Skip to main content

Diana Nyad's Cuba to Florida swim breaks one record

By CNN Staff
updated 11:38 PM EDT, Sun September 1, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Diana Nyad is "feeling strong ... joking for the first time all day," says her handler
  • She hopes to swim the 103 miles from Havana to the Florida Keys
  • It's her fifth attempt in 35 years and will be her last, she says
  • If she's successful, she'll be the first person to do so without a shark cage, flippers or wet suit

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- [Breaking news update 11:35 p.m.]

Diana Nyad has broken swimmer Penny Palfrey's 2012 distance record in the Cuba to Florida swim, putting her closer to Key West than anyone has ever swum without a shark cage.

[Original story last posted at 10:18 p.m.]

Diana Nyad better than halfway through Cuba-to-Florida swim

Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad was better than halfway across the strait separating Cuba from the Florida Keys on Sunday on her fifth attempt to make it across the channel, her support team reported.

After more than 30 hours in the water, the 64-year-old Nyad was more than 63 miles north of the marina where she began Saturday morning.

"This is farther than she has gone in any previous attempt," team navigator John Bartlett wrote on Nyad's website. "Her path is only 5 miles to the east of a straight line from Marina Hemingway to Key West, thanks to a favorable Gulf Stream."

Nyad was still "swimming strongly" at just over 1.5 mph -- but averaging about 2 mph thanks to that favorable current, Bartlett wrote.

Later, her handler said that Nyad was feeling strong and coherent.

Nyad recounts sting by 'damn jellyfish'

"She is joking for the first time all day," wrote Bonnie Stoll on the same website.

"The only concern is that she is throwing up everything she eats. She's quite nauseous from sea salt, but that's to be expected," said Stoll. "We're giving her enough calories and nutrition. We're just going to keep feeding her, and we hope that some of it is going down. She's not weak. Her stroke count hasn't changed."

Nyad is attempting to become the first person to swim the 103 miles without the benefits of a shark cage, flippers or wet suit. She's said it will be her last attempt at that mark, after previous attempts that were thwarted by dehydration, ocean currents and excruciating jellyfish stings to her tongue.

This time, she's wearing a specially designed prosthetic face mask to prevent the jellyfish stings.

"It took us a year; we made mold after mold," Nyad said of the mask, adding it was the kind used to protect people who had suffered injuries to their faces.

"It's a two-edged sword for me. It's cumbersome, it's difficult to swim with, but it doesn't matter. I am safe. There's no other way."

She jumped into the water at 8:59 a.m. Saturday.

Were Nyad to swim the 103 miles, it would validate her attempts, which have spanned 35 years.

In 1997, Australian endurance swimmer Susie Maroney, then 22, completed the swim from within a shark cage.

Along with the protection the cage offers against toothy predators, swimmers say the cage provides a barrier against waves and other weather hazards.

Since Maroney's swim, some of the world's best endurance swimmers have tried to cross the straits of Florida without using a cage. All have been turned back, though Australia's Penny Palfrey made it 80 miles in 2012 before unfavorable currents forced her to quit.

But few have done so as persistently or as colorfully as Nyad.

The Los Angeles resident says she feels a special bond with Cubans and hopes her repeated efforts to swim between the two countries will help improve the still-tense relations between Havana and Washington.

Nyad is being accompanied by a 35-member crew aboard two sail boats. They monitor her health, update her progress on social media and try to ward off sharks that might view her as a potential snack.

If all goes as planned, Nyad said, the swim will take her three days to finish.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann from Havana, Cuba, and Matt Sloane contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
The reported firing of artillery from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle, says CNN's military analyst Rick Francona.
updated 4:46 AM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
The young boy stops, stares, throws ammunition casings at the reporter's feet without a word.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
A picture taken on June 28, 2014 shows a member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. The World Health Organization has warned that Ebola could spread beyond hard-hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to neighbouring nations, but insisted that travel bans were not the answer.
The worst ebola outbreak in history spreads out of control in West Africa. CNN's Michael Holmes reports.
updated 8:48 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
ITN's Dan Rivers reports from the hospital where those injured by an attack in Gaza were being treated.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
updated 2:08 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Flight attendants are wearing black ribbons to show solidarity with fallen colleagues in "a tribute to those who never made it home."
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT