All The Lies She Could Not See: TIME’s “Deeper Story” Behind NYAD

Diana Nyad says her lies are “ancient history.” A recent TIME piece proves otherwise.

In an August Los Angeles Times article, Diana Nyad says her fabrications are “ancient history.” However, a recent TIME item demonstrates once again that you shouldn’t believe a serial liar when she says she’s stopped lying.

From “What Makes Diana Nyad Swim? An Absolutely Killing Ambition,” The Village Voice, Jane Shapiro, 2 Feb 1976.

TIME journalist Alice Park told “The Deeper Story Behind Netflix’s Nyad” by asking Diana Nyad questions and believing her answers.

First, though, Park shows she misunderstands the fundamental controversy regarding Nyad’s crossing:

Marathon swimmers remain divided over whether the swim was “unassisted” or “assisted.”

Only a few marathon swimmers — if any — cling to the “unassisted” myth, but we do disagree on whether she completed the crossing under her own power.

[NYAD:] “I understand why someone might be rankled if they don’t get any recognition for all of that training and achievement.”

What rankles marathon swimmers — most of whom don’t thirst for wide recognition — is that the most recognized person in the sport is a serial liar who cares little about marathon swimming beyond the self-aggrandizement she can extract from it.
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Two Journalists Tell Us What’s Fact And Fiction In NYAD. As If!

Two new articles try to help us sort through the unsortable mess called NYAD.

Detail from an image in The Wall Street Journal’s article about how Nyad acquired her home.

Article #1: “Netflix’s Diana Nyad biopic: What’s fact and what’s fiction?”

From the Los Angeles Times’ Josh Rottenberg:

Criticisms over Nyad’s history of making inflated claims about her career have cast a shadow over the inspirational film.

It’s not just her “inflated claims about her career” but her exaggerations, hyperbole, and outright lies about practically everything.

“Nyad” co-directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin . . . say they did extensive research on Nyad before jumping into the film.

I would love to know what their “extensive research” entailed. Did they look into other fictitious swims Nyad claims to have completed? Did they look at her despicable treatment of other athletes?

Or did they talk only to Steven Munatones, an uncredited advisor on the film, who would believe Nyad walked from Cuba to Florida if she told him she did?

“She is unabashedly a complicated, gray character in real life and we went to great lengths, as did Annette, to portray that in its full glory,” Vasarhelyi told The Times.

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Diana Nyad’s New Minimalist Website Leaves Plenty Of Room For A Maximalist Liar

In Diana’s new website, she and her handlers try to sweep 50 years of lies and self-obsession under the rug. They needed a bigger rug and a shorter page.

[Update, 28 Nov 2023: Sometime within the last 10 days, grew into a multi-page site. I’ve linked below to archived versions when necessary.]

Last week, after over a month of displaying “CHECK BACK IMMINENTLY for the launch of the new Diana Nyad Website,” the upgrade went live. The entire site now amounts to a single page titled:

A Reflection, by Diana Nyad.

Diana’s handlers must have wanted to keep the update brief to limit opportunities for “misstatements.” However, even a single page offers Nyad plenty of room to lie.

Evidence in Nyad’s “Reflection” suggests her handlers knew this, so they continued trying to rein her in:

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Diana Fabricates Another Holocaust Story, This Time About Her Own Family

According to an article Vanity Fair posted yesterday, the upcoming Nyad biopic “doesn’t paint [her] as a liar.” If that’s true, then Diana’s latest Holocaust exploitation tale proves the filmmakers didn’t have a clue about their subject.

During the COVID lockdown, Diana Nyad took members of her walking group,  EverWalk, on two virtual journeys: one from Cuba to Florida  (Diana walked on water!) and another along le chemin de la liberté, “The Freedom Trail.”

Those who signed up monitored their progress using a step-tracking app, WalkerTracker. For the Freedom Trail journey, they followed “the actual story of Diana Nyad’s mother Lucy” and her “escape from the Nazis over the famous Chemin de la Liberté in the Pyrenees.”

Virtual EverWalk detail

For those of us who missed the virtual Pyrenees walk, Diana kindly posted an abridged version of her tale, “My Mother’s Journey to Freedom” (archived). Here’s a summary:
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Band of Others: The Lies In Diana Nyad’s “My Mother’s Journey to Freedom”

A summary of the lies in Diana Nyad’s EverWalk journey over the Pyrenees.

[For context, please see “Diana Fabricates Another Holocaust Story, This Time About Her Family.”]

As often happens with Nyad’s tales, this one inflated over time until the last version bore little resemblance to the original.

In 2013, Diana wrote on Facebook that her  “mom came to the States from Paris during WWII.” She left it at that.

In a 2014 New Yorker profile, Diana says Lucy was 17 when the war reached Paris. She joined “a group of people” who bicycle and walk through southern France, then crossed the Pyrenees on foot.

In Find a Way (2015), Diana says her mom was 15  when the German army reached Paris. Her uncle and aunt worry for her safety, so they send her back to the U.S.

Nyad’s Pyrenees prevarications peaked in 2020 with her EverWalk version (archived). So, let’s take it step by step.
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Pyrenees Research Update: The Cuba–Florida Virtual Walk Description

Diana Nyad’s written description of her Florida Straits virtual walk contains some of her usual lies as well as an omission that’s heartless, thoughtless, or some combination of both.

Above: Walter Poenisch crossing the Florida Straits in 1978. Via “Lost at Sea: Walter Poenisch, his Cuba-to-Florida swim, and his stolen honor.” Diana Nyad includes this image in her Cuba-Florida walking notes without giving the source and without naming Poenisch.

