DianaNyadFactCheck

 

 

 

51 Fabrications

Compiled by Daniel Slosberg

 

 

From insignificant to grand, funny to abhorrent, career-making to why-does-she-bother — Diana Nyad’s stories coalesce into a single truth: she began lying about herself and her career 50 years ago and never stopped. In the list below, I’ve gathered a representative sample of the tales Diana Nyad tells.

I set four ground rules for preparing the list:

  1. No repeats or near-repeats. So, for instance, Nyad says that she missed qualifying for the Olympic trials because she was sick for either two months, three months, four months, one year, or “years.” (See “Sick!”). I count that as one lie. On the other hand, when a single quote has multiple inaccuracies, I sometimes list them individually.
  2. Stick to first-person fabrications. I break this rule twice: For #3, I quote Dan Levin in Sports Illustrated. For #6, I quote from a Nyad press release.
  3. Focus on swimming-related untruths. Nyad makes up stories about everything. However, I’m not trying to convince you that she’s one of the greatest frauds in history, just one of the greatest frauds in sports history. I break this rule between two and six times, depending on how strictly you hold me to “swimming-related.”

 

If you’re already familiar with Nyad’s fabrications and want to focus on new material, you’ll find most of it in two places: the first section, particularly in the “Details” portion of the North Sea race (#4) and the Australia swim (#5); and “The Packet” section, which deals with letters Nyad wrote to Brent Rutemiller, the director of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, in 2019.

Note: Much of this material originally appeared elsewhere on the DNFC site or in the DNFC Annex. I borrowed/stole design ideas from a page at the Toronto Star.

 

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Fake Records, Inflated Feats, and Phantom Swims

Diana Nyad often pads her resume with records she didn’t set and swims she didn’t complete. For swims she did complete, she changes the circumstances to inflate her accomplishments.

  1.

“It came to be that when I was 16 years old I won the United States Nationals. I was the best in the United States.”

Source: “Courage to Succeed”


IN FACT : Nyad never placed higher than 16th at the U.S. Nationals.


Details : “A National Title & A World Record (1966)”

 

  2.

“Later that summer, I broke the world record for the 100-meter back stroke. I was the best in the world!”

Source: “Courage to Succeed”


IN FACT : Nyad never came close to breaking a world record.


Details : “A National Title & A World Record (1966).”

 

  3.

“In the next three years she won the 100-yard backstroke at six state meets, but she never surpassed her 12th-place finish in the nationals.”

Source: Sports Illustrated


IN FACT : Nyad grew up and swam in Florida, which held only one state meet a year. In those “next three years,” Nyad won once, in 1967. She placed second in 1965 and got disqualified in 1966. As per fabrication #1, Nyad never placed higher than 16th at any national meet.


Details : The above citation comes from “She Takes a Long Swim Off a Short Pier, ” the 1971 Sports Illustrated profile that gave Nyad her first national exposure. The article contained everything that characterized Nyad’s future appearances in the media: exaggerations, lies, and the occasional truth she later contradicts or abandons.

The profile’s author, Dan Levin, stands in for what would become Nyad’s credulous admirers. By the time Levin profiled Nyad, her marathon swimming career consisted of five professional races, only three of which she finished. She hadn’t yet attempted the English Channel or any other solo endeavor. Yet, by the end of his article’s first paragraph, Levin had declared that Nyad — a “pretty distance swimmer . . . with honey-colored skin and built like a Greek goddess” — was “the best woman distance swimmer in the world.”

 

  4.

“I swam in the North Sea a few years back, a race down the Dutch coast that took me 40 hours and 3 minutes.”

Source: PBS/John Callaway (clip)


IN FACT : Other than Nyad’s statements and publicity materials, no evidence exists for this race or either of the following two swims.


Details : “Anatomy of a 1978 Press Release.” Nyad’s bio at the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) listed this swim and the next pair as of August 2016, but someone had removed them by the following February.

 

  5.

[Of a 50-mile swim off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia] “I completed the swim in 24 hours, 13 minutes.”

Source: Other Shores, pp. 167-68


IN FACT : Again, no evidence for this swim exists other than Nyad’s statements and publicity materials.


Details : See “Anatomy of a 1978 Press Release.” Nyad’s International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF) bio listed this swim and the next one as of May 2014, but they’re gone now.

 

  6.

“St. Thomas to Virgin Gorda / 31 miles in 9 hours, 35 minutes / World Record set in March 1975”

Source: Press release


IN FACT : And again, no evidence for this swim other than Nyad’s statements and publicity materials.


Details : See “Anatomy of a 1978 Press Release.”

 

 

Olympic Trials

  7.

“[B]y the grace of God, I made it into the final eight. The Olympic trials were at Long Beach.”

