourth attempt only to die on the way down. Here’s the trailer for her documentary:

“So I just feel,” Levine continued, “like it’s important to honor the people who have paved the way for others, especially those people who don’t have a voice anymore” (51:48).

Nyad, on the other hand, either ignores the voiceless or attempts to erase them from history. For example:

  • “I was the first woman to swim around Manhattan.” For Nyad, the six pioneering women who preceded her do not exist (Find a Way, p. 66, 2015).
  • “Diana Nyad was a five-time world champion,” states one of her press releases. However, during her five years on the pro circuit—1971 through 1975—Nyad was champion only in 1974. Here are the women Diana Nyad kicks to the side of the road:
  • “I became, in the 1970s, the best ocean swimmer in the world. I held all the major records on planet Earth, out in the open sea” (“Nyad at the Ebell, part 1: The Best on Planet Earth“). But Nyad never held a single major record “out in the open sea” nor has she ever been the best ocean swimmer of any decade.

Sandra Bucha, Lynne Cox, Penny Dean, and Cindy Nicholas are arguably the four greatest women marathon swimmers of the 1970s. That makes them four more women whom Diana Nyad wants to erase from history.

Bucha photo via The Stanford Daily, Cox via HistorySisco, Dean via the San Francisco Examiner, Nicholas via The Citizen (Ottawa). Also see “Best of the Seventies” chart.

Unfortunately, Nyad remains the best-known marathon swimmer in the United States—not because of her accomplishments but because of her charisma and her instinct for PR. She could use her visibility to bring attention to great but lesser-known athletes. Instead, she uses it to keep public attention focused on Diana Nyad.

At the Bold Missy event, however,  Alison Levine’s humanity and her passionate support of someone other than herself painted Nyad into a corner. Advocating for other athletes is anathema to Nyad, but she must have felt that she had to come up with something, with someone.

No one came to mind, so she launched into one of her stock amazing-me speeches:

Cuba was in my soul. So in my twenties, which was the 1970s, I was part of the marathon swimming circuit (52:43).

Where was she going with this? She continued in the same vein:

There are famous swims all over the world, from Manhattan Island to the Bay of Naples in Italy, the coast of Argentina. And I did all those swims—all respectable. Anybody comes and tells me that they’ve swum the English Channel….

At this point, Nyad would usually say that her Cuba-Florida swim was on a completely different level, a Homeric journey, a pure Greek something-or-other. “Not to disparage the English Channel,” she once said,

it’s still a terrific…it’s a great feat. But it’s one of the more lucky swims. There are many many very slow swimmers who make the English Channel because they’re there on the right day. (20/20, 8 Aug 1978, two years after failing at three EC attempts)

Nyad sensed, however, that it was the wrong moment to disparage practically every other marathon swimmer on the planet. So she let it drop.

And then it dawned on her that someone recently did something notable in the English Channel. Finally, an opportunity to demonstrate a morsel of magnanimity.

But she couldn’t quite pull it off.

A young woman just went four times non-stop. That’s just outrageous, and I have lauded her to no end, which she deserves.

That woman, by the way, has a name—Sarah Thomas. And, yes, Sarah Thomas deserves to be lauded to the ends of the Earth and back again. That goes without saying. But Nyad had to say it to show that she can laud with the best of them. She can even laud someone other than Diana Nyad, albeit briefly. She continued:

But I always have a very high bar for physical fitness. I do 1000 burpees twice a week.

Wait, what does that have to do with the first and only EC 4-way, one of the most astonishing athletic feats in history?

I’m glad you asked. This is Nyad’s roundabout way of saying that “our quadruple-crosser seems like hot stuff, but I can out-epic her any day. I’m seventy years old, but I could beat what’s ’er name in a burpee contest right here, right now. Point that spotlight back on me!”

Nyad then mentions Everwalk, her previous attempt to convince a million people to act more like her. Finally, she arrives at “The Swimmer: The Diana Nyad Story,” a play she performed in New York in September. “I must say if I do say so myself,” she told the Bold Missy audience, “it came up to its potential. And now bigger theatres in New York want it.”

