In search of the truth about Diana Nyad



Marathon swimmer Diana Nyad began lying about herself and her career 50 years ago and never stopped.

Below are some of her major fabrications.

Please click on the quotes (blue text) for details, evidence, and links to sources.


National Title/World Record (1966)

“When I was 16 years old I won the United States Nationals. . . . Later that summer, I broke the world record for the 100-meter back stroke.”*

Nyad never finished better than 16th in a national meet, and she never came close to setting a world record.


*Text: From “The Courage To Succeed.”
Image: Via JETLINX.

Olympic Trials (1968)

“I remember it like it was yesterday. . . .
I looked up at the electronic scoreboard and I was sixth.”*

The 1968 women’s trials didn’t have an electronic scoreboard. Nyad didn’t know that, though, because she wasn’t there.


*Text: Ibid.
Image: Screenshot from “1968 Olympics: Women's Swimming Trials.”

First Pro Race (1970)

“It was a long day—37 hours and 38 minutes across Lake Ontario.”*

In her first professional race, Nyad swam 20 times around a rectangular, half-mile course set just off the beach. She set a new women’s record of 4 hours and 23 minutes.


“The lake was 48 degrees. . . .
I finished third among the 444 that day.”**

Nyad finished 10th out of 30 starters. Water temperature: between 64 and 66 degrees. If 444 swimmers had spent 30+ hours in 48-degree water, 444 swimmers would have died.


*Beachbody 2014, (23:27).

*K8 East (18:32, 21:14).

Manhattan (1975)

I was the first woman to swim around Manhattan Island.”*

Nyad was the seventh woman to complete the swim. Long before she jumped into the Hudson River, she knew she wouldn’t be the first.


*Text: Find a Way, p. 66.
Image: Nancy Moran.

The English Channel (1976)

“The only sort of world-class swim I had tried and failed at back in my twenties was going from Cuba to Florida.”*

When she was 27, Nyad attempted a two-way crossing of the English Channel. She tried three times and failed to get across once.


*TEDMED, 2011 (2:27).
Screenshot from Courage To Succeed, a documentary about the first two of Nyad’s three English Channel failures (clip).

Best of the Seventies

“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 hasn’t completed a single one of the major ocean swims on the planet, much less held records in them. She has never come close to being the best ocean swimmer of any decade.


*Wilshire Ebell presentation, 7 Oct 2019 (audio clip).

Images: Canada's Cindy Nicholas (Toronto City News file photo) and Australia’s Des Renford (via The Daily Telegraph, Sydney, Australia). In 1977, Nicholas became the first woman to complete a two-way crossing of the English Channel. She broke the overall record by almost ten hours. Renford completed 16 English Channel crossings between 1970 and 1979.

Dishonoring Women

“As a sports journalist and a feminist all my life, I take both joy and pride in honoring all great women athletes of all eras. . . .”*

Nyad frequently denigrates and dishonors other women athletes. If she’s not ignoring or demeaning them, she’s stealing their accomplishments and calling them her own.


*Text: “History Rewritten....to my GREAT Surprise!” 10 Jun 2011.
Image: One of Nyad’s favorite targets, Dutch great Judith de Nijs. Via mastersprint.nl.

Walter Poenisch

“He’s not a legal marathon swimmer. . . .
He does not swim by the rules.
He does not swim by the rules.
He’s a gimmick. . . .
In the world of sports, he’s a cheat.”*

In 1978, Walter Poenisch became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida. Unlike Nyad, he established a set of rules before the swim and followed them throughout. Nyad’s slander ended Poenisch’s swimming career and destroyed his life.


*New York Times, 14 Jul 1978.
Image: From Lori Gum’s “Lost At Sea” (via Laura Sanders’ archived layout site).

The Cuba Crossing (2013)

“I swam—we made it, our team—from the rocks of Cuba to the beach of Florida in squeaky clean, ethical fashion. . . .”*

Despite Nyad’s protestations to the contrary, she could not provide evidence that proved she swam from shore to shore under her own power. The available data indicates she did not.


*Conference call, 10 Sep 2013, (clip; also via CNN)
One of many episodes of touching and holding that would have disqualified any marathon swimmer attempting to complete a legitimate crossing. Photographer: Dawn Blomgren. Via The Diana Nyad Cuba-Florida Swim 2013 Report.



The following untruth shows that Diana Nyad will lie about anything.

