Diana Nyad: Reaching for a record
July 19th, 2011
09:44 PM ET

Diana Nyad: Reaching for a record

Editor's note: CNN alone will have live coverage of Diana Nyad's Xtreme Dream from aboard the support boats traveling alongside her. Stay with CNN.com and The Chart for more info on  the swim, and to see a live position tracker and live reports from the ocean.

The last year has been full of fits and starts for champion distance swimmer Diana Nyad in her quest to break the world record in open-water swimming, and we've taken you along for the entire ride.

As we shared with you last July, almost a year of intense training – both in a pool and in the ocean – culminated in one final test of her abilities: a 24-hour swim off the coast of Key West. If she could do that, she felt she'd be ready to conquer her "Xtreme Dream," swimming from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, at age 61. Accomplishing that 103-mile swim would mean breaking the 32-year-old record, set by Diana in 1979, when she swam from the Bahamas to Florida.

The July 10, 2010, swim came and went without a hitch. She jumped into the ocean at 8:19 that morning and emerged victorious and confident at 8:19 a.m. the next day.

The plan at that point: recover briefly from that training swim and get ready to head to Cuba for "the big swim."

But bad weather and a lack of Cuban visas dragged the "Xtreme Dream" into an agonizing three-month wait, until Diana finally called it off for the year  because of plummeting water and air temperatures.

The base Diana built over a year of training would have to be put on hold for the winter. Fast forward from October to January, and training started again in earnest. She began frequenting local pools for six and eight hours at a time. Come April, twice-monthly trips to the Caribbean for eight-, 10- and 12-hour ocean swims became the norm, and on June 24, she left her home in Los Angeles and again headed for Key West to wait.

Now, just a few short weeks later, tensions are high on the "Xtreme Dream" operations team. Crew members are packing bags, ready for the red alert e-mail from Diana. Boats are rigged. Water temperatures have hit the desired mark. Cuban visas are in hand. The first team of boat drivers and the crew's navigator are heading into Cuba within the next few days.

But Diana continues her wait for the last piece in this 1,000-piece puzzle – the doldrums – the days-long period of calm winds she hopes will keep the waters between Cuba and Florida flat for her swim.

I traded e-mails with Diana just last night, and she says  "red alert" could be coming soon. My bags are packed, and our plans are set, too. Two cases of satellite transmission gear have been sitting in my trunk for two weeks, waiting for the call. After working with Team Nyad for countless hours through the last year, watching the ups and downs, the false starts and the agonizing decisions, I'm as eager as anyone to watch Diana take one more crack at her life's dream.

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soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. OvernOut

    So–if Ms. Nyad is 61, according to another article on the "Cash Cab", she should be called "elderly". I don't see any "elderly" in this article!

    July 20, 2011 at 05:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • gromitz

      yes she is elderly

      July 20, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse |
  2. Lisa

    Go Diana, I have watched you all my life. You are an inspiration to many of us. I know you can make this swim.

    July 20, 2011 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Larry

    Diana, you'll be carrying the dreams of adventure for a lot of people along with you. You might even inspire others to finally go for it themselves. Just one adventure can change a person's life forever and the great thing about that is that each person can pick their own adventure.

    July 20, 2011 at 09:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Zenobia

    I'm proud to say that Diana represents those of us who are following our dreams, at any age. I met her in the '70's in NYC and kept a close watch on her achievements. Brava Woman!

    July 20, 2011 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mary

      I also know her in NYC in the 70's and she was a wicked pool player back then in the village. She has gone beyound what I can only wonder about. You go Diana.

      July 20, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
  5. estete

    Um, hello? Three full-sized sharks were chopped to death so some woman could achieve personal glory by swimming for almost two days? Let’s have a little perspective here. Imagine an ultra runner wants to set a new record racing across the bear-infested northern Rockies. Four bears approach her while she’s running along the trail and her support crew uses some manky bilious road kill to lure them away, where they’re shot dead. Sharks might not be the friend of swimmers or surfers, but the fact that they’re predators and this took place in the ocean, where bloody deeds quickly fade from sight, makes it no less of an abomination.

