Up until a few weeks ago, 2007 was the earliest I’d found Diana Nyad claiming to be the first woman to swim around Manhattan (see The Score, 21 June 2007). I assumed, then, that Nyad waited for her six predecessors to pass away before leapfrogging to the front. The last-living of those six swimmers, Diane Struble, died in 2006. Continue reading →
Bonnie grabbed my shoulders…. She looked in my eyes, and she said, “Let’s find a way.”
And I took the leap. And we found our way. – Diana Nyad, Generation Bold, 18 Nov 2018, 4:51
To guarantee the success of her Cuba-Florida swim, Diana Nyad needed to construct a system that, ideally, would:
Overcome unfavorable currents at any time of the day or night.
Be easy to deploy and remove.
Be invisible—not only to outsiders (the press, curious boaters, etc.) but also to members of her team, most of whom would not be in on the plan.
Whatever method she settled on, she didn’t use it in previous attempts. She probably had not envisioned it yet, still dreaming that she could make the swim under her own power.
In the year leading up to the 2013 attempt, Nyad’s guide boat, Voyager, accompanied her during long practice swims. Again, whatever method she decided on, she had plenty of time during those swims to develop and test her system.
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 →
I have a theory about how Diana may have caught a ride during her Cuba-Florida crossing. Over the next month or so, I’ll make a case in support of that theory. Before that happens, though, we need to catch up on some currents.
For over forty years, Diana Nyad has longed for a biopic devoted to her favorite subject, Diana Nyad.* We know this because, during those forty years, she has made a number of pronouncements about just such an epic.
Another thing we know: the last post ended with “Up next: Not all is lost.”
It’s still true that not all is lost, but this other film-related subject caught my attention. I’ll do my best to return us to our home planet in the next post.
Meanwhile, back at the Annex…
Below is a chronological list—lightly and snarkily annotated—of all of Nyad’s biopic-related pronouncements that I know of. Please let me know if you’ve come across others. Continue reading →
The first pattern that emerged from the “110 Miles…” discussion on the Marathon Swimmers Forum was Diana Nyad’s policy of active un-engagement.
Don’t Rock the Boat
Diana and/or her handlers must have calculated that their boat already rode so low in the water that any movement might swamp it. So Diana either does not engage with skeptics; or, when she momentarily forgets herself and does engage, she quickly erases the evidence, pretends nothing happened, and hopes that the boat stops rocking.