Nyad includes old standbys like the one about her Cuba-Florida precursors:

The best men and women swimmers had made their valiant attempts. (notes, part 1)

(Only six have attempted the crossing.) And her mother-of-all box jellyfish lies:

Most people who have ever been touched by the Box have died instantaneously. (notes, part 1)

(Most people survive box jelly stings.)

Nyad’s Breathtaking Lie of Omission

In part two of her notes, Nyad acknowledges one of her two successful predecessors, an “Australian woman named Susie Mulroney” (it’s “Maroney”), but she doesn’t mention the other, Walter Poenisch, the man whose life she destroyed.

However, she includes a photo from his crossing (see above). I’m not sure if she meant her EverWalkers to think it’s Maroney, or if it’s Nyad’s way of acknowledging-without-acknowledging the man about whom she said,

He does not swim by the rules. He’s a gimmick. He’s a cheat. In the world of sports, he’s a cheat. (New York Times, 14 Jul 1978)


With all due respect to the aged, a man who’s 64 years old and very overweight is not going to swim for two days nonstop. (Miami Herald, 26 June 1978)

How about a woman who was 64 years old and had lied for 40 years nonstop?

No-Fear Fabricator Defies Sharks, Bermuda Triangle, and The Truth

Detail from Minneapolis Star, 19 May 1977.

Last night, a journalist researching Diana Nyad asked me if Nyad ever claimed to have completed an English Channel crossing. I couldn’t remember her saying so, but I recalled her walking right up to the edge.

In a 1977 Minneapolis Star article, Nyad begins a discourse on hallucinations with, “Last summer, when I was swimming the English Channel.” She doesn’t mention that she made three unsuccessful attempts “last summer” and didn’t plan on returning.

Earlier in the article, the author, Rob Tanenbaum, writes about “the perilous English Channel, which [Nyad] has done twice.”

Both statements leave escape hatches. Nyad doesn’t say she finished. Though Tanenbaum does — assuming “done” means she swam “shore to shore” in “squeaky clean, ethical fashion” — Nyad could claim he misquoted her.

The article contains plenty of other lies, including

  • she was still working on her PhD at NYU.
  • she was an Olympic-caliber swimmer.
  • she was “rated the top marathon swimmer in the world.”

But what demonstrates Nyad’s greatness as a con artist — along with her more recent success convincing the press, public, and a handful of marathon swimmers that she swam from Cuba to Florida under her own power — are the first three words of the article’s title: “No-fear swimmer.”

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Nyad News: One Bad Title And Three New Festivals

SwimSwam’s mistitled article

“WOWSA, MSF Disagree On Nyad Swim Ratification Ahead Of Upcoming Biopic”

The Marathon Swimmers Federation (MSF) has not publicly declared a stance on ratifying Diana Nyad’s Cuba–Florida crossing. Two members of MSF’s core group posted strong opinions about the subject on Facebook. But until MSF issues a statement, SwimSwam’s headline remains erroneous and misleading.

No need to tell them, though — they already know (see the article’s comments section).

Nyad at three new festivals in October

And don’t forget that Nyad has three showings left (tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday) at the Toronto International Film Festival, then will open the Hamptons International Film Festival on October 5 and play again on October 6.

Update 14 Sep 2023: Added the Hamptons International Film Festival October 6 Nyad screening, and a link to the festival’s Film Guide.

Sexist Ageist Homophobes: How The NYAD Directors And Others Attack Diana’s Detractors

They use name-calling and dismissiveness. Besides a well-funded PR campaign, that’s all they’ve got.

Image: Graphic based on Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement.jpg by Loudacris (originally from, CC BY 3.0.

Over the last several years, I’ve gathered indisputable evidence of Diana Nyad’s five-decade history of lies. I’ve also found multiple instances of her minimizing and outright stealing the accomplishments of other women.

The Nyad filmmakers can’t concede Nyad’s history of deceit because doing so would acknowledge their blunder.

Instead, they and others respond to Nyad’s detractors with name-calling and dismissiveness.
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New Evidence That Steven Munatones’ Nonsensical Openwaterpedia Vandalism Makes Sense

Steven Munatones used Openwaterpedia to do more than ratify Diana Nyad’s crossing and make her look like the best marathon swimmer of the 1970s. He fabricated records for himself and another marathon swimmer who had no idea what Steven was up to.

Diana Nyad, Bonnie Stoll, and Steven Munatones, during a phone conference at Munatones’ home in Huntington Beach, CA, on September 10, 2013. They attempted to quell doubts about Nyad’s crossing. Notwithstanding Nyad’s declarations of success, the attempt failed. Sound familiar? Complete clip here. Via Reuters/Pond5.

Almost six months ago, the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) announced an investigation into my allegations that Steven Munatones vandalized Openwaterpedia to benefit Diana Nyad.

In an earlier post, I wrote that WOWSA’s investigation likely took a week or two. Had WOWSA exonerated Munatones, they’d have said so.

Instead, the organization appears to have made a deal with Steven: If you leave quietly, we won’t publish our findings.

WOWSA couldn’t continue functioning with a co-owner they knew had falsified thousands of Openwaterpedia pages to benefit a swimmer he revered.

So, on May 18, WOWSA’s three owners — Steven Munatones, Antonio Argüelles, and Quinn Fitzgerald — dissolved the company by filing a Certificate of Termination with the California Secretary of State.

They also signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement; we won’t see a report any time soon.

Absent WOWSA’s findings, here are more examples of Steven using Openwaterpedia to fabricate documentation, including multiple records for a body of water no one has ever crossed.

First, though, let’s turn to a more familiar channel:
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