    July 20, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BeerBrewerDan

      Thank you, Mr. Buzz Killian. Sheesh.

      July 20, 2011 at 13:43 | Report abuse |
    • Don K

      I must have missed that part of the article... Where does it say 3 sharks were killed? I'm a huge shark fan and would be very upset to find out this was true but I can't see it anywhere in this article.

      July 20, 2011 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
    • Noneya

      they did fail to mention that. i do not agree with achieving your goals like this.

      July 20, 2011 at 15:24 | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      What is your source for the information that 3 sharks were killed? And who is "some woman?" This post sounds like confusion or an attempt to confuse. Not sure which.

      But perhaps you were referring to Penny Palfrey's swim, in which it was there were some mistaken reports that sharks were killed, though they were not. http://naturefilmsnetwork.com/blog/2011/07/penny-palfreys-world-record-swim-sharks-were-not-killed/

      July 25, 2011 at 13:24 | Report abuse |
    • ed white

      Don't be so daft and stop spreading false rumors.

      "Since she is swimming without a shark cage, Nyad is relying on electrical equipment being towed by kayaks to keep predators away. Divers are ready to intervene should they fail."

      And if you had half a brain, you'd know it's stupid to chum waters with atcual shark to lure away opposing sharks. A mix of, oh, stuff they actually EAT, would be a better idea...

      August 8, 2011 at 18:44 | Report abuse |
  6. Lee Gruenfeld

    Bravo for Diana, but here's my question: Whatever happened to "The Score," her brilliant, four-minute sports observations? It was one of the best podcasts I've ever listened to. Any chance of it coming back?

    July 20, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Tiffany

    Go Diana! Her story is amazing and very inspirational, even to people that are decades younger than her. I hope to be at least a fraction as fit as she is when I am 60!

    July 20, 2011 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Indy609

    Wow. I'm doing my first ONE mile open water swim on Sunday, the thought of 103 of them boggles my mind.

    July 20, 2011 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Fred

    Ho hum, must be a slow news day. Another spoiled, rich person with vast resources and time. You want to impress someone, use those resources to help some of the oppressed living on the island.

    July 20, 2011 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ha!

      Rich, hardly!! Diana is selling t-shirts, hats, etc and collecting donations. She's spent her life savings and may end up with thousands of dollars of debt, but it just goes to show you, if you persevere anything is possible.

      July 20, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse |
    • gromitz

      Get your facts together before you go ASSuming with your ignorant little mind.

      July 20, 2011 at 14:43 | Report abuse |
    • Homeer Simpsoy

      Also, since when are rich people excluded from doing great things with great resources? This is a stupid way to think. Why would she OWE poor people anything? I fail to understand why I owe people for their poverty.

      July 20, 2011 at 14:59 | Report abuse |
    • JBMW

      You obviously know nothing about this woman. Go back under your rock and don't come back out for another 30 years.

      July 20, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse |
    • Fred

      Yes I said it, rich. You think selling t-shirts or collecting donations means she doesn't have resources. C'mon, even my "ignorant little mind" knew to look outside this one article. And btw, I've heard her radio spot and read her articles and ventured around a few other web/blog spots, I know a lot about this lady. I'm not fooled. That circus stunt with a cast of 20+ support staff equipped with boats, audio, video, Sat/Nav... Sure, no resources. And who said anything about owing poor people? I said oppressed. That stunt is part political; otherwise she would swim the Mediterranean or another warm water location. It was about thirty years ago when she had her 5 min. of fame, time for her to climb back in that cave she came out of.

      July 21, 2011 at 01:04 | Report abuse |
    • Diana

      What a sad life you live, Fred. Did you know that people with extreme dedication and abilities are inclined to attract sponsors for their cause? Those resources did not come magically out of this woman's own pocket ... she brought them to herself with perseverance that doesn't even occur to pathetic little trolls like you.

