Moral Low Ground

Society

61-Year-Old Diana Nyad, 70’s Swimming Champ, to Swim 103 Miles from Cuba to Key West

Diana Nyad, the 61-year-old former US swimming champ who still holds the record for swimming between the Bahamas and Florida without a wetsuit (set in 1979) and who once swam around the entire island of Manhattan in under eight hours, is about to embark upon a new challenge. She will attempt to become the first person to swim the 103 miles between Havana, Cuba and Key West, Florida– a dangerously grueling journey through shark-infested waters and across one of the strongest currents on earth.

It will be an arduous 60-hour swim that will test the very limits of human endurance. Nyad will have no shark cage, no wet suit and won’t be allowed to touch or hold on to any ropes or the boat that will accompany her on her journey.

“Can a human body really do that?” she asks.

“It’s the extreme end of what humans can do,” says David Merchant, her navigator.

To help fuel her epic swim, Nyad will consume just under 1,000 calories an hour for more than two days. To help her fend off sharks, she’ll use kayakers with shark repellent and shark divers who can prod the dangerous fish away.

Why this? And why now?

Nyad says that turning 60 was particularly hard on her. “I blinked and then I was 60, and 60 hit me hard. I think it was all of those typical feelings of that deep breath of ‘it goes by quickly.’ I’ve decided that the best remedy for that angst was to just grasp something that would require all of me… every moment of passion and strength and belief I could come up with. This Cuba swim is demanding all of that.”

“I’m ready. I really am. I’m duly afraid, but when the swim is done, I want to live like this,” Nyad says. “I go to bed these days with no regrets whatsoever. It does erase all that worry about ‘Am I doing enough? Am I not living large?’ I used to think ‘This is only for young people.’ But it isn’t. Maybe I didn’t do what I was supposed to do in my 20s, 30s, 40s or 50’s. But if I can just do everything I can today, at least I can say I lived it all with gusto.”

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