Halfway to Key West, Diana Nyad Ends Her Swim

BY Jenny Marder  August 8, 2011 at 6:00 PM EDT

US swimmer Diana Nyad jumps into the water at Ernest Hemingway Nautical Club in Havana on August 7, beginning her 103-mile journey. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Update: August 9, 8:50 a.m. ET

After 29 hours in the water, shifting winds and powerful ocean currents forced 61-year-old Diana Nyad to end her swim early Tuesday morning.

“Earlier in the evening, she was surrounded by dolphins and a beautiful Caribbean sunset. But strong currents blew her 15 mph off course,” a member of her team posted on Twitter. And in a following post: “The combination of factors was too much to safely continue.”

Nyad was vomiting as she was brought aboard at 12:45 am Tuesday. The decision left her disappointed, but not defeated. “I am not sad. It was absolutely the right call,” she told CNN.

The early morning announcement followed reports of nagging shoulder pains and asthma.

Just after 5:00 p.m. Monday, at 22.5 hours into her swim, CNN’s Matt Sloane, who was tracking her swim from a support boat, reported that rough seas were slowing her down. Her social media team said she was struggling with a countercurrent.


Currently Diana is struggling w/ a countercurrent (½ knot to the west ). After she should get a good lift to the NE from the Loop. -Jeniferless than a minute ago via HootSuite Favorite Retweet Reply


And then, after 1 am on Tuesday:


From Elaine Lafferty on our boat team: It’s over. She lasted 29 hours in an heroic attempt.less than a minute ago via HootSuite Favorite Retweet Reply



Nyad had set off for her epic 103-mile swim from Cuba to Key West at 7:45 pm ET Sunday.

After addressing a crowd in both English and in Spanish, she pulled on her blue bathing cap, shook out her shoulders, tooted “Reveille” on a bugle and flashed a cheerful thumbs-up to the crowd. Then she jumped feet first into the water, adjusted her goggles and began swimming away from Havana and toward the Florida coast.

Nyad attempted to make the same nonstop swim more than 30 years ago, but failed due to weather and ocean conditions. If successful, she would have been the first ever to swim the distance without a shark cage. She was hoping to complete the journey in roughly 60 hours.

“When one reaches this age, you still have a body that’s strong, but now you have a better mind,” she said before embarking. “I think this is my day. …You’ll have to talk to me in 24 hours, then in 48 hours and then in 60 hours, and we’ll see how I feel.”

Earlier Monday, Sloane tweeted that Nyad was swimming strong despite a few shoulder pains and some asthma.


Almost 20 miles off the Cuban coast now… @diananyad still swimming strong – a few shoulder pains, but all is well! #XtremeDreamless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply


Dangers during the long swim included hypothermia, hyperthermia, dehydration, sharks, jellyfish and exhaustion. A support staff consisting of a doctor, assistant, shark hunters, kayakers, boat navigators and friends was by her side throughout the journey.

By 8:30 am, Nyad’s team reported that the swimmer was eating scrambled eggs aboard the boat, en route to Key West, feeling strong, but disappointed. “I don’t feel like a failure at all,” she said via Twitter. “But we needed a little more luck.”

*An earlier version of the headline in this post implied that Nyad was swimming toward Cuba. She swam from Cuba toward Key West. *