NPR Story
2:56 pm
Mon September 2, 2013

Diana Nyad 1st To Complete Cuba-To-Florida Swim Without Shark Cage

Originally published on Mon September 2, 2013 2:55 pm

Note: Now that Nyad has reached shore, we have removed the live video stream.

Update 2:02 p.m.: She made it. On her fifth try, American swimmer Diana Nyad has become the first to swim to Florida from Cuba without a shark cage. She arrived this afternoon in Key West, where a crowd had gathered on the beach to see her achieve what Nyad called a “lifelong dream.”

1:04 p.m.: The flotilla of ships helping U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad finish her trip from Cuba to Florida is visible from the shores of Key West.

Nyad is trying to become the first person to swim the treacherous Florida Strait without the help of a shark cage. This is her fifth try.

Nyad’s team says her lips and tongue have become swollen from the elements and she is eager to finish the swim.

According to her website, Nyad thanked her team from the water and told them she was glad they were with her to help her with her lifelong dream.

Nyad was about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from Florida late Monday morning. She is expected to arrive in Key West on Monday between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. EDT.

Guest

  • Bonnie Stoll, a member of Team Nyad, traveling on the boat accompanying Diana Nyad.
Copyright 2013 WBUR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

Well, Diana Nyad did it. After more than 50 hours, the 64-year-old swimmer walked out of the water at Smathers Beach at Key West, Florida, the first person ever to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. As CNN's cameras finally found her in the crowd, she had three messages.

DIANA NYAD: One is we should never ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dream.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

YOUNG: And number three, swimming is a team sport. And we spoke with Bonnie Stoll, a member of Team Nyad, as Diana's team boat came towards shore.

BONNIE STOLL: The feeling is a feeling of ecstasy, I think, for this whole, entire, very well meshed group of people on this expedition. It's just been fabulous. And a lot of us have been here before. Diana has been trying this for the last four summers, and we are one, big team. Diana and I have been best friends for about 35 years, and that's our connection.

YOUNG: Yeah. So four failures in the past three years. There was another attempt in the '70s. What gets her back in?

STOLL: I think she's in anomaly. I don't think there are many human beings like her. And I feel that everybody that comes in touch with Diana Nyad feels it. They feel the energy. They feel the passion she feels for most everything she does, but certainly for this swim from Cuba to Florida. She grew up in Fort Lauderdale. She used to look across the ocean and see - that's where I want to go. That's where I want to swim from. Nobody has ever done it and that's what I want to do.

YOUNG: What are some of the moments in the last days when you thought, oh, my gosh, this is it? We understand she lost her swim cap. She had to wear this protective face mask to protect her from jellyfish, but we understand that really cut into her mouth and her breathing. So what are some of the things where you thought this might be it?

STOLL: I don't know that I ever felt that this swim.

YOUNG: Uh-huh.

STOLL: I have felt that before. And the truth is I would say that I had hoped for the last year if this swim were humanly possible, Diana Nyad would probably already have accomplished it. That being said, I have never heard her say if. She has known that she will accomplish this.

YOUNG: What was it like - we understand she's - was wearing a full-body suit along with that mask and that she was able to take that off.

STOLL: We only wear that from dusk to dawn because that's when the jellies come up.

YOUNG: And so how liberating to get that off?

STOLL: Very.

YOUNG: Yeah.

STOLL: But the mask kind of cut up her mouth and it got very swollen and couldn't keep any food down for a while. So at night, it was very difficult for her to have real sustenance other than liquids. And all the liquids just made her keep throwing up and throwing up.

YOUNG: Yeah.

STOLL: But she handles things like a champ, like you'd expect a champion to do. And that's what she is.

YOUNG: Well, we spoke to Diana Nyad after her 2011 failed attempt.

STOLL: Uh-huh.

YOUNG: And she described the mindset she's in when she gets, you know, past this 50 hours of swimming. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

NYAD: You actually are hearing your breath almost like when you listen to an ultrasound. You're hearing this.

(SOUNDBITE OF BREATHING)

NYAD: You're in this real state of sensory deprivation. Neurologists and dream experts have told me it's like being in a dream state while you're awake.

YOUNG: Yeah. And she also says that she sings jingles to herself and television theme songs and Beatles songs, like "Ticket to Ride." I'm assuming that happened this time as well.

STOLL: And then she says one, then she goes through the exact, same song again. Two, and she gets up to a thousand because she knows that way in her head might be an hour and a half of swimming. So, yeah, she does. She plays games with herself.

YOUNG: Yeah. What does she do now besides eat whatever she wants and a long rest. What - now that this is, you know, behind her, what happens now?

STOLL: Now, she will continue doing her motivational speeches. She will probably, I imagine, write a book. She's quite accomplished as a writer. She'll probably do a one-woman show. I have no idea. I guess we don't know what Diana is going to be doing in three days from now, let alone, you know, the future.

YOUNG: Yeah. Well, her motivational speeches just got a lot more motivational.

STOLL: Thank you. That's really sweet. And I thank you for your call. She'll appreciate it, OK?

YOUNG: Bonnie, thanks to you.

STOLL: OK, Robin. Bye-bye.

YOUNG: Bonnie Stoll of Team Nyad, just before Diana Nyad hit the beach in Key West today. Many of us will be hitting ponds in her honor, and with renewed strength, later today.

Up next, the boys of summer; the boy band One Direction wining at the box office this weekend. Who won summer overall? HERE AND NOW.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.