No Escape! Exposing Diana Nyad’s “I Didn’t Swim For 30 Years” Fabrication

Nyad adds to the monumental epic-ness of her Cuba-to-Florida “swim” by claiming that she hadn’t swum a stroke in 30 years. But she swam at least 2237 strokes in the 1996 Alcatraz Sharkfest.

Update, 18 June 2021: In 1989, Nyad swam as a member of a relay team that crossed Long Island Sound


Diana Nyad has stated numerous times that, before beginning to train for Cuba-Florida attempt #2, she didn’t swim a stroke for three decades.

From Find a Way, p. 117…

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

…and the New York Times Magazine (subscription required)…

…she broke the distance record, swimming from the Bahamas to Florida (an easier stretch of water). Then, according to Nyad, she didn’t take another stroke for 30 years….

…and the Huffington Post

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….

…and elsewhere.

New data suggests, however, that Ms. Nyad may not have been altogether frank regarding her 30-year hiatus.

Thanks to a friend of the Diana Nyad Fact Check Archives, we are in receipt of a rare and significant historical document: a section of the official race results from the 1996 Alcatraz Sharkfest swim. This document purports to show Diana Nyad as a finisher of said swim (click thumbnail for complete image):

As the document does not specifically read “Sharkfest” or “swim,” the Diana Nyad Fact Check editorial board required independent verification before allowing publication of the above image. Swimming World swam to the rescue:

UPDATE: A Friend of the Annex forwarded the complete race results:

Thank you FOTAX! An interesting detail: Nyad competed in the wetsuit division, so we’re going to have to call this an assisted swim.


According to a number of sources (including CBS News), Nyad usually swims at between 52 and 55 strokes per minute (SPM). If she averaged 53.5 SPM for 41 min., 59 secs., we can reasonably assume that Ms. Nyad swam at least 2237 strokes in those 30 years.

Of course, you don’t just jump in and swim from Alcatraz to the mainland with no training. I would guess, then, that she swam another stroke or two. 

I’m afraid, Diana, that you can’t escape from this one.  

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