Source: “Courage to Succeed”


IN FACT : Nyad didn’t make it into the finals because she never qualified to compete in the Olympic trials. And the 1968 women’s event took place in Los Angeles, not Long Beach.


Details : “Olympic Trials (1968).”

 

  8.

“I was in the 400 individual medley. When I got on the ‘block’ for 1968, for the Olympic trial, I knew I was going to make it. . . .”

Source: Military Life


IN FACT : Nyad did not swim the 400 individual medley — or any event, for that matter — at the Olympic trials. See above.


Details : “Olympic Trials (1968).”

 

  9.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. . . . I looked up at the electronic scoreboard and I was sixth. I didn’t go to Mexico City after all that.”

Source: “Courage to Succeed”


IN FACT : The 1968 U.S. Women’s Olympic Trials in swimming did not have an electronic scoreboard. Nyad didn’t know that, of course, because she wasn’t there.


Details : “Olympic Trials (1968).”

 

10.

“Junior year I contracted a heart disease called endocarditis, which required three months of strict bed rest.”

Source: Find a Way, p. 49


IN FACT : Nyad often says she missed going to the Olympics because she got sick. However, her illness story varies wildly from telling to telling. In the earliest and closest-to-the-truth version, she falls ill two summers before the trials and must remain out of the water for six weeks. In later versions, her doctor orders bed rest for months or even years.


Details : “Diana’s Kaleidoscopic Convalescence” and “The Best Worst Liar.” Note: Nyad occasionally admits that she was never an Olympic-caliber pool swimmer. Other times, however, she says things like, “I was considered a ‘sure thing.’ The media considered it a tragic case when I didn’t make it” (Barnard Bulletin).

 

 

First Pro Race

Nyad won her first professional race — a 10-miler in Lake Ontario in 1970 — and set a record in the process. Even so, when she talks about the race, she usually fabricates everything but the location. Each version I cite here contains multiple and varied inaccuracies in a story that would be a triumph if Nyad told the truth.

11.

“The lake was 48 degrees.”

Source: K8 East conference keynote address, 18:32


IN FACT : Race reports gave temperatures between 64 and 66 degrees.


Details : “First Pro Race (1970).”

 

12.

“I finished third among the 444 that day.”

Source: K8 East conference keynote address, 21:14


IN FACT : Nyad finished 10th out of 30 starters.


Details : “First Pro Race (1970).”

 

13.

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

Source: Beachbody 2014 keynote address, 23:27


IN FACT : Nyad had a great race, setting a women’s record of 4:23 for the 10 miles. The competitors swam 20 times around a rectangular, half-mile course just off the beach.


Details : “First Pro Race (1970).”

 

14.

“Well, I finished third among the men that day. There were 200 men swimming in this race. . . . So the Dutch woman [Judith de Nijs] later that day announced her retirement from the whole sport. I mean, this is great power! I retired someone out of the sport and I just loved it. ”

Source: “Courage to Succeed” (for slightly different video version, see K8 East, 21:14)


IN FACT : Dutch great Judith de Nijs dominated pro marathon swimming in the 1960s. Nyad beat her by 12 minutes at Lake Ontario, but that did not cause de Nijs to announce her retirement and "never swim again," Nyad's frequent boasts to the contrary notwithstanding. De Nijs swam the next week, took a year off to have a baby, then didn't stop swimming for at least 41 more years.


Details : For much more on Nyad's denigration of Judith de Nijs, see the de Nijs section of “Dishonoring Women.”

 

Manhattan

Nyad was the 7th woman to swim around the island. She knew the names and times of at least two and probably more of her predecessors when she jumped into the Hudson in 1975.

15.

“A little research told the stories of a handful of men who had swum all the way around [Manhattan], in the early 1900s, but it hadn’t been done since 1927.”

Source: Find a Way, p.63


IN FACT : At least three people — two of them women — swam around Manhattan Island between 1927 and 1975.


Details : “Manhattan (1975),” “Nyad’s Manhattan First.” For a list of all Manhattan swimmers, see “Manhattan Island circumnavigation swims.”

Cf. “[Nyad] spoke to a man who had completed the swim in 1961” (Sports Illustrated). In her first memoir, Other Shores, Nyad wrote about the sixth woman to circle the island: “Diane Struble plunged into the Battery waters on August 15, 1959, and reached her original starting point in 11 hours, 21 minutes.”

 

16.

“I checked with the Coast Guard as to the logistics and in planning with them, learned that in the early years of the 20th century, when the rivers of New York were much cleaner, there were men who did swim around the island. Women were never mentioned to me.”

Source: “History Rewritten . . . . to my GREAT Surprise!”


IN FACT : It was common knowledge that New York’s rivers ran with sewage and other pollutants “in the early years of the 20th century.” They remained filthy until Congress approved amendments to the Clean Water Act in 1972.

