[Update, 28 Nov 2023: Sometime within the last 10 days, diananyad.com 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 diananyad.com upgrade went live. The entire site now amounts to a single page titled:
THE CUBA SWIM TEN YEARS LATER:
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:
- Nyad’s usual, “I hadn’t swum a stroke in 30 years,” became the more defensible, “I was out of the sport for more than 30 years.”
- “This is the Mount Everest of the earth’s oceans” became “Some have called this swim ‘the Mount Everest of Swims.’” (No one but Diana Nyad has.)
- If you’re touched by a box jellyfish tentacle, “you’re dead instantaneously,” became, “Certain species of the box jellyfish can emit a fatal sting.”
But asking a compulsive liar to stop lying is like asking the wind to stop blowing, the waves to stop breaking, or the tides to halt their ebb and flow. It’s not gonna happen.
You’re Putting Me On: Diana’s Jelly Suit
I did put on the stinger suit on, on [sic] my own, before dusk both nights. This took considerable effort, pulling the legs and arms over wet skin, inch by inch. The only thing I couldn’t do on my own was pull the zipper up in the back. A shark diver, again not holding me up for flotation, came around the back and pulled that zipper up.
Crew members did much more than close Diana’s zipper. Images from the exhaustive report the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) issued last summer show Nyad getting help with her suit and other parts of her jellyfish regalia. Diana does little of the work herself.
Here’s the relevant section from the report’s first-day photo compilation. It shows Nyad getting into her stinger suit with help from crew members Pauline Berry (in the blue swimsuit), Lois Ann Porter (in the #FearlessNyad t-shirt), and Nico Gazzale (shark diver). The time on the video, “12:14,” refers to the clip’s location in the complete compilation. All images by Dawn Blomgren.
The observer logs don’t support Nyad’s contention either. At 6:39 p.m. that first day, observer Janet Hinkle notes:
putting on the suit
[Nyad:] “I can’t be held up but if I have trouble with the suit you can pull it up.”
Nico — assist(s) her w/suit to protect her from the jellyfish
We have no evidence regarding the second night’s effort — other than the absence of evidence. The report only includes before and after shots. At first, the suit is off; then, like magic, it’s on.
You’d think a significant wardrobe change would warrant at least one observer-log entry. But the observer on duty, Roger McVeigh, writes nothing about it. Navigator John Bartlett makes the only suit-related comment:
Stop – feeding – Diana starting this evening, suited for sting protection.
Here’s the relevant section from the WOWSA report’s second-day photo compilation:
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Hands Off! (Unless CNN’s Not Watching)
Nyad describes the finish, beginning with an ode to her best friend:
My Head Handler through all the grueling years of training, Bonnie Stoll, who had been in my sightline every stroke as I breathed to the left for the 52 hrs, 54 mins, of the swim . . .
We interrupt this citation to travel back to 1978. “Not one of [my trainers] took a break in 42 hours,” said Nyad about her Cuba–Florida attempt. “They cried desperately when I finished, as did most of the news crew.” However, contemporary reports suggest that if members of the news crew cried, it was likely for joy that they survived.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled fact-checking:
. . . [Bonnie] inched her way backwards, with me dazed and off balance, following her to dry land, as the rules of the sport state. Two protective lines formed on either side of me, yelling out “Don’t touch her.”
The cardinal rule of the sport is that no one can touch the swimmer from the beginning of the swim to the end. No rules say that crew members can touch their swimmer with impunity until the swimmer comes within sight of the media and the phone-wielding public.
Since Nyad was touched throughout the crossing, her version of “the rules of the sport” makes no sense. The NYAD filmmakers must have spotted the contradiction, so they made sure that Nyad’s crew members kept their hands to themselves:
NYAD [putting on stinger suit]: Bonnie, this is brutal.
STOLL: Yeah, well, we can’t help you. It’s regulation — you gotta put it on yourself.
NYAD: Well, I can’t do it.
