A celebrated endurance swimmer’s account of her life in the water and the attempts that led to her successful 2013 swim from Cuba to Florida.
Nyad’s future as a swimming star seemed fated. On her fifth birthday, her stepfather revealed that the last name he had given her not only meant water nymph, but also champion swimmer. Four years later, her mother pointed across the Straits of Florida and observed that the island that produced the culture Nyad had fallen in love with was so close “you could almost swim there.” She began training at age 10 and was soon competing at national championships. As much as she loved swimming for the highs it gave her, it was also an activity that helped her overcome the trauma of sexual abuse she faced from both her father and, later, a trusted swimming coach. By the time she had graduated high school, Nyad was a world-class swimmer, but she missed qualifying for the 1968 Olympics. She turned to open water marathon swimming in her early 20s. Fascinated by the idea of crossing from Florida to Cuba, she made one unsuccessful attempt to navigate the dangerous waters between Cuba and Key West in 1978; two years later, she ended her swimming marathon career to become a sports broadcaster and journalist. In 2010, at age 60, she began the first of four more attempts to swim between Cuba and Florida. Three years later, wearing a special protective suit and mask to protect against jellyfish stings, she managed the crossing in 53 hours. What makes Nyad’s story so remarkable, beyond the harrowing trials she faced at sea—unpredictable currents and weather, deadly sea animals—is the strength of a resolve that would not admit defeat and knew no boundaries. “Whatever your Other Shore is,” she writes, “whatever you must do…you will find a way.”
Inspiring reading for anyone who has ever dared to dream the impossible.