 

“Women were never mentioned to me” could technically be true if she learned about her predecessors via written sources only.


Details : “Diana’s Great Surprise, part 2.” Nyad likely knew that Elionsky and Struble were not the only women who preceded her around the island: Nyad prefaces her description of Struble’s swim with, “I will simply mention the male and female record holders.”

 

17.

“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.”

Source: “History Rewritten . . .”


IN FACT : Nyad does not take joy and pride in honoring anyone but herself. If she mentions other female swimmers, it’s usually to denigrate them or minimize their accomplishments.


Details : “Dishonoring Women.” A CNN investigation of her first-woman-around-Manhattan claim found that Nyad attempted to erase from history the six pioneering athletes who preceded her around the island. In response to the findings, Nyad posted “History Rewritten . . .,” a masterclass in dissimulation. The post later disappeared from Nyad’s blog, but you can still find it at the Internet Archive.

 

18.

“Before Cuba, way back in 1975, the swim that made my heart race was Manhattan. I was the first woman to circle the island. . . . What a memory!”

Source: Facebook (screenshot here)


IN FACT : Again, Diana Nyad was the 7th woman to swim around Manhattan Island.


Details : “Manhattan (1975). ”You can watch and hear Nyad make this claim multiple times in “Stealing First.” Also, listen to her make it on NPR station KCRW: "The Score" (clip).

 

19.

“The paper of record at the time declared . . . that I had become the first woman ever to swim around the most famous island in the world.”

Source: “History Rewritten . . .”


IN FACT : No newspaper declared Nyad first. The New York Times, presumably the ‘paper of record,’ includes the following in its article about Nyad’s swim: “In 1959 Diane Strubel made the trip in 11 hours 59 minutes.”


Details : "What did the Times say" section of “Manhattan (1975).”

 

20.

“The athletic details of the day, being the fastest to date, and the first woman, weren’t of any great significance to me. It was much more about the inspiration of the moment.”

Source: “History Rewritten . . .”


IN FACT : Nyad’s statements in the decades after she swam around Manhattan reveal that “the athletic details of the day” were everything to her. And if she didn’t like particular details, she made up new ones.


Details : “Diana’s Great Surprise, part 1.”

 

21.

“[I]magine my mind-boggling surprise . . . to hear that there were in fact one or maybe two or maybe even as many as half a dozen women who did swim around Manhattan back in the early days!!!!!”

Source: “History Rewritten . . .”


IN FACT : Nyad knew that other women had circled Manhattan. So, if the CNN investigation’s findings surprised her, it wasn’t because she had just learned about her Manhattan predecessors.


Details : “Surprise!” section of “Diana’s GREAT Surprise, part 2.”

NOTE: Nyad posted “History Rewritten . . .” in June 2011. Then, in a May 2012 Elle profile of Nyad, we learn that "Diana decided to try swimming around Manhattan. This had been done a few decades earlier by men but never by a woman."

 

22.

“My motivations in doing the Manhattan swim were high-minded.”

Source: Find a Way, p. 66


IN FACT : A month after she circled Manhattan, Nyad spoke frankly about why she did it: “I would not deny that the day to day motivations are fame and fortune. . . . I want very much to be recognized.” (Ft. Lauderdale News)


Details : “Motivation, part 1” section of “Unfamiliar Quotations of Diana Nyad.” See also: “The business of marathon swimming is growing, so much so that Diana now jokingly refers to herself as ‘Nyad Enterprises.’” (womenSports, March 1976)

 

 

The English Channel & Related Matters

Diana turned 27 in 1976. That summer, she tried to become the first woman to complete a two-way crossing (66 km/41 mi) of the English Channel. She made three attempts and never made it even one way.

23.

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

Source: TEDMED, 2:28


IN FACT : Diana turned 27 in 1976. That summer, she tried and failed three times to cross the English Channel — the iconic, world-class marathon swim.


Details : “English Channel (1976).”

 

24.

“I’ve been to the English Channel three times and had the worst weather in the world.”

Source: PBS/John Callaway (clip)


IN FACT : Documentary footage exists for the first two of her three attempts. Nyad had ideal conditions on her first go. Her second attempt proved rougher, but nothing a seasoned marathon swimmer couldn’t manage. (Since “ideal” is subjective, you can judge for yourself by comparing Nyad’s conditions to those of Australian swimmer Paul Newsome’s successful 2011 crossing.)


Details : “English Channel (1976).” Neither of Nyad’s first two attempts came close to being “the worst weather in the world.” (Footage may exist from attempt #3, but it never became public.)

 

25.