STOLL: Then don’t. But you will die.
Later, when Bonnie jumps in to give moral support:
NYAD: Don’t touch me, you can’t touch me.
Dr. Angel’s Legal Suit
We brought world-renowned box expert, Dr. Angel Yanagihara, from the U. of Hawaii, onto our team. Angel helped develop a suit legal for me to wear (no buoyancy nor warmth to it), plus a silicone mask, surgeon’s booties and gloves.
Question: Legal according to what rules?
Answer: The ones Diana made up.
Nyad elaborates further on the rules, likely because the new page is another cog in the NYAD PR machine’s attempt to show how deeply Diana cared about rules (when she actually couldn’t give a hoot about them):
We followed all the basic tenets of fair swims, meaning I never exited the water, never held onto any boat or person to gain flotation aid, never was propelled or pulled forward in any way.
. . .
We were also apprised by the then head of the World Open Water Swimming Association [WOWSA] that there were swims, due to various safety issues, that were fair and legal outside the standard English Channel Swimming Association rules.
Diana doesn’t mention that those variations to standard English Channel rules are minuscule compared to what she wants to get away with.
Nor does she divulge the identity of “the then head of” WOWSA, Steven Munatones, her good friend, fixer, and one of only a handful of experienced marathon swimmers who unconditionally accept the legitimacy of her crossing.
Not only did he believe in it from the moment she walked ashore in 2013, but he accepted it days before it began. In an August 28 message to potential observers, Steven — who has lied about his own swims, concocted fictitious swims for others without their knowledge, and likely vandalized thousands of Openwaterpedia entries to enhance his friend Diana’s credentials — sent his regrets for missing “THE GREATEST SWIM IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND.”
. . .
Nyad goes on to minimize her many instances of breaking marathon swimming’s golden rule:
By the English Channel rules, these minor moments of touching are not allowed. We didn’t do this swim under English Channel Rules. But we certainly made it shore to shore under the umbrella understanding that no exit from the water, no flotation aid, no forward propulsion aid was used.
Images from the report show much more than “minor moments of touching.” Here are a few of the many examples:
None of those “minor moments” are allowed under any current marathon swimming rules I know.
To reiterate: Nyad’s swim had no rules, no matter how often she alludes to reasonable-sounding but empty phrases like “umbrella understanding” or “the basic tenets of fair swims.”
Well, no rules other than the one she declared in a since-deleted blog post, “Here are the official rules of the swim.” To paraphrase,
Don’t touch me when the public and the media are watching. (August 5, 2011)
WOWSA at the time of my swim, 2013, was not in the business of certificates of ratification.
Five months before Nyad’s crossing, Munatones — then head of WOWSA — ratified Jennifer Figge’s May 2013 stage swim in the Atlantic. (NOTE: Munatones uses ratification, sanction, verification, certification, authentication, and accreditation interchangeably. See the “Ratification Terminology” section of WOWSA’s Nyad report.)
According to Munatones, WOWSA also ratified Nyad’s crossing, and he/they did it from the moment she walked ashore five months after Figge’s swim.
However, he didn’t mention this until August 2019, when he edited Nyad’s Openwaterpedia entry to read that her crossing
has been long recognized since 2 September 2013 by the World Open Water Swimming Association that wrote the rules of the attempts and provided the onboard observers.
First off, WOWSA did not provide the observers; Diana called two acquaintances on the morning her flotilla left for Cuba. Steven did write rules — at least three sets — but Nyad never agreed to follow any of them.
Whether Steven offered certificates to Figge, Nyad, or anyone else, I can’t say.
I was never contacted by an auspices of the sport to tell me where I needed to submit our documentation.
To paraphrase: “Don’t blame me for the ratification mess. Blame the auspices of the sport.” But “auspices of the sport” isn’t a thing unless she means members of the marathon swimming community who divine omens from birds.