Sure they do—probably because of the glowing review in the New York Times. (Snark Alert: “The New York Times gave us a glowing review,” Nyad declared shortly after her performances. But the Times never reviewed “The Swimmer,” glowingly or otherwise. See “Nyad at the Ebell….”)

Wouldn’t 10,000 Years Of Solitude Be Better Than Just 100?

Remember when, back in October, Nyad said that she had a plan to get “thousands, maybe 10,000 swimmers…to swim from Miami to Manhattan” in 2020? Well, consistent with Nyadian mathematics, that number grew one-hundred-fold in less than two months, though it now includes pedestrians:

Next June, I want to take a million—a million!—swimmers and walkers simultaneously up the coast from Miami to Washington, DC, finishing on the Potomac River in front of the Lincoln Memorial (16:38).

Despite my incredulity, Nyad’s big plans seem to be falling into place. By October, she had only invited Al Gore. It now sounds like she has a commitment:

And when we finish that three weeks of traveling up the coast, [we’re] having Al Gore and the likes come out to our command central boat to give their lectures on the activism they’ve been living out loud all these years.

On the other hand, I’ll bet that would be news to Al.

Would You Like to See Our Whine List?

Almost fifty years ago, Diana Nyad began fabricating myths about herself. The folks at Bold Missy, along with most of the rest of the public, accept those myths as fact. As a result, the Bold Missy Brewery used one of their creations to honor a woman who can’t tell the truth, whose raisons d’être are adoration and money, and who wants to erase from history every female athlete whose existence threatens to topple her Everest-sized pile of lies.

I don’t want to be the guy, though, who just sits around whining about craft-brewed injustice without suggesting remedies. Therefore, I offer the following alternatives to Bold Missy’s Find a Way. These alternatives honor genuinely great swimmers, not pretend ones.

What for? (Gertrude Ederle)
In 1926, twelve hours into the 21-year-old Ederle’s second attempt to swim the English Channel, the conditions became so dangerous that her crew demanded she leave the water. “What for?” she yelled back at them. Two hours later, she walked ashore in England, becoming the first woman in history to make the crossing. She beat the men’s record by almost an hour.

Double Trouble (Cindy Nicholas)
In 1977, Nicholas became the first woman to complete an English Channel double. She trounced the men’s record by over ten hours. Nicholas went on to complete 19 EC crossings total. (Nyad, on the other hand, never completed a single one. After three failed attempts in 1976, she never returned.)

Channel Queen (Allison Streeter MBE)
In 1982, Streeter completed her first English Channel crossing. In 2004, she finished her 43rd. Somewhere in between is the first women’s triple.

Bering Gifts (Lynne Cox)
Cox is one of the greatest cold-water marathon swimmers in history. In 1987, she braved 38-degree water to cross the Bering Strait between the U.S. and Russia, opening the border for the first time in 48 years. Cox set so many other records “out in the open sea” that I don’t dare begin listing them.

Sea You in Court (Sandra Bucha)
While in high school in Illinois, Bucha trained with the boys because the state had no swim teams for girls. In her senior year, she—with the support of her parents and coach—sued the Illinois High School Association to let her compete with the boys. Though she lost the suit, she “helped pave the way for thousands of girls and women to participate in sports” (ISHOF).

High school team or no, Bucha could swim: In her three years on the pro marathon swimming circuit, she never lost a race, and she always finished in the top three overall. Her pro winnings helped put her through law school. She now practices law in Florida (ISHOF).

Fourth Time’s the Charm (Sarah Thomas)
Not much more to say here other than that I’m with Diana—I plan to continue lauding that young woman “to no end, which she deserves.”

The Spectator posted this cartoon four days after that young woman finished her swim.

<°))̂)̖)><    ><((̗(̂(°>    <°))̂)̖)><    ><((̗(̂(°>    <°))̂)̖)><    ><((̗(̂(°>

So I’d like to propose a toast to all of the genuinely great marathon swimmers of the past, present, and future. Skål! Sláinte! L’chaim! Salud! Here’s to the real ones. May you all receive the recognition you deserve.

Screenshot from Diana Nyad Facebook video, 13 Nov 2019.



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