[Of her August 30 attempt] “I knew that the weather was going to beat me this time. Another fifteen or twenty minutes of trying to straighten my leg, trying to fight the swells, and that was it. The first time I defeated myself; this time I was had by a greater force than anyone could battle. . . . The wind was now at force 6, all the landlubbers had been violently sick and I saw from a better vantage point that the channel was a mass of breaking whitecaps.”

Source: Other Shores, p. 133-34


IN FACT : All of August turned out to be a pretty good month of weather. Witness: On August 31, Erdal Acet of Turkey crosses in 9:02, setting the men’s record. On the same day, 20-year-old Wendy Brook, a student-teacher from Yorkshire, England, races across in 8:56 to becomes the first human to break nine hours. A reader pointed out that four swimmers set English Channel records that August, the most in any month in history. “It screams GOOD conditions,” he noted. The other two were American Tina Bischoff’s overall and women’s mark of 9:03 on the 3rd; and Syria’s Marawan Saleh’s men’s record of 9:27 on the 18th.


Details : “English Channel (1976).”

 

26.

“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.”

Source: Wilshire Ebell keynote presentation


IN FACT : Diana Nyad never completed any of the major ocean swims, much less set records for them. She did set a women’s record in an important ocean race in 1974 — Capri-Naples, which takes place in the warm water of a relatively sheltered bay. One victory and one record, however, hardly justifies a claim of “best ocean swimmer in the world.” What’s more, in the same race the following year, she finished behind three other women and 14th overall. Diana Nyad was never the best ocean swimmer of any decade.


Details : “The Best of the ’70s,” “Nyad at the Ebell, part 1: The Best on Planet Earth.” Cf. “There are greater swimmers in the world. But I’m the one with charisma. I have the asset of being articulate. I can get out of the water and make people interested in my story” (Diana Nyad, Miami Herald, 31 Jul 1978).

 

27.

“Sandra Bucha has beaten me a couple of times in individual swims. I’ve been beaten by Corrie Dixon. They were better than me on those days.”

Source: Esquire, Oct 1975


IN FACT : “A couple of times” should read “every time.” During Bucha’s three years on the pro circuit (1973-1975), she left all of the women and most of the men in her wake. Nyad lost to Bucha by an average of one hour and twenty minutes per race. The closest Nyad finished behind Bucha was 31 minutes. Nyad once lost to her by over three hours.

 

Nyad never finished higher than sixth overall in an individual race. Sandra Bucha, on the other hand, always finished third or better.

 

To be fair, Nyad beat Corrie Dixon once.


Details : “Corrie Dixon & Sandra Bucha” section of “Dishonoring Women.”

 

28.

“So from a child, age nine, Cuban revolution happened for me, I was buzzing with — not the English Channel and not the Catalina Island swim and not the Manhattan Island swim. I did some of those, I held the records for some of those. But I was fascinated with this Cuba thing.”

Source: Fail It Forward podcast, 24:30


IN FACT : Of the swims Nyad names, she only completed Manhattan, for which she set the speed record. So, holding records in “some of those” would be impossible since she only swam one of the three. 


Details : Cuba section of “Nyad Movie Mayday?” Note also that Nyad implies she began thinking about the Cuba swim when she was nine. In her first memoir, though, she says she came up with the idea in 1977.

 

 

 

The Packet

By August 2019, Nyad’s 2013 Cuba-Florida crossing had still not been ratified by any governing organization. On August 10, Steven Munatones — founder of the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) and Nyad’s most ardent supporter in the marathon swimming community — informed me via email that he sent “records, data and information” about Nyad’s crossing to the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF). “This information,” he wrote, “all stands to scrutiny in my experience - that is why I submitted it to the Hall of Fame.”

I recently obtained copies of the documents. If we assume that “stands to scrutiny” means “demonstrates Nyad swam from Cuba to Florida under her own power,” the documents do the opposite. The materials Munatones sent — and the conspicuous absence of the documents he didn’t* — expose the weakness of Nyad’s case for a legitimate swim.**

On 9 June 2021, I emailed Steven and asked what he meant by “stands to scrutiny.” As of today, 30 June 2021, he hasn’t responded.

*The rules and any original logs, though Nyad alludes to both throughout the materials.

 

**On 14 August 2019, Munatones altered Diana Nyad’s Openwaterpedia entry to read that her Cuba-Florida crossing “has been long recognized since 2 September 2013 by the World Open Water Swimming Association that wrote the rules of the attempts and approved the onboard observers.” This came after six years of WOWSA silence on the subject, an unusual delay at best. The Openwaterpedia change also contradicts Munatones’ 2013 statement that the swim “had no organization regulating it” (Miami Herald).

 

29.

“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Bonnie Stoll.”