      August 9, 2011 at 01:00 | Report abuse |
    • Ghreta

      One awesome cause does not exclude another worthy cause! Pushing the envelope on human determination and physical endurance only puts more positive energy out in the world to also stand firm in the war against poverty. Positive accomplishments spread their energy across the spectrum of human challenges. She is rich in determination; she's a champion who is pushing the limits for all of us about what we are capable of as human beings. No need for putting her down because poverty still exists. And poverty is a way more complex issue than swimming 103 miles. Believe me!

      August 9, 2011 at 10:00 | Report abuse |
  10. Eddie


    July 20, 2011 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jerry Lundegaard

    good luck on your self-serving waste of time. I can swim too, big deal.

    July 20, 2011 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JBMW

      You must have a sad life to not have any goals. GO DIANA!

      July 20, 2011 at 16:17 | Report abuse |
  12. Eric of Reseda

    Been watching this woman for years. Remarkable lady.

    July 20, 2011 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. I don't get it

    all of this for what? talk about a banal pursuit just to get your name in a records book.

    July 20, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      so how close are you to the world's record for stupid comments?

      July 20, 2011 at 16:45 | Report abuse |
  14. Noway

    Say hello to Castro for us.

    July 20, 2011 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Craig Wells

    The lede of the piece states that Diana will attempt "to break the world record in open-water swimming," but Guinness World Records states that the world's longest open-water swimming record is 139.8 miles, done by Veljko Rogosic (Croatia) in 2006, when he was 65 years old.

    Also, Guinness states that her 1979 swim from the Bahamas to Florida was not a record even then - in 1978, the then-record was set by Walter Poenisch Sr. with 128.8 miles (with a shark cage).

    Rogosic swam across the Adriatic Sea from Grado to Riccione (both Italy) from 29-31 August 2006.

    There seems to be some misinformation floating around about this, so I thought I'd just share with you what I got from Guinness World Records.

    July 20, 2011 at 17:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Noway

    Is she going to urinate in the water?

    July 20, 2011 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. pep

    Some of these comments are abusive beyond words.
    Shame on all of you for being so jealous. Yes, she is 61 years old and you have some real problems with that. And she is financing this herself you have problems with that too.

    GO DIANA!!! Strike the greatest blow to age discrimination ever.

    July 20, 2011 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. stoploss

    y'know...this is one of those stories that's a mixed bag of emotions...

    on one hand, her stamina at 61 is laudable, however the feat itself is not.

    it's rare for any one to have the fitness she has esp. at that age.

    but then again she could display that endurance swimming in a wave pool too.

    the fact she's not using a shark cage means little as she is still swimming w/ a support team equipped w/ shark deterrence devices made by one of her sponsors.

    add in the fact that it's not really on the same par as say something like a triathlete or a marathoner where all you take in is really water and that's all. there's some mental determination there, but that's the case w/ every endurance event.

    her support team has GPS tracking, nutrient pastes for her to ingest, and slow dissolve electrolyte "blocks" for her hydration.

    at some point this really becomes more about being enabled by technology than just sheer human will.

    a quote from an NYT article:

    "There are people who can swim this. But they don’t have the organizational, political and passionate oratorical skills she has.”

    or perhaps it's nothing more than a cult of personality.

    it's less about the event than the spin and the person. add to the fact she's old and gay and you've got a news event. if she was a minority and crippled also it would be an even bigger media jackpot.

    seriously...who can remember the oldest ironman/triathlete? look up Robert McKeague or Dick and Rick Hoyt for another set of bad-asses. try not to say "damn" while reading.

    but then again...the ironman course doesn't quite have the same "sound" as swimming from Florida to Cuba. remove the sensationalistic geographic points and it's really just a long swim in the ocean...with breaks...using a lot of technology...and her failure means the boat scoops her up and takes her home.

    yes she's in great shape. yes it's awesome she maintained it into her later years. yes the event is only interesting due to media spin and geography.

    who would read an article, "woman swims 103 miles in the middle of nowhere assisted by cutting edge technology". think about it.

    July 20, 2011 at 18:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CTYank

      Punctuation, grammar, semantics optional. Might want to work on them, as an aid to communication.

