Diana Nyad was 20 hours into her swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys early Sunday morning, and things were going great. This will be the first time Nyad has ever reached international waters without a crisis.
“This is the first time we’ve ever reached international waters without a crisis,” her handler Bonnie Stoll was quoted as saying on diananyad.com, which is blogging Nyad’s attempt.
She is attempting to become the first person to swim the 103 miles without the benefits of a shark cage, flippers or wet suit. It’s the fifth try for the 64-year-old — and she has said it will be her last.
Previous attempts 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. ET Saturday morning.
Early Sunday morning, she was still going strong.
“She is doing remarkably well in that jellyfish suit,”John Berry, the operations chief told the blog. “And she is going at her expected pace in it, which is 47 strokes per minute.”
It’s not easy for 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.
But few have done so as persistently or as colorfully as Nyad.
The Key West, Florida, 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.