Source: “Bonnie Stoll” letter to Brent Rutemiller, director of the ISHOF


IN FACT : Diana Nyad wrote the letter, not Stoll (Nyad’s best friend and head handler). If I write a letter in your name, and you sign it, it becomes your letter. Stoll, however, didn’t sign this one, raising the possibility that Nyad wrote and submitted it without Stoll’s knowledge. For comparison, the real Bonnie Stoll wrote this letter, which Munatones also included in the packet.


Details : “Notes on Bonnie Stoll’s letter to Brent Rutemiller.” If Nyad could prove she completed a legitimate swim, she wouldn’t need to write a letter pretending to be Bonnie.

 

30.

“Two completely independent observers who split the hours, one of them at a time always eyes on me at close range, taking notes, submitting their logs to account for every single minute.”

Source: Nyad letter to Rutemiller


IN FACT : Logs that “account for every single minute” don’t exist. If they did, we’d have seen them by now. Nyad posted transcribed versions of the logs, but they show irregular record-keeping throughout — including two gaps with no entries for over five hours each. (See collated logs here, chart showing log entry timing here.)


Details : “The Cuba Crossing.” See also the first of two lawsuit threats Nyad makes in the letter:

Were we to, for instance, go to court with this, the truth of my swimming every stroke from Havana to Key West, every minute of the 52 hours, 54 minutes, unaided, never a moment’s help in either staying afloat or in moving forward, would be proven quickly and unequivocally.

In her second lawsuit threat, Nyad alleges that former ISHOF director Bruce Wigo slandered her in a letter he wrote to Trisha Logan, Historic Preservation Planner for the City of Fort Lauderdale. Nyad accuses Wigo of “falsely maligning me” by saying that she rarely trained in the ocean off Ft. Lauderdale. However, Nyad did not begin marathon swimming until after leaving Florida. Other than Nyad’s word, no evidence exists that the waters off “Las Olas there” held any significance for her career.

Nyad’s “first flicker of imagining swimming all the way across from Cuba” story is also demonstrably false. She alludes here to the fairy tale in her second memoir, Find a Way, p. 15:

I remember standing on that Fort Lauderdale beach at age nine with my mother.

“Where is Cuba, Mom? I can’t see it. Where exactly is it out there?”

And she pulled me close to her and raised her arm to point toward the horizon. “There. It’s right over there. You can’t see it but it’s so close, you could almost swim there.”

Two problems with this: First, Lucy Nyad would have been pointing at the Bahamas. More importantly, Nyad tells an entirely different story about discovering the Cuba swim in her 1978 memoir, Other Shores. In that version, Nyad has her Cuba revelation in April 1977, when she’s 27. She mentions nothing about her mother nor Fort Lauderdale.

There was someone, though, thinking about swimming from Cuba to Florida when Diana Nyad was nine years old: Walter Poenisch, the man who later sued Nyad for slander and won. Much of what Nyad writes about Wigo is also slanderous. Nyad may have lashed out at him because his letter helped quash the drive for a Florida State Historical Marker honoring her. (Wigo’s letter appears by permission of the author.)

 

Comparison of time between observer entries in Diana Nyad’s Cuba-Florida crossing to those of Sarah Thomas’s 67-hour 2017 Lake Champlain swim. Nyad’s observers made irregularly timed entries and left indefensible gaps.

 

31.

“Save one individual, all the people on that call declared afterwards that the navigation of the swim was understood and that Diana in fact swam shore to shore, fair and square.”

Source: “Stoll” letter to Rutemiller


IN FACT : The opposite is true: Nyad and her navigator convinced few if any of those on the call that she completed a legitimate swim.


Details : “Nyad’s Statements After the 10 September 2013 Conference Call.” Also, see fabrication #44. I attempted to contact all 14 marathon swimmers on the call. Ten responded, none of whom said that Nyad and Bartlett had verified the swim to their satisfaction. Six said outright that Nyad and Bartlett hadn’t proven anything. One said “I am willing to swear that much of what [Nyad] claims to have said or to have happened on the call are lies.”

See also: “[Bartlett’s] empirical proof of our course satisfied all but a couple of what they call online ‘haters’” (Find A Way, p. 278).

 

32.

“It has come to my attention that there primarily exist three people, there motives a mystery to me, who speak ill of me in the marathon swimming community, who illogically express doubts as to the veracity of the Cuba swim, and who malign my honorable character.”

Source: Nyad letter to Rutemiller


IN FACT : By the time Diana Nyad wrote this letter, she knew that she had many skeptics in the community, and she knew why they were skeptical.


Details : See, for example, “110 miles, 53 hours: Questions for Diana Nyad,” a discussion on the Marathon Swimmers Forum that began immediately after Nyad came ashore in 2013. Also, see the later “Investigation of Diana Nyad Cuba-Florida Swim Timeline.” There was never any mystery about why the skeptics doubted Nyad. She must have wrongly assumed that Rutemiller knew little about marathon swimmers and their concerns regarding her endeavors.

