Skip to main content

After Cuba-Florida feat, Diana Nyad to swim 48 hours in New York

By Josh Levs, CNN
September 4, 2013 -- Updated 1111 GMT (1911 HKT)
Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage, reaching a Key West beach on Monday, September 2, nearly 53 hours after jumping into the ocean in Havana for her fifth try in 35 years. The 64-year-old endurance swimmer had a 35-person team to help clear her path of jellyfish and watch for sharks. Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage, reaching a Key West beach on Monday, September 2, nearly 53 hours after jumping into the ocean in Havana for her fifth try in 35 years. The 64-year-old endurance swimmer had a 35-person team to help clear her path of jellyfish and watch for sharks.
HIDE CAPTION
Diana Nyad's record-setting swim
Diana Nyad's record-setting swim
Diana Nyad's record-setting swim
Diana Nyad's record-setting swim
Diana Nyad's record-setting swim
Diana Nyad's record-setting swim
Diana Nyad's record-setting swim
Diana Nyad's record-setting swim
Diana Nyad's record-setting swim
Diana Nyad's record-setting swim
Diana Nyad's record-setting swim
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Diana Nyad plans to swim for fundraisers in New York, Boston, and Moore, Oklahoma
  • "I am through with the ocean," she tells CNN
  • Nyad says she was "very sick" during the swim from Cuba to Florida
  • She sang Neil Young songs in her head and counted to get through, she says

(CNN) -- With her decades-long dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida achieved, Diana Nyad is setting her sights on her next challenge.

"I am through with the ocean," she said on CNN's "New Day" Tuesday. "Never going to be seasick again! See how happy I look?"

Still, she's off to do something few other people could or would. Nyad plans to swim for 48 hours in New York City.

A special pool will be installed for the October 8-10 event, a fundraiser for people who lost their homes in Superstorm Sandy.

"Then we're going to take that pool to the Boston Marathon at the anniversary of that terror attack, and we're going to swim there to help those people recover," she said. After that, she'll travel to Moore, Oklahoma, which was ravaged by a massive tornado earlier this year.

Diana Nyad: A baby boomer hero
Diana Nyad: 'Find a way'
Diana Nyad: 'Chase your dreams'
Diana Nyad breaks distance record

It's "a nice pool with no waves, no jellyfish, no seasickness," Nyad joked. "Those 48 hours should be a piece of cake," she told CNN's Kate Bolduan.

Diana Nyad's jellyfish-proof face mask

Nyad's nearly 53-hour journey in her fifth attempt to cross what she calls "a treacherous stretch of water" ended in victory Monday. Her first effort was 35 years ago, when was in her 20s; now she's 64.

After the previous attempts, people had emphasized to her that "it's the journey, it's not the destination," she said Tuesday. "It's all the self-discovery and the wonderful team. And I agree. But I'll tell you something: This time, the destination really brought me into a state of euphoria."

Not that she has instantly recovered from what the historic swim did to her.

The waves were "tough," and a special facial mask designed to protect her from jellyfish stings led her to "take in a lot of saltwater," she said.

"I was very sick."

"I'm a little beat up," she said. She has facial lacerations and effects of saltwater exposure inside her mouth. But "the emotional high is wiping out any physical problem."

People told her that swimming from Cuba to Key West, Florida, was "impossible," she says. People encouraged her to try friendlier waters, such as the Maldives or Guam. "But Cuba was in my heart, and when I look at the map, that's what spoke to my imagination. So I didn't want to give up on it. And this time I got lucky."

"The Gulf Stream was my friend, and usually it's not," she said. "Usually you're out there going in circles, going east of the Bahamas. This time the Gulf Stream went north, right where I was going."

She was surrounded by a team of 35 people along the way "working like a machine," Nyad said. Kayakers helped keep away sharks, and a jellyfish expert was in the water with her, scooping up jellyfish to keep them away from her.

Her handler, Bonnie Stoll, helped get her "somehow through the tough moments," Nyad said.

Still, it's "a very isolating experience," she said.

Opinion: Nyad shows baby boomers so 'not over'

"When you're feeling good and you're cruising through the daylight hours, you're singing Neil Young songs to yourself and counting in French and German and Spanish, just passing the time."

But, she said, "I had two nights of full suffering." At those times, "You're not thinking of anything. You're just coping and surviving."

At a news conference later Tuesday morning, a relaxed Nyad thanked her team and joked as she recounted her swim. On Sunday night, she said, she hallucinated she was seeing the Taj Mahal.

Recalling a previous attempt, she talked about hallucinating while looking at a streamer of lights that was meant to show her where her support boat was so that she'd know in what direction to swim at night. She remembers telling Stoll, from the water, that she saw people walking on a yellow brick road, singing "Heigh-Ho."

Stoll responded, "That's where you're going; follow them." Nyad said, drawing laughter.

The people who have followed her efforts closely for years "aren't sports hounds," she told CNN. "... They're human beings who are dealing with their own heartaches and their own obstacles in life, and they want to know how to get through."

Nyad said she represents a commitment never to give up on something "important to your heart -- you look and see what's inside yourself and you find a way."

And her age speaks to baby boomers, she said. "I think people are looking to me to say, 'Hell no, I'm not old.'

"When I'm 90 I'll get in a rocking chair, look at the sunset. But look how my friends who are in their 60s are vibrant, at their intellectual peak -- I'm proving that you can even be at your physical peak at this age."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 0214 GMT (1014 HKT)
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 1239 GMT (2039 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT