The Courage to Fail with Diana Nyad

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Many extreme adventurers harbor a particular dream for many years. Diana’s love affair with Cuba stems all the way back to childhood. She was nine, a little competitive swimmer in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, when the Cuban Revolution broke. The mystique of that suddenly forbidden island wafted through her brain. And one day, standing on the beach with her mother, she asked where Cuba was, across the sea? Her mother pointed and said to her, “It’s there. Havana is right across the horizon, there. It’s so close, you little champion swimmer, you could almost swim there.” More than fifty years later, standing on the shores of Havana, ready to make her fifth attempt at swimming across that epic ocean between Cuba and Florida, her mother’s words still echoed in her brain.

On one hand, she didn’t want the Cuba Swim to be the biggest thing she ever did in her life. She had other dreams. But the truth was, it is a stretch of ocean that open water swimmers consider the “Mt Everest of long-distance swims.” She chased that dream for thirty-five years. Long, long hours of grueling training. Four massive failures that forced her to focus on the journey, instead of the destination. And the bottom line is that when she finally stumbled up onto that Key West beach (Sept 2, 2013; 110.86 miles; 52 hrs, 54mins), it was in fact the biggest thing she had ever done.

Diana Nyad is a prominent sports journalist; filing over thirty years for National Public Radio, The New York Times, and others. Her memoir, Find a Way, has earned worldwide praise and her groundbreaking Op Ed piece on her childhood sexual abuse for The New York Times drew a passionate response from around the world. Diana has been inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame among other notable awards of distinction. President Obama invited Diana to congratulate her in the Oval Office and asked her to accompany him on his peace visit to Havana in 2014. Diana’s interview was the first two-hour interview on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday broadcast. The film “NYAD” is slated for 2023 release as a feature film with Annette Bening playing Diana and the iconic Jodie Foster playing Bonnie.


This program was organized by Phoebe Piper.