The Unsinkable Diana Nyad

At 61, Diana Nyad attempted to swim 103 miles against three-foot waves, the threat of sharks, and her own demons. A Reader's Digest Exclusive.

Diana Nyad
Jeffery Salter/Chuck Fadely

On Labor Day 2013, fittingly, athlete Diana Nyad, 64, became the first person to swim from Havana, Cuba, to the Florida Keys without a shark cage. “If you say to yourself ‘find a way,’ you’ll make it through,” Nyad said from Key West on Tuesday. Her previous four attempts at the more than 100-mile feat fell short due to injury or weather. In an exclusive interview with Reader’s Digest on the eve of her second attempt in 2011, Nyad said, “I don’t think any ocean swimmer has ever been this prepared physically or mentally.” Read more from Nyad and watch an inspiring video of her preparation below.

Under the pale light of a half-moon at midnight, Diana Nyad’s agonized groans carried across the water to her support boat 18 feet away. The vessel drifted on the choppy surface, and her crew looked on, hoping she’d rally and find light on the other side of this darkness.

It was August 10, 2011. Though Nyad had instructed her 11-person team of navigators, doctors, and trainers not to tell her how many miles were left in her epic swim, the facts were as stark as the night that lay ahead. Nyad had been in the water, stroking arm over arm, turning her head to breathe once every second, for more than 20 hours. She was dozens of miles into her quest to complete a 103-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Florida, but still closer to the start than the finish.

Because of the currents in the Florida Straits, Nyad would have to last 60 hours — if everything went perfectly. So far, hardly anything had gone right.

“We got a forecast of nice, calm, light wind, but that didn’t happen,” Nyad recalled later. “We had rough seas all over the place.”

The waves swelled. Her chest was corseted by asthma; her shoulder was injured. She had swum into a field of jellyfish that made a meal of her and covered her skin in a rash of painful welts. She was cold and nauseated. Even her goggles kept fogging. There were 50 more miles to go to reach land and 5,500 feet of ocean beneath her, and she was digging even deeper than that into her own soul just to keep surging forward. All these numbers and measurements to process. And one more: In two weeks, she was going to turn 62 years old.

1 2 3 4 5

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.


Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.