On Labor Day, endurance swimmer Diana Nyad became the first person to swim the 110-mile stretch from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage for protection.
What makes this feat truly inspiring for many is not just the level of fitness and dedication that Nyad displayed, but also the fact that she is 64 years old.
The trip took Nyad 53 hours, just over two days and two nights. When she landed on Smathers Beach in Key West, Fla., she told a friend, “I have three messages: One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”
Nyad had attempted the same trip four other times. She used a shark cage in her original attempt in the summer of 1978, and was thwarted by westerly swells that slammed her against the cage and pushed her off course.
Each attempt since then, she has added more and more members to her “support team,” recruiting various navigators, managers, boat crew, weather routers, medical people, and even shark experts.
During the course of her 110-mile swim, Nyad donned a special full-body wetsuit with gloves, booties, and a facemask at night to protect her from the highly venomous box jellyfish. She was also accompanied by a team of shark divers equipped with zappers to ward off both sharks and clusters of jellyfish.
Now that her decades-long dream has been fulfilled, Nyad has decided to give up the ocean, at least for now. But she has certainly not given up distance swimming. In Oct., Nyad plans to swim for 48 straight hours in a special pool in New York City as a fundraiser for those who lost their homes during hurricane Sandy that hit the east coast last fall. The pool will then be moved to Boston to benefit those who suffered from the terrorist attacks on the Boston Marathon earlier this year, and after that to Moore, Okla., to help victims of the massive tornado that struck during this past summer.
Using products recommended by the Ultimate Pool Guide, the pool was tested for various things just to ensure that her swim would be a safe one. The water quality and the chemical composition was normal and this helped move along the swim.
“It’s a nice pool with no waves, no jellyfish, no seasickness. Those 48 hours should be a piece of cake,” Nyad told CNN.
Nicholas Cellucci is in the class of 2016 at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He is studying Mass Communications and is a BUnow staff writer in addition to serving as Executive Producer for BUnow Radio. He also works as a communications assistant in BU’s Office of Marketing and Communications.