 

33.

“It seems the crux of these three contending my Cuba Swim was not legitimate is their allegation that during both nights I climbed onto the boat and rested, while the boat glided forward faster than my swimming speed, and then I slithered back into the water before dawn.”

Source: Nyad letter to Rutemiller


IN FACT : Nyad never names her three doubters. I hope, however, that she now includes me, and I never alleged that she spent both nights on the boat. Nor has anyone else, though some skeptics have suggested the possibility. So Nyad floats the boat-ride theory as one of the packet’s many decoys (see Straw man). Nyad must distract readers from the real problem: she can’t prove the legitimacy of her swim.


Details : Attachment Disorder, part 1 - part 2 (“Everything’s All Right”) - part 3 (“Well-Connected”). Also see “Chasing The Swimmer, part 2: Key West ♡s Diana Nyad.”

For more on the packet, please see “The Packet: How Diana Nyad Attempted to Manipulate the International Swimming Hall of Fame and Failed.”

 

More Cuba

34.

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

Source: Brink of Midnight podcast, 28:05


IN FACT : Including Nyad, six people have attempted to swim from Cuba to Florida.


Details : “Everybody’s Doin’ It.”

 

35.

“And there it was. Cuba. I hadn’t swum, literally, for 30 years. From age 30 to age 60, hadn’t taken one single stroke.”

Source: Huffington Post


IN FACT : Nyad completed at least two swims between the ages of 30 and 60. She teamed up for a relay across the Long Island Sound when she was 39, and she finished the Alcatraz Sharkfest when she was 49. Presumably, she trained for those two events and possibly others.


Details : “No Escape!” See also: “The dream was still alive for me now, at age sixty, but I hadn’t swum a stroke in thirty years” (Find a Way, p. 117).

 

36.

“None of us had reason to imagine this swim would be anything more than a private enterprise.”

Source: Find a Way, p. 121


IN FACT : Nyad swims for attention. She never does anything solely as a “private enterprise.”


Details : See “[I]f I get to the Florida coast, that will be one of the most historic moments in sports. I am not going to compare it to Lindbergh, but it is certainly going to be bigger than Gertrude Ederle finishing the English Channel.” (“Diana Nyad’s Magnificent Obsession,” New Times, 26 Jun 1978. More here.)

 

37.

“[N]ow another elite Australian swimmer named Chloë McCardel has her sights on being the first to cross without aid. . . . [S]he is issuing statements about the Cuba Swim being the Mount Everest of ultradistance swimming.”

Source: Find a Way, p. 244


IN FACT : No one but Nyad equates the Cuba swim with Mt. Everest.


Details : “The Everest Lie.” McCardel once said: “I’ve swum the English Channel, and that’s like climbing Everest.” That’s a much more apt analogy. By the way, McCardel has swum the English Channel 37 times as of June 2021.

 

38.

“I never ever knew that we would not be trusted.”

Source: Reuters, 10 Sep 2013


IN FACT : Nyad knew she would not be trusted. Her actions guaranteed it.


Details : See below.

 

#38 details — some of the many reasons experienced marathon swimmers don’t trust Diana Nyad

 

  • The Heat-Drip Device
    Those nay-sayers emerged in July 2012 when Nyad announced — in a since-deleted Facebook post — that she would flout marathon swimming rules by trying out a “heat-drip device” during her upcoming attempt. On 18 July, marathon swimmer and award-winning blogger Donal Buckley tweeted,

     

    @diananyad’s ridiculous heat contraption is actually bad for marathon swimming I think. We should be as vocal as possible about it.”

     

    Nyad replied,

     

    @donalbuckley respectfully, could you the blog on my site on this issue...prib won’t use the system at all but we all need to advance spirt.”

     

    Nyad then posted (and later deleted) her “Response to Heat Drip Dialogue,” to which a number of naysayers responded (see comments). On 3 August, Buckley posted “Comments on Diana Nyad’s Heat Drip device,” which features a video link to Nyad’s since-purged YouTube account.

 

  • The Oldest Rule, Broken
    Another 2012 Marathon Swimmers Forum discussion included questions about the absence of published rules for Nyad’s crossings. (Note that the first message contains a link to another deleted video. Seeing a pattern here?) Buckley noted, “NBC reported ‘Nyad was not allowed to touch or be touched by any of the support crews or vessels,’” yet video from the crossing shows Nyad holding onto the boat (see video below #42). “There is no justification even possible for this,” he continued. “It’s the oldest rule. Broken.” (“[N]ot allowed to touch” statement here.)

