Nyad’s Feet Touch Sand, Swimmer Completes Historic 110-Mile Swim

BY Jenny Marder  September 2, 2013 at 2:00 PM EST


Diana Nyad has reached Key West on the coast of Florida. You can watch the final leg of her swim here.

Update: 6:30 p.m. ET

Shortly before 2 p.m. ET, a sunburned and visibly exhausted 64-year-old Diana Nyad reached the shore of Key West, Fla., surrounded by thousands of beachgoers, making history as the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.

She left Havana nearly 53 hours and 110 miles earlier. This was her fifth attempt at the ultra-athletic feat — her first was in 1978.

As she walked onto Smathers Beach, supported by assistants and looking dazed and unsteady, she raised a finger and said, through slurred speech:

“I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you never are too old to chase your dreams. And three is, it looks like a solitary sport but it’s a team.”

Indeed, that team was made up of 35 members and five boats and included support assistants, shark hunters, a doctor, a navigator and a jellyfish expert.

Just three hours earlier Monday morning, despite severe exhaustion, a swollen tongue and lips, and bad abrasions from her jellyfish mask, Nyad paused to tread water for several minutes to thank her crew.


Two miles from the shore, endurance swimmer Diana Nyad stops to thank her team. Photo by Nyad Xtreme Dream.

A “Doctor’s Report” on her blog posted at 9 a.m. showed that she had “gotten very cold” and become disoriented overnight in the dark and appeared to be “really hurting,” according to one of her handlers. She also did the swim without fins or a wet suit.

Last year’s August 2012 attempt at the swim was thwarted by storms, strong currents and jellyfish stings that she said caused “intense, ripping pain.” Soon after, Margaret Warner talked to her from her return boat home. You can see the interview here:


In August 2012, Nyad spoke with NewsHour correspondent Margaret Warner about her fourth attempt at swimming the distance between Cuba and Florida.

But this time, favorable weather conditions and far fewer jellyfish were among the factors that helped her achieve what she couldn’t in years past.

We’ve covered Diana Nyad’s past attempts, along with the strains such an effort can place on the human body: extreme exhaustion, dangerous jellyfish stings, sunburn, hypothermia, storms and strained muscles, to name just a few.

And here’s more on the throngs of jellyfish she’s encountered along the way in past years and the extensive efforts by her team to protect against them.

This tweet came through at 11:45 a.m. ET.

And soon after, she stepped onto sand, this: