In search of the truth about Diana Nyad



First Pro Race (1970)

Inflate 4 hours to 37 and 30 entrants to 444. Then, chill 65-degree water to 48 and reduce 10th place to 3rd. Season with atrocious sportsmanship. Voilà—Nyad’s unstable tales of her first professional race.


Diana Wins: The true story of Diana Nyad’s first pro race.



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In July 1970, Diana Nyad headed to Hamilton, Ontario, for her first professional open water race, the 10-mile Labbat’s International Championship. Swimming under ideal conditions—little wind, a warm sun coaxing the water temperature into the mid-60s—Nyad set a women’s record of 4:23. She finished 10th overall out of a field of 30, beating five-time world champion Judith de Nijs by twelve minutes. A great debut by any measure.

But it has never been enough for Diana Nyad.

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

Beachbody 2014 (23:27)


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

K8 East (18:32, 21:14)




By 1978, Nyad was reporting that the participation had doubled and the temperature had dropped: “[T]he water temperature was 62 degrees, and out of sixty professional swimmers, I finished tenth” (Other Shores, p. 31).

By 1997, the field had grown to over 200. Twelve years later, Nyad claimed that 444 had lined up at Hamilton to start the race.

Nyad also inflates the time because a four-hour swim can hardly be called epic. In a May 2020 presentation, her 4:23 ballooned to over 18 hours. In her 2014 Beachbody program, Nyad reported winning at Hamilton by swimming across the lake—rather than 20 times around a half-mile course near the beach—in 37 hours and 38 minutes.

Ideal conditions also fail the epicness test, so Nyad fiddles with the thermostat. She drops the water temperature—variously reported between 64 and 66down to 48. Neither she nor most of the other entrants could tolerate that for 4 hours, much less survive it for 18 or 37.

Chart adapted from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s report on the sinking of the fishing boat “NADINE.”


After messing with distance, time, and temperature, Nyad, who once said, “I don’t bad mouth other swimmers,” bad-mouths Judith de Nijs. Nyad attacks de Nijs and other female athletes so often, in fact, that the bad-mouthing gets its own page. Suffice it to say here that Judith de Nijs won pro marathon swimming’s World Championship six times to Nyad’s once (see “When is a world champion not a world champion?”). And Diana Nyad can’t tolerate anyone being perceived as better than Diana Nyad. So, to make herself feel better, she crouches behind a façade of superiority and takes potshots at one of history’s best professional marathon swimmers, an athlete who long ago left Diana Nyad in her wake.


World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation
Women’s World Champions through 1975


Judith de Nijs


Judith de Nijs


Judith de Nijs


Judith de Nijs


Judith de Nijs


Patti Thompson (Canada)


Judith de Nijs


Shadia El Rageb (Egypt)


Shadia El Rageb


Corrie Dixon Ebbelaar (The Netherlands)


Diana Nyad


Angela Marchetti (Argentina)

Note: Nyad left the tour after 1975.

Chart adapted from Open Water Boek 2015,
from the Royal Netherland Swimming Association (KNZB),
edited by (and with thanks to) Richard Broer.



Further Reading

This page borrows from Diana Nyad Fact Check Annex posts, in particular: “A 23-Year-Old Speech Exposes Diana Nyad’s Decades of Deception.”


You’ll find the most detailed descriptions of the 1970 Hamilton race in Joe Grossman’s A History of Marathon Swimming and The Windsor Star’s “Holland’s Schans repeats in Lake Ontario marathon.”


Other articles:



Other Documentation