We have submitted two independent overseers’ comprehensive and accurate observation notes from the entire crossing. Those will be judged by the auspices of the sport and different record keepers. Trust me, this dream [is] too important to me to have any slight thing outside the fair, just, ethical and agreed-upon rules of our sport. (H/T Evan Morrison)
Agreed upon by whom?
And if no one contacted her, where did she submit those notes?
And why didn’t she contact any marathon swimming governing organizations herself?
A Surfeit of Auspices
But wait — Nyad did contact an auspex of the sport: Steven Munatones. Though Steven is no longer part of WOWSA, at the time, he was indistinguishable from it. And from FOWSA — the Florida Straits Open Water Swimming Association — a.k.a. FSOWSA. He concocted the organization in 2014. Four years later, he backdated its founding to 2010 and claimed it had overseen all but the first of Nyad’s Cuba-Florida attempts.
Two days after Nyad completed her “successful” crossing, she asked Steven where to send her documentation:
The two independent observers (Roger McVeigh and Janet Hinkle) took detailed notes every minute of the crossing.
The only time I was out of their site [sight] was for 1 hour, 20 mins, Sunday night during squall at which time I tread water and swam some breaststroke to the N with 4 shark divers. We had no boat with us.
They are typing up their notes and I want to ask you where to send them. To you?”
OMG..you are incredible!!!
Everything about that swim was amazing.
They should send their reports to me. It would be a treasure.
(See both messages here.)
Presumably, Nyad followed through and sent Steven the logs. We don’t know, though, if she asked him to do anything with them.
In a letter to Munatones five years later, with her swim still unratified, Nyad made it clear what she wanted from WOWSA:
Dear Steven Munatones and Officials of the World Open Water Swimming Association:
I humbly present to you this packet of materials asking you to consider sanction of my Cuba–Florida Swim of 2013.
Instead of heeding Nyad’s request, Munatones waited a few months, then forwarded the packet to the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF). He hoped that they’d sanction Nyad’s crossing, likely so he wouldn’t have to. He may also have been chasing the ISHOF induction he believes Diana deserves.
The Hall of Fame didn’t bite, so Steven sanctioned the crossing himself — so quietly, though, that you’d think he didn’t want anyone to notice.
We had two Independent Observers, not members of our team, who tag-teamed and each was perched right above me on the boat next to me, Voyager. They took careful notes of everything they observed and wrote testimonial letters that I never exited, nor had help in flotation nor forward propulsion.
Her “Independent Observers” were neither independent nor observers, at least in the way observers most marathon swim observers are. They were props, their presence helping lend Nyad’s crossing an aura of legitimacy.
Legit observers have two fundamental responsibilities: Document the swim and ensure the swimmer follows the rules.
But Nyad’s crossing had no rules until the final 10 minutes or so.
And the two observers did not take “careful notes of everything they observed.” Consider, for example, that swim logs are meant to include observations about the swimmer’s condition. Yet, during the last nine hours of Nyad’s crossing, her logs contain nothing about her condition beyond a single stroke count.
As for the observers’ independence, it’s unlikely that two of Nyad’s acquaintances/fans who knew nothing about solo marathon swimming would question her in any way.
Nyad’s most brazen lie: WOWSA proved she completed an absolutely perfect crossing
Then in 2022, something I wish I had taken the initiative to do nine years earlier happened: WOWSA did commission a comprehensive report, the most comprehensive in the history of the sport, that was full and final proof that our swim had been fair and square, shore to shore.
In fact, the report came to two main conclusions. Number one, briefly:
There is no known evidence that she exited the water or gained forward momentum from a support vessel or other object or person during the swim.
In other words, they found no evidence she cheated. But that’s far different than saying they found “full and final proof” that she swam from Cuba to Florida under her own power. Nyad’s essentially repeating Lance Armstrong’s 12-year-long mantra, some version of “You can’t prove I cheated”:
I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one. (Armstrong statement, 13 Jun 2012, via Reuters)
But when anyone makes an extraordinary claim, the burden of proof falls on the maker of the claim, not those questioning it. WOWSA’s report included a boatload of new material about Nyad’s crossing, none of which gets her any closer than she was ten years ago to proving she swam “fair and square, shore to shore.”