Warning: Contains explicit language and other content some might find disturbing.

The Holocaust Survivor

“[S]he was made . . . into the SS officer’s little concubine. For the next two-and-a-half years . . . she, every day, had oral sex, anal sex, intercourse, you name it, with these grown men. She was three!”*

According to the former director of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, Nyad’s tale of a three-year-old sex slave at Dachau “is completely fictional.”


*Big Questions podcast, 21 Aug 2018 (story begins at 20:03)
Image: Wolfgang Manousek’s photo of the memorial sculpture at Dachau concentration camp.



Further Reading

Unreliable Natator

Nyad in her jellyfish mask

Omissions, Exaggerations, and Lies in Find a Way

Get ready for Nyad, an upcoming biopic based on Diana’s fabrication-filled memoir, Find a Way. Unreliable Natator is available on the web, as a pdf, or as an abridged pdf.

Image: Dawn Blomgren (detail). Via HuffPost.


51 Fabrications

An Overview of Nyad’s Untruths

A list of lies—one for each year since her first national exposure, and an extra one for good luck—on a single page.

Image: by Nancy Moran (detail)



Nyad Lies On Camera

This page’s clips and compilations show that Diana Nyad will look you in the eye and lie without a hint of shame.

Image: by Christi Barli. From the 12 July 2011 blog post, “This pole has changed my life.” Archived here without photos. ESPN republished it with the images.


The Packet

How Diana Nyad Tried to Manipulate the International Swimming Hall of Fame (and Failed)

Diana dissembles, defames, flatters, cajoles—and comes up empty-handed.

Image: via Trussville Tribune (detail).


The Best Worst Liar

Diana Nyad Never Lies The Same Way Once

But her fans don’t care. She has trained them to believe anything she says.



“If that [box jelly] tentacle touches . . . you’re dead instantaneously.”

Odds of surviving the touch of a box jelly tentacle in the Florida Straits: almost 100%.


“Thousands of four-foot squid were feeding in a massive frenzy, literally grabbing birds out of the air.”

Squid don’t do that, literally or figuratively.


When Nyad’s Lies Went National

“She Takes a Long Swim Off a Short Pier.”

In 1971, Sports Illustrated introduced “the best woman distance swimmer in the world” to a credulous nation.


The Family Business



Diana’s step-father, Aristotle Z. Nyad, was a pathological liar, smuggler, con artist, and a killer on the dance floor.

Image: detail from “The Embrace” by Milton Greene, 1952. Models: Nellie Nyad and unidentified partner. Via (and with thanks to) Sophia.


Arts & Education

“ . . . the feature film is evidently going to be made of my life and my story.”

Nyad counts her unborn chickens, part 1.


“They’re erecting a bronze statue of me in Key West. Oh my.”

Nyad counts her unborn chickens, part 2.

Image: detail from life-size marble bust by Jeff Hall.


“It went well. . . . The New York Times gave us a glowing review.”

The New York Times didn’t review The Swimmer.


“[She] holds a PhD in comparative literature. . . .”

Nyad holds no graduate degrees. Sometimes she’s honest about that.


Cuba Siempre!

“All the great swimmers of the ocean have tried [to swim from Cuba to Florida]—male, female, young, strong, fast. . . .”

Counting Nyad, six have made the attempt.


“The Dream was still alive for me now, at age sixty, but I hadn’t swum a stroke in thirty years.”

Fourteen max, and that’s stretching it.


“I was better at 60 than at 28—far better in every way, including physically.”

And squid can snatch birds out of the air.


Oops, Forgot Something

“ . . . my childhood and high school and college and maybe even a little bit longer—I remember almost nothing.”

C.f. Other Shores, Find a Way, and countless articles and interviews in which Nyad remembers plenty.


Nyad’s Main Man

All About Steve

Veteran swimmer and administrator Steven Munatones keeps popping up as Nyad’s champion, often defending the indefensible.

Image: from Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, 13 Oct 2013.


Ratification Infestation

Notes on Munatones’ retroactive recognition of Nyad’s Cuba–Florida crossing.


How a Hacker Made Diana Nyad the Best Marathon Swimmer of the 1970s

An investigation into vandalism at Openwaterpedia, Munatones’ “Wikipedia for the open water swimming world.”



“I just wanta say f**k you and hang up.”

Unfamiliar Quotations of Diana Nyad.