Diana Nyad's Fourth Try Cut Short, Still Quite an Accomplishment

By Jody Smith

It would have made a great birthday present. Diana Nyad's goal was to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida, across the Straits of Florida, without the use of a shark cage.

Climbing out of the water on the Florida shore would have made a wonderful gift for her sixty-third birthday, which falls on Wednesday, August 22. But this was not to be.

Nyad has tried for the fourth time to swim from Cuba to Florida. For the fourth time she has had to be pulled from the water.

Steven Munatones, editor in chief of the Daily News of Open Water Swimming, and official observer of the swim, said that with the challenges of the Gulf Stream and the weather, the swim had become too dangerous.

From Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida is a distance of 103 miles. After swimming for 60 hours, Nyad had covered about half the distance on her way to Florida, and was within 50 miles of reaching her goal.

According to members of Nyad's support crews, jellyfish had stung her at least four times on her forehead, hands, lips and neck. She was severely sunburned. She had strained a bicep.

Salt water had been causing her tongue and lips to become more and more swollen through the night. Her face and wetsuit had been coated with lanolin in order to offer some protection from the cold and the jellyfish.

On Sunday, she and her support crews were hit with a squall. The lightning storm was the last straw since everyone out on the water was at risk.

In 1978 Nyad had attempted for the first time to cross the Straits of Florida but it was too much for her, and she had to throw in the towel less than halfway home. Her second attempt was 33 years later at age 61 in 2011, but was brought to an end by a tumultous ocean, shoulder pain, stings from jellyfish and an hours-long asthma attack.

This time, just days before her sixty-third birthday, she swam without the protection of a shark cage, instead using a team of divers and an electronic shark repellent. Kayaks had underwater electrical shields with a frequency that kept sharks at bay.

Nyad had won numerous swimming marathons in the 1970s. She was among the first women to swim around Manhattan. And she presently holds the world record for the longest ocean swim. That swim was 102.5 miles going from Bimini in the Bahamas to Jupiter, Florida.

Nyad may feel disappointment about not reaching her goal. But she can feel proud of what she has accomplished.

She can be pleased about the example she has set to offer encouragement to anyone who has ever wondered if they can fulfill their dreams. And for those who think they are too old to aim high and with passion ... Just look up at Diana Nyad.

Further reading:

Diana Nyad Pulled From Water

Diana Nyad's fourth attempt

Diana Nyad ends what could be her final try at Florida-Cuba swim

Visit Jody's website and blog at http://www.ncubator.ca and http://ncubator.ca/blogger