Diana Nyad’s Legendary Swim: From Cuba to Florida at Age 64 Inspiring a Netflix Film a Decade Later

Diana Nyad

At the remarkable age of 64, Diana Nyad achieved a monumental feat of endurance and strength: swimming 111 miles from Cuba to Florida without the safety of a shark cage.

Now, ten years following her awe-inspiring accomplishment, her story has been transformed into a Netflix film aptly titled ‘Nyad’, with powerhouse actors Annette Bening and Jodie Foster leading the cast.

Breaking Through Waves and Expectations

In the summer of 1978, at the age of 28, Diana Nyad embarked on her first attempt to traverse the waters between Cuba and Florida—a journey considered the “Mount Everest” of swimming.

Shielded by a shark cage, she braved tumultuous seas for 42 hours, covering a distance of 76 miles, though not in a direct path due to fierce winds.

Nyad’s relationship with the water began at age 10, and she quickly made waves in competitive swimming.

In 1974, she set a new female record in the 22-mile Bay of Naples race with a time of 8 hours and 11 minutes.

The following year, she shattered the Manhattan Island marathon swim record by nearly an hour, clocking in at 7 hours and 57 minutes for the 28-mile challenge.

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1979 saw Nyad complete a then-world-record oceanic swim from North Bimini, Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Florida, covering 102 miles in 27.5 hours.

nyan film netflix

A Return to the Water

Post-30, Nyad shifted gears to a successful career in sports journalism and broadcasting but never let go of the dream she had set aside. Decades later, she felt the call of the sea once again.

Her 2011 attempt at the Cuba-to-Florida swim was thwarted by asthma after 28 hours.

A month later, a second try was cut short by venomous jellyfish stings at around 41 hours.

In 2012, a third attempt was halted by a combination of jellyfish stings and a thunderstorm after 60 hours of persistence.

The Final Stroke to Victory

August 31, 2013, marked the beginning of what would become her victorious journey.

Guided by a support boat and mentally humming her favorite tunes to maintain focus, Nyad donned a bodysuit, gloves, booties, and a special mask to fend off the jellyfish.

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Despite the mask causing her to swallow copious amounts of seawater and subsequent vomiting, she pressed on.

Backed by a 35-person support team, including her coach and former partner Bonnie Stoll, Nyad emerged triumphant after 52 hours, 54 minutes, and 18.6 seconds in the water.

A Tale of Perseverance on Screen

On September 2, 2013, a 64-year-old Nyad touched the Florida shore, making history as the first person to complete the swim without a shark cage. Her mantra, “Never, ever give up,” resonated as she completed her journey.

The cinematic portrayal of Nyad’s grueling 53-hour swim delves into the depths of mental fortitude, discipline, tenacity, and companionship.

Directed by the romantic and creative duo Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, who are making their narrative debut following their Oscar-winning climbing documentary ‘Free Solo‘, the film showcases Bening as Nyad and Foster as her coach. ‘Nyad‘ is available for streaming on Netflix starting today.

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