SwimSwam Brings Nyad’s ‘Eventual Comeuppance’ A Little Closer

SwimSwam Magazine and Riley Overend’s “Open Water Swimmers Have Mixed Feelings About New ‘Nyad’ Biopic Coming To Netflix” makes a couple of wrong turns but takes Diana Nyad skepticism seriously.

What I Loved About The Article

It’s a significant step toward what one legit best-of-the-’70s marathon swimmer called Nyad’s “eventual comeuppance.” I’m grateful SwimSwam was willing to risk Nyad’s wrath by publishing it.  And I appreciate all the time and effort journalist Riley Overend devoted to researching and writing the piece.

Other than a few 2013 articles just after Nyad’s crossing, this is only the second by someone outside of the marathon swimming community who takes Nyad skeptics seriously.

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A Letter To Diana Nyad Prompts The Doctoring Of Another Document

Steven Munatones distributed a significantly altered and abbreviated version of the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) report on Diana Nyad’s Cuba-Florida crossing, but he presented it as complete.

Earlier this month, I sent Diana Nyad a letter. It addressed questions about her Cuba–Florida crossing and how she might want to clear those up before the release of her biopic.

I copied the letter to 60 other people — journalists, folks involved with the film, representatives of swimming organizations, and her most ardent supporter in the marathon swimming community, Steven Munatones.

About a week after Munatones received the letter, he rode to Nyad’s rescue, just like he did when he doctored her Openwaterpedia entry to retroactively and illegitimately ratify her Cuba–Florida crossing.
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The Openwaterpedia Investigation: Why WOWSA Went Dark

Two months ago, the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) promised an investigation into the 2019 Openwaterpedia vandalism. They haven’t mentioned it since. Here’s why.

In February, I found conclusive evidence that WOWSA co-owner Steven Munatones vandalized Openwaterpedia, one of the organization’s sites, to make Diana Nyad’s best-swimmer-of-the-1970s fantasy appear legitimate. Shortly after I wrote about that evidence, the organization announced they’d look into it:

WOWSA takes these allegations seriously and has initiated an investigation to determine the veracity of these claims. To the extent any of these allegations are found to be true, appropriate action will be taken. (“An Update About Openwaterpedia,” 4 Mar 2023)

That was two months ago. WOWSA hasn’t posted a word about it since, nor have they taken any public action, appropriate or otherwise.

(NOTE: Minutes before I published this post, WOWSA uploaded, “Progress Through Change: WOWSA Restructuring.” Though it doesn’t directly address the Openwaterpedia investigation, I detect investigation-related activity between the lines.) 
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Free Solo Confidential: An Update

On March 2, I published an article about how Steven Munatones’s “Free Solo (Confidential)” led to proof that he sabotaged Openwaterpedia. Since then, a lot has happened: the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) announced an investigation, Steven Munatones began spamming Openwaterpedia with links to a revenge blog, and then everything went deafeningly quiet.

When WOWSA blocked Steven Munatones’s Openwaterpedia account on January 30 for “Inserting nonsense/gibberish into pages,” he must have felt that his own organization had betrayed him. When the WOWSA board unblocked him on February 22, I assumed Steven was back in WOWSA’s good graces, and they wouldn’t take my accusations seriously.

I’m pleased to say I was wrong.
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Free Solo Confidential: How The Openwaterpedia Vandal Gave Himself Away

Steven Munatones’ overreaction to an email leads to proof of his culpability for the 2019 Openwaterpedia sabotage.

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.
—Diana Nyad, Wilshire Ebell, 7 Oct 2019

Diana Nyad arguably held a record in one major 1970s ocean swim — the Capri–Naples race — but she never completed any others, much less held records in them. In 1976, she attempted the major ocean swim on the planet, the English Channel, three times and failed three times. She never came close to being the best swimmer of the decade.

However, between February and April of 2019, someone vandalized Openwaterpedia — the self-styled “Wikipedia for the open water swimming world” — to make it look like she was.

The culprit used an ingeniously simple ploy, replacing every “7” with a “6” on the entries of the legitimately great swimmers of the 1970s. This effectively moved their 70s swims into the 60s.

The culprit made two other replacements as a diversion: “3” for “4”; and the Cyrillic “s” for the Latin “s” in every occurrence of “openwaterswimming,” thereby breaking every openwaterswimming.com link.

Those changes and the alterations to over 3000 other Openwaterpedia entries provided a smokescreen that obscured the saboteur’s goal: Make Diana Nyad’s best-of-the-70s lie appear true.

Until a few weeks ago, I couldn’t be sure who went to so much trouble for Diana, though it seemed like it could be only one person: Steven Munatones. He had performed other shady tasks for Nyad before, some of which dovetail with the Openwaterpedia vandalism. The packet of documents he sent to the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF), presumably to prompt them to both ratify Nyad’s Cuba–Florida crossing and to nominate her for induction, was timed to arrive just after the vandal subtracted a decade from most of the greatest swims of the 1970s. Later, when it became apparent the ISHOF scheme had failed, he used Openwaterpedia to falsely ratify Nyad’s Cuba endeavor.

But I didn’t have absolute proof that Munatones — International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee, World Open Water Swimming Associaton co-owner, and Diana Nyad’s most steadfast defender in the marathon swimming community — was responsible.

I do now.
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The DNFCA Christmas Special: “My Emergence Is What It’s All About!”

The Diana Nyad Fact Check Annex and Saturday Night Live join forces for a Diana Nyad Christmas episode.

In the late 1970s, director Gary Weis created short films that aired during episodes of SNL. The 1976 Christmas episode included one about Diana Nyad. The three-minute montage killed the otherwise festive holiday vibe:

At the time, Nyad’s repertoire of untruths was small compared to what it is today. But she managed to sneak few in.

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DNFCA Hanukka Special: A Latka For Diana

In 1979, Andy Kaufman, aka Taxi’s Latka Gravas, challenged Diana Nyad to a wrestling match. Diana declined, but at least two of Kaufman’s challenges remain.

Photo of Andy Kaufman wearing t-shirt printed with "Women's Wrestling Champion Of The World"
Above: Andy Kaufman in 1980. Image via Reddit.

In the late 1970s, boundary-breaking performance artist/comedian Andy Kaufman began challenging women to wrestle.

In August 1979, Diana Nyad swam from Bimini, Bahamas, to Jupiter, Florida. As you’d expect, she immediately began exaggerating and lying about her feat: She said that she was the first to do it, she had swum over 100 miles, it had taken over 40 hours, her press boat—a big yacht—had “a slew of photographers leaning over the railings,” and she had set a new record for the world’s longest swim.

None of that was true.

I don’t know when Kaufman first challenged Nyad to a match, but it may have come in response to Nyad’s post-Bimini bluster. Unfortunately, she never accepted.

Fortunately, Kaufman challenged Nyad on camera at least twice.

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Grow Further Interview, Part 2: Diana Nyad And The Case Of The Vomiting Valedictorian

Early in the podcast, Diana Nyad begins a detailed description of her sixth-grade graduation. I didn’t question this tale when I first heard it last year. This time, though, something felt off. Maybe it was her “little patent leather shoes,” a curiously specific detail from someone who claims she doesn’t remember anything from childhood. In fact, she makes this claim a few minutes after telling her graduation story (6:19). Consistency is not one of Nyad’s strengths.
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The Grow Further Interview, Part 2: Cuba Swim, Inc.

Diana Nyad is ready to wring every money-making and attention-grabbing opportunity she can from her upcoming biopic. She’s been fantasizing about this moment for over 40 years.

Above: Detail from Miami Herald, 31 July 1978. According to an article published the following week, Nyad’s company “Cuba Swim Inc has a 24-member staff [and] is bigger, gaudier and costlier than anything like it before.”
In the second part of Diana Nyad’s Grow Further interview, she describes her upcoming biopic as an orgy of opportunity:

I have a fairly long list of things that, if that movie is going to have a moment, if it’s going to be recognized, and win some awards, etc., which means my story will be out there again and have a bit of a moment again . . . (10:34)

. . . she’s going to take advantage of that moment:
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The Vomiting Valedictorian And Other Tales From Diana Nyad’s Grow Further Interview, Part 2

In Grow Further, part 1, “Everyone Has a Story,” Diana dropped a bunch of big names and gave atrocious storytelling advice. In part 2, “The DNA of Storytelling,” she continues to lead by bad example while providing irrefutable evidence that lying is in her genes.

In 1976,  Diana Nyad told the Village Voice that she lied all the time, but only to impress herself, adding, “I don’t have to do that anymore.” In other words, Nyad admitted to being a compulsive liar—that she had to lie—but claimed she could stop.

She doesn’t, however, say she won’t. That’s because she can’t. Nyad’s as reliable as the tides: every appearance carries with it new untruths and novel variations on old ones.

In part 2 of Nyad’s Grow Further interview, she reaffirms her position as one of the most prolific and convincing liars in sports history. From nonsense about a 70-year-old film to a sixth-grade classmate barfing in the bathroom to “a little something” with Annette Bening, Diana Nyad can’t stop.

(Note: I’ve divided this post into three parts. I’ll post part 2, “Cuba Swim, Inc.” tomorrow and part 3, “Diana Nyad and the Case of the Vomiting Valedictorian,” on Monday.)
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