Diana Nyad’s Birthday Swim Of 103 Miles To Start Today

Diana Nyad is planning her fourth attempt of the 103 miles between Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida today. The start time was moved up 16 hours due to the tranquil conditions that are forecasted over the next 72 hours.

Nyad hopes to complete the estimated 60+ hour journey in the Florida Straits by Tuesday, her 63rd birthday.

Her press conference right before her start time was comprehensive.

When I was 8-9 years old, my parents came to Cuba to dance salsa. I wondered then about the great Cuban athletes in track and field, boxing, volleyball and baseball. I feel in love with Cuba and its people. It was a great attraction to me and I asked my mother then, “Can someone swim between Cuba and Florida?”

This was and is my dream.

I want to feel alive at this age of 62. I also have a desire to show the connection between this beautiful country of Cuba and my own beautiful country. When I stand on that shore ready to dive in, my heart will be beating fast. This will be history and an example of the frienship between people. I want this something, this something that everyone on Earth should be able to feel. To be the best. To be able to realize your own dreams. I want everyone to feel that. Instead of sitting on a couch, go out and strive to be bold. Fiercely bold and realize your own dreams. Your own extreme dreams.

Swimming from Cuba to Florida is like any other great expedition, up a mountain or across the North Pole. You reach out to experts and you get the help of others. The Commodore of the Hemingway Marina has been a great help as have all of the jellyfish experts, shark experts and navigational experts who have donated their time, talents and expertise.

60 people are part of this expedition. My navigator, John Bartlett, will be making a new calculation every 15 minutes because the speed of the Gulf Stream is much greater than my own swimming speed.

I have to learn from my mistakes. I was stung by moon jellyfish and box jellyfish on my two attempts last year. So I reached out to the world’s number one expert on box jellyfish, Dr. Angel Yanagihara. I reached out to Luke Tipple who is a leading shark conservationist who knows the behavior of sharks including the tiger and oceanic white tips. He will not harm sharks, but he will push them and knows how to deal with them so they do not harm me. With Luke and his shark diving team, I do not feel one bit of hesitation out there.<

Media like CNN are covering this story. Why? The story has an important message. It is a story of a 62-year-old living life large with a huge hear to connect these problems of contemporary society. In these tough economic times, you must not give up hope and continue to feel the need, the will to live your dreams.”

Nyad was asked about Penny Palfrey’s attempt earlier this summer. Nyad replied, “I think she is the best long distance swimmer in the world today. I have great respect for her. If she would have finished, I would have congratulated her. I never want any jellyfish or shark to harm her, but honestly I want to be first because althought this is not my ocean, but it is my dream.

But once I finish, I will help everyone else who wants to cross this body of water.”

Nyad will attempt to start at 3 pm Cuba time today. “I will try to get out in deeper waters when there will be fewer box jellyfish compared with closer to shore.

I have fear, but I think it is healthy. When you have respect for the ocean, you also have fear. But we are complex creatures. I also have courage. I need more courage than fear over these next 3 days.”

Nyad also spoke about the support she received from many people. “So many people, non-sports fans and non-swimmers have written me and offered their support. They say that my dream is inspiring them to go after their own dreams. Two years ago, I arrived in Key West, Florida and I could not sleep. I went to a pharmacy and there was no one in the pharmacy except for another man. He told me, ‘You are going to do something important, but I do not know what it is. He took out a $2 bill and told me that his Cuban grandmother gave him this bill while he was still in Cuba. She told me to give it to someone who needs luck. And he gave me that $2 bill that he had in his wallet for 30 years.”

And she will need that to finish on her birthday. The longest birthday swim in history.

Photo by Christi Barli.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association