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WOWSA conclusion #2:
Diana Nyad’s Cuba-Florida crossing was never ratified.
Thankfully, Diana doesn’t care about ratification — or so she assured everyone during a press conference the day after her crossing:
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Diana Applauds Sarah Thomas and Jamie Monahan. Sincerely.
When Nyad has mentioned other swimmers in the past, she usually did so to denigrate them or minimize their accomplishments or both. With her biopic set to begin streaming, Diana’s handlers must be urging Diana to mask her selfishness by mentioning other swimmers without disparaging them. So, Diana writes
I wish I knew Sarah Thomas when she did her astounding four-way crossing of the English Channel. She is a hero, to me and to all the marathon swimming community. Her name should be known by sports fans and sport journalists and the world at large. Sarah is an icon of our time and I admire her profoundly. Along with others. Jaimie Monahan’s remarkable 40-hour 4-time circling of Manhattan Island blows my mind. Past and present, open water swimmers have accomplished stunning things and I applaud them. Sincerely.
As far as I can tell, Diana Nyad has never “sincerely” applauded any swimmer other than Diana Nyad.
Here’s what she said about Sandra Bucha, the swimmer who beat her by 47 minutes or more — once by three hours — every time they raced:
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.” (“Mind Over Water”, Esquire, Oct 1975).
Corrie Dixon consistently beat Nyad, too. Diana never mentions Bucha or Dixon in either of her memoirs or in any other public forum besides Esquire.
Nyad bested the great Dutch pro swimmer Judith de Nijs once — by all of 12 minutes. Then she gloated about it for years while denigrating de Nijs’ appearance.
However, if Nyad feels cornered, she’ll make a show of sincerity.
After Thomas’s 4-way crossing, I posted facetiously that a reporter asked Nyad if she knew of Sarah Thomas. Nyad replied, “No, but I’ve heard of Danny Thomas.”
Five hours later, Nyad posted,
Sarah, I bow to your unwavering spirit. The world salutes you!
“How could they ever doubt me?”
Post swim, there was controversy among other marathon swimmers. Questions as to whether I really did complete the swim. As a matter of fact, that controversy continues to this day.
. . .
I can’t guess why some of those in the sport have doubted our successful crossing but I am here to say to all my fellow swimmers: I made it across that ocean. Fair and square. Shore to shore.
Nyad knew before the crossing that her “fellow swimmers” would doubt her. One of her 2013 crew members told me
[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).
A week after the swim, Nyad and Munatones held a phone conference from his home in Huntington Beach. They hoped to staunch the growing skepticism about the crossing.
Fourteen experienced marathon swimmers attended. When one brought up observers, Nyad got petulant:
I was out of the sport for more than 30 years when I came back to try Cuba again…. This time I didn’t come back to reenter the sport. I came back to finally achieve the one swim that was most important to me.
What a relief — she didn’t return to get back into marathon swimming, though I don’t understand the distinction she makes between marathon swimming and attempting to swim from Cuba to Florida. Either way, I applaud her — as long as she doesn’t call her crossing a marathon swim.
Someone recently suggested calling it an “adventure swim.” Whatever she did out there was phenomenal, whether swimming from shore to shore under her own power or making a bunch of people think she did.
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Those were just a few of the highlights from Nyad’s new site. Don’t miss the rest, including her praise of the crossing’s benefit both to herself — “This mission took on life values for me that resonated far deeper than an endurance sporting event” — and to the public:
What I hope has bled through to a large population is hope.
However, someone ought to remind Diana that beneath all her bizarre rhetoric, her self-help platitudes, and her self-congratulatory bluster sits nothing more than a long, unproven swim undertaken by a serial liar.
NOTE: To improve readability, I made minor edits to Nyad’s original punctuation.