Diana Nyad – Finding Her Way

At 64 years old, most people are counting down the days to retirement and making the transition from actively working to settling down. It is also considered as the golden years and spending time with family members and starting new hobbies.

Meet Diana Nyad, a 64-year-old journalist, who made history on May 31, 2015, during her fifth attempt swimming from Cuba to Key West. She became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida in 27 hours and 30 minutes without the aid of a shark cage. “Onward, find a way,” Nyad says as she slowly walks out the ocean onto the beach of Key West with several cameras flashing and videographers standing on the beach capturing this historic moment. I, myself, remember watching this historic moment to see Nyad walking out the water. We all waited with feelings of anxiety along with anticipation for her to beat the odds of her past failures.

But how did Nyad accomplish this record-setting goal? Born in 1949 in New York City, Nyad was raised in South Florida where her love for competitive swimming became a reality at the age of 10. While breaking several marathon records, in 1974, Nyad began to push her swimming goals higher as she completed a 28-mile swim around New York City’s Manhattan island in 7 hours and 57 minutes. Still, Nyad felt that she could challenge herself and break more records and make swim history. Following 1974’s swim in Manhattan, she began training to long distance swim and in 1978, she decided to follow her dream and attempt her first swim from the country of Cuba to reaching the beaches of Florida. It was a dream that inspired her and ultimately took 35 years to accomplish. Using the aid of a shark cage, Nyad’s first attempt was unsuccessful due to rough waters. In 1979, she successfully completed and made history that year with setting the record for the longest ocean swim in history at that time. Swimming over 102 miles from one of Bahama’s island (North Bimini) to Juno Beach, Florida in 27 hours and 30 minutes Nyad completed her first major record. “It wasn’t so much what I wanted to do. It was who I wanted to be” Nyad says.

After her victory in 1979, Nyad became disappointed with her failure to swim from Cuba to Florida. Sadly, it caused Nyad to re-evaluate her love for swimming. At the age of 30, Nyad decided to shift her focus to journalism. For years, she worked as a journalist until her second and third attempts in 2011. With the aid of a shark cage, she was not successful on those attempts. Her fourth attempt was also unsuccessful due to problems with asthma and being attacked by jellyfish with painful stings.
In her book, “Find a Way” released in 2015, Nyad speaks about her mindset as she prepared for the final attempt in 2013 while focusing on her meditation rituals of yoga and deep breathing. Before her final swim, Nyad spoke positive affirmations along with focusing on her visualizations of putting her helmet on her head while comparing the arduous swim to Mount Everest. No swimmer had successfully made the journey, but Nyad knew to speak positive affirmations and rely on her strength while visualizing her goal. Repeating “You can do this. You will do this. The mantra takes on a rhythm with each breath, The spirit is reaching its necessary, indomitable plateau.” says Nyad. With a renewed focus and a custom-designed swimsuit and mask that protected her from jellyfish and an absent shark cage, Nyad was ready to make another final attempt at the age of 64. This time Nyad’s new motto was “Find a Way”. After over 30 years of making this same journey, she was ready. As she began her support team guided her to swim near the boat to help feed her for maintaining nutrition every hour including swimming at night. At one point, she had to fight away hallucinations by grabbing the boat for support and to fight away cold shivers at night. But in the distance seeing the sun rise, she was able to see the coast of Florida and she saw the rays of the sun as a guided path to the coast. As the sun rays warmed the water, she swam faster and felt more energy determined not to stop until she reached Florida. “Those people on the beach that day, they were crying. There were several thousand people. What they saw was a human being who had a dream and refused to give up on it. That’s how simple the story is.” Nearly 53 hours later Nyad made history. Nyad never gave up and held on to her dream for 35 years until completion. “Those people on the beach that day, they were crying. There were several thousand people. What they saw was a human being who had a dream and refused to give up on it. That’s how simple the story is.” Nearly 53 hours later Nyad made history. Nyad never gave up and held on to her dream for 35 years until completion.

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