 

  • Approved By The Sport Of Marathon Swimming
    Nyad will often claim that she plans to follow the rules of marathon swimming, after which defines those rules in whatever way suits her or she just ignores them altogether. On 31 July 2012, she blogged about a new full-body suit she would wear to protect herself from jellyfish stings. “Here it is,” she wrote. “Approved by the sport of ocean swimming.” However, no one other than Diana Nyad had approved the suit. The following February, Evan Morrison, co-founder of the Marathon Swimmers Federation, published the results of his “Marathon Swimming Rules Survey.” One finding: a representative sample of marathon swimmers split 50/50 on whether stinger suits like Nyad’s should be allowed, hardly grounds to say “approved by the sport of ocean swimming.”

 

  • Active Skeptics a Foregone Conclusion
    Here is Munatones writing just before Nyad walked ashore at Key West:

     

    “Not everyone was in her camp and a few never will be. She faced derision from coaches and marathon swimmers; she faced numerous no-thank-yous from sponsors. She often faced disbelief and reluctance. She regularly faced suspicion and incredulity” (“Lessons Learned From Diana Nyad,” archived here).

     

    And finally, there’s this from one of Nyad’s 2013 boat captains:

     

    “[D]uring preparation for the swim, it was a foregone conclusion amongst the seasoned crew members that there were lots of active skeptics in the past and for sure there would be in the future” (via text message, Feb 2018).

 

39.

[On Walter Poenisch] “He does not swim by the rules.”

Source: NY Times


IN FACT : In July 1978, Poenisch became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida. Unlike Nyad, Poenisch published rules before he began and followed them throughout his swim.


Details : “Walter Poenisch inducted to ISHOF, 39 years after historic Cuba swim.” Diana Nyad has not been inducted, though she received the ISHOF's Al Schoenfield Media Award in 2002.

 

40.

“He’s a gimmick. He’s a cheat.”

Source: NY Times


IN FACT : Poenisch did not cheat. To prove that, Poenisch sued Nyad and won.


Details : “Lost at Sea: Walter Poenisch, his Cuba-to-Florida swim, and his stolen honor.” Also, see “Walter Poenisch.” After Poenisch, Nyad slandered him in the press, destroying his swimming career and ruining his life. Poenisch and his wife sued Nyad and won an out-of-court settlement and written apology. Appropriately enough, all of Nyad’s lies about Poenisch turn out to be true about her.

 

41.

“We proved without a shadow of a doubt that I swam without any assistance whatsoever from shore to shore.”

Source: Reddit AMA. Also here.


IN FACT : Nyad never proved that she swam unassisted from shore to shore. Her swim has yet to be ratified by a legitimate governing organization.


Details : “The Cuba Crossing.”

 

42.

“We did not break one rule. I never of course touched a boat or another person.”

Source: Facebook reply, since deleted (screenshot)


IN FACT : Nyad never published any rules, though she talked about them a lot.


Details : “Disqualified.” Also, see note #2 at “The Lies in Find a Way.” In the lip service Nyad paid to rules, she gave particular attention to the first commandment of marathon swimming: thou shalt not touch. “It was very important that no one touch me,” she said at her post-swim press conference, “cause you’re disqualified.” Nyad later admitted that her crew members touched her multiple times during the crossing. Under any extant set of marathon swimming rules, Nyad would have been disqualified multiple times.

 

Nyad grabs the boat during her 2012 Cuba-Florida attempt. This would have resulted in immediate disqualification under any set of marathon swimming rules.

 

43.

“Every attempt I’ve made has been by the rule books.”

Source: Facebook reply, since deleted (screenshot)


IN FACT : Nyad never published rules for any of her swims.


Details : “The Cuba Crossing.” Legitimate marathon swims follow English Channel (EC) rules unless other rules have been set down and agreed upon ahead of time. Since Nyad didn’t do that, the EC rulebook, which she knows as well as anyone, would have applied. Nyad broke at least four of those rules, most notably: “During a Swim no physical contact with the swimmer shall be made by any person.”

 

44.

“We got on a big, all-night telephone call with my navigator.”

Source: Chicago Tonight, 4 Nov 2015 (clip)


IN FACT : The call lasted three hours and 22 minutes.


Details : “The Best Worst Liar.” Also, see fabrication #31.

 

45.

[Of her Off-Broadway show, The Swimmer] “The New York Times gave us a glowing review.”

Source: Wilshire Ebell keynote presentation


IN FACT : The New York Times never reviewed The Swimmer.


Details : “Nyad at the Ebell, part 1: The Best on Planet Earth.” As best I can tell, no one reviewed The Swimmer, though four audience members submitted their raves to Ticketmaster (click on “Reviews”). The Guardian’s Emma Brockes saw the play, but she didn’t review it. She did write about it, though, in her opinion piece, “Hillary Clinton says when life’s tough, ‘keep going’. I’m not so sure.”