      July 21, 2011 at 02:46 | Report abuse |
    • stoploss

      @CTYank, a comment that long and your reply is to critique my writing? seriously, it's a CNN opinions forum not the OP-ED page of the NYT. BTW, where is the verb in the first sentence of your reply and the noun in the second. pot calling the kettle there yanky-boy. come back and play when you actually CREATE a comment w/ some content pertinent to the discussion rather than just showing everyone how anal-retentive you are.

      July 21, 2011 at 08:01 | Report abuse |
    • What a narcissistic, juvenile troll

      Swimming constantly for over two days- Over a hundred miles-

      I challenge you to swim ONE mile; then you can come back and post opinions if you get your 6th grade English teacher to proof read your posts for you.

      July 27, 2011 at 14:14 | Report abuse |
    • ray meltvedt

      having done several ironman races and swam a mere 20 miles from catalina to Palos Verdes on the Ca coast I know just a drop of what she is taking on and will have to endure during this event.THere is NOTHING that technology provides her that takes away the huge challenge that she is taking on. Of course she is taking fuel , just like we do in IM races and as any endurance athlete does. her gps will help drive a straight line home and allow us all to cheer her on from whatever comp or PDA we can get to while she swims!

      August 8, 2011 at 01:43 | Report abuse |
    • Diana

      I defy any marathoner to swim this distance. It's like doing a marathon for two days. A woman's marathoner her age has to do it in less than 4 hours. 4 hours of exertion and they're done. She's doing that 12 times. And it's a whole body motion, not just legs. Also, sweat does not evaporate to cool you when you're in the water. If you think it's so easy, then go for it.

      August 9, 2011 at 01:10 | Report abuse |
  19. Swimmer

    You go, girl, and do it for all of us women "of a certain age." I'm pulling for ya!

    July 21, 2011 at 02:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Diana Nyad

    I couldn't resist commenting over the outpouring of support I've seen from fans and from CNN. I wanted to thank everyone for all of their encouragement and inspiration! It keeps me going in the tough moments where this Xtreme Dream doesn't seem possible. Without the support of friends, my fantastic team and CNN, none of this would be possible.

    Finally, I hope you'll continue to follow me on my Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/diananyad and my Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/DianaNyad. I want to see your faces me as it gets closer and closer to my swim.

    Thank you again for all that you do! And keep on dreaming.

    July 21, 2011 at 09:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Donna K

      I'm interested in finding out if you needed special permits from Dept. of Commerce (Sojourn license for the support boat), or OFAC for permission for the boats and any equipment going along for the ride. I am working with a couple of guys that want to kayak from Key West to Cuba. There will be a couple of support boats going along and the red tape is horrific! Not sure if it makes a difference that you are leaving from Cuba and going to US but I'd be very interested in knowing how you got all the permits/licenses. Good luck on your swim!

      July 21, 2011 at 10:14 | Report abuse |
  21. good luck

    good luck with your hamster-of-the-water complex. swim swim swim away.... over and over and over again

    July 21, 2011 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. bobbie

    One 65 year old is rooting for you! Here we are, strong as ever, with no thought of retiring for many years yet, and fighting the stereotype of "old lady" every way we can – your accomplishments really help drive home the truth – that many of us in our 60's have not slowed down on tiny little bit yet.

    July 28, 2011 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Nellie Shelton

    I grew up in Florida with Diana...have followed her for all these years from 4th grade on...always and still is an amazing, brilliant and interesting person...Always wish you the best...Am proud to still be her friend!!!!

    July 30, 2011 at 10:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Faye Poenisch

    Walter Poenisch became the first to make the Cuba to Florida swim in 1978 at the age of 65. Please visit http://www.swim4peace.com

    August 1, 2011 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. ray meltvedt

    wild and wonderful and yes of course she will make it but even if not – to step up to such an adventure does inspire the rest of us to live life to the full each and every day! Go Diana!!

    August 8, 2011 at 01:36 | Report abuse | Reply
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