KEY WEST, Florida, September 2. IT took her five tries to pull it off, but 64-year-old Diana Nyad finally slayed her personal Moby Dick by completing the Cuba-to-Florida open water swim after more than 50 hours in the water.
A huge part of her success proved to be a specially made face mask to protect her from the vicious jellyfish stings to her face that have caused her to quit four other times before.
With the entire world watching, and her personal hashtag #XtremeDream trending on Twitter, Nyad made it to Key West at Smathers Beach shortly before 2 p.m. ET. That made her the first person to complete the 110-mile swim without a shark cage or flippers.
The success put a close to Nyad’s dream first hatched 35 years ago when she first attempted the swim. She first attempted the swim in 1978, then did not make another attempt until 2010.
In 1997, Australia’s Susie Maroney first completed the swim with the aid of a shark cage. Ever since, swimmers have taken the challenge without assistance for decades. Penny Palfrey had been the most successful, pushing the previous record to 80 miles in 2012 before currents stopped her progress.
Nyad definitely had a significant support crew with 35 members following along her swim on two boats. Some kept pace with her swim on social media, while others ran interference with potential shark attacks throughout the swim.
Nyad also had some serious company during the final two miles of her swim with mainstream media descending upon the scene with a relative armada of boats to cover the final stretch of the epic swim.
By the end of the swim, Nyad definitely had some obstacles to overcome. Even with her specially designed mask, Nyad had swollen lips and tongue, which made it difficult for her to speak to her support crew, inducing some slurred speech as she powered through the final leg of her incredible effort.
With just two miles left to go, Nyad called all of the support boats together for a conversation before finishing her swim, according to her site DianaNyad.com.
“Hi everybody. I have some bad abrasions in my mouth from the jellyfish mask, so excuse me if I have trouble talking,” Nyad said. “I am about to swim my last two miles in the ocean. This is a lifelong dream of mine and I’m very very glad to be with you. Some on the team are the most intimate friends of my life and some of you I’ve just met. But I’ll tell you something, you’re a special group. You pulled through; you are pros and have a great heart. So let’s get going so we can have a whopping party. Thank you, all of you, thank you for your generosity.”
The two-mile mark definitely served to be the beginning of a celebratory stance from Nyad’s crew and the swimming community.
Confession: We’re posting through tears & giddy smiles & exhausted eyes after tens of thousands of page refreshes & no sleep. #XtremeDream— Diana Nyad (@diananyad) September 2, 2013
Nyad began her epic journey on Saturday morning in Havana, Cuba, just a year after her last attempt in 2012 came to an end after 41 hours of swimming.
The swim drew some heavy mainstream media attention, including ESPN Sports Business Reporter who pointed out Nyad’s sponsors on Twitter:
Sponsors of @DianaNyad: Lesbian travel company Olivia, Secret, Hammer Nutrition, U of Miami Hospital, Finis swimming equipment.— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) September 2, 2013
In 2010, Nyad appeared on the Morning Swim Show to talk about her previous attempts.