In search of the truth about Diana Nyad



One For the Skeptics


Nyad devotes one paragraph of her memoir, Find A Way, to skepticism about her Cuba-Florida swim:


I was criticized and questioned for a couple of days by a band of marathon swimmers, their incredulity piqued, I guess, at someone actually achieving this supposedly unachievable feat. They suggested I must have secretly exited the water and slept on the boat for hours at a time. John Bartlett hosted a long conference call with a representative group of them, citing from his computer GPS charts the tracking of literally every quarter mile of the journey, how fast the current was traveling in what direction, plus how fast my swimming speed calculated at each quarter mile. I posted all the data evidence online, along with the minute-by-minute logs from the two independent observers. And then I locked those GPS trackers in a bank vault, to ensure that the history will survive long after I and the forty-four who accompanied me and bore witness to the swim are gone. John’s is an impressive mind, and his empirical proof of our course satisfied all but a couple¹ of what they call online “haters.”² (There are still those who don’t believe Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.³) There is no keeping a secret among forty-four people.⁴ This swim was a noble quest and a matter of indisputable ethics to each one of us. We sleep easily,⁵ consciences clear that I swam across fair and square, shore to shore. (p. 278)


  1. More than “a couple” have remained unsatisfied for some time. See “Fifth Attempt: 2013” in Nyad’s OpenWaterpedia entry.
  2. Though she carefully avoids calling them “haters” herself—while still calling them “haters”—she is not so careful elsewhere: “So, you know, there are still a couple of haters out there…. I can’t do much about them….” (Town Hall Seattle Q & A, Nov 23, 2015. Transcript)
  3. If she had the video evidence that commander Armstrong had, we wouldn’t be here.
  4. This is true. But those 44 (or so, since she gives numbers all the way down to 30) manned five boats, only one of which remained close to the swimmer. Whatever stunt Nyad pulled, no more than 10 to 12 people needed to know about it.
  5. She can’t know how all the members of her crew sleep. If she had completed the swim with “indisputable ethics,” the above paragraph from her book, not to mention all the talk about not being touched and about how “she swam every stroke” would have been unnecessary. I’d guess that a few members of her crew have battled insomnia in the last few years.