 

46.

“The Minetta Lane Theater is New York’s largest off Broadway theater and I do believe we brought down the house last night.”

Source: Facebook


IN FACT : The Minetta Lane Theater is the 6th largest Off-Broadway theater. The largest four seat 499. Minetta Lane seats 391.


Details : See “Chasing The Swimmer, Part 1: A Boring, Blustery Thing of Beauty.”

 

47.

“If that [box jellyfish] tentacle touches . . . you’re dead. You’re dead instantaneously. I should have died that night.”

Source: Wild Ideas Worth Living podcast, 8:35


IN FACT : Box jellyfish stings, painful as they are, rarely kill. With two medical doctors, an emergency room nurse, and a box jellyfish expert on her crew, Nyad was in little danger.


Details : “Not a Tentacle to Stand On: Diana Nyad and the Truth About the Box.”

 

48.

“[T]he giant squid migration south down the California coast had reached the tip of Baja. Thousands of four-foot squid were feeding in a massive frenzy, literally grabbing birds out of the air.”

Source: Find a Way, p. 121


IN FACT : Squid don’t grab birds out of the air, at least according to any available research.


Details : “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a squid.” Members of one species do propel themselves out of the water, most likely to avoid predators. No one but Nyad claims they do it to be predators. See, for instance, this video of leaping squid. Note that, while airborne, their tentacles trail behind, making bird-grabbing unlikely if not impossible. (See flying squid bird-grab simulation here.)

 

49.

“And on the other hand, who’s gonna tell me I can’t — I can’t do this, that, this, that. And on the other hand, I’ve had many things in my life: a PhD. . . . ”

Source: Fail It Forward podcast (clip)


IN FACT : Diana Nyad never earned a post-graduate degree.


Details : “Diana Nyad’s Academic Freedom.” After receiving her BA at Lake Forest College in 1973, she enrolled at NYU for one year. I find no evidence — other than her own statements — that she participated in any graduate program after 1974.

 

 

The Survivor

The untruth that shows Diana Nyad will lie about anything.

50.

“And that day she became the SS officers little concubine. And for the next 2½ years before the resistance came and saved her, she performed every sex act that I couldn’t even name, every day, many times a day, as a little girl.”

Source: Self-Made with Nelly Galán


IN FACT : According to Dr. Barbara Distel, former director of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, the story Nyad tells of a three-year-old sex slave at Dachau “is completely fictional.”


Details : “The Survivor.” Nyad included the story in Find a Way, pp. 134-136.

 

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51.

“It’s true I used to lie. . . . Only to impress myself. I would tell a cab driver a lie — anybody. I don’t have to do that anymore.”

Source: Village Voice, Feb 1976 (p. 2, column 4, paragraph 1)


IN FACT : Diana Nyad never stopped lying.


Details : See, for instance, her latest podcast interview, Fail it Forward (26 Apr 2021). In addition to her usual tales about box jellies, et al., she awards herself that PhD (#49) and she claims to have completed at least one swim she never attempted (#28). She also unspools a brand new version of her memoir-title tale, i.e., why she called her book Find a Way rather than the title she preferred. She tells a markedly different version in 2018. (Generation Bold podcast at 13:00, clip here.)

“It’s true I used to lie. . . . I don’t have to do that anymore” comes from a Nyad profile that includes:

  • “[F]or the past six years, Nyad swam the pro circuit, finishing several times as high as third, while other women, she says, rarely finish among the top 10.” (Nyad never finished higher than sixth overall in an individual race. Sandra Bucha, on the other hand, always finished third or better. See #27.)
  • “She swam from the great barrier reef at its widest point to the mainland of Australia; world’s record.” (#5)
  • “At 16 Nyad was a sprinter, but after a bout with a viral heart disease and months off she could never sprint as well as before.” (#10)
  • “Other days, she says, are equally full and demanding. Sometimes language work for her comp lit Ph.D. at NYU.” (#49)
  • “In the most extreme sport, most swimmers have learned to tolerate incredible extremes; Nyad welcomes them.” (The most common extreme that mararathon swimmers face is extended submersion in cold water. After her English Channel debacles, Nyad wanted nothing to do with any water below about 80 degrees. Note that the race results for the 1997 Alcatraz Sharkfest list her in the “suits” (i.e., wetsuits) division.
  • “‘I went to Berkeley.’” (Nyad never attended Berkeley. She has also told reporters that she studied at the Sorbonne, which may be closer to the truth.)
  •  . . . and more.

 

 

<°))̂)̖)><    ><((̗(̂(°>

 

“I’m just living out loud. You know, a true Greek story of a 35-year dream that’s authentic and has no ulterior motives to it whatsoever. It’s just pure.”

Diana Nyad, 6 Dec 2013