‘Nyad’ True Story: Who Is Diana Nyad? Where Is She Now?


Annette Bening plays the character of Diana Nyad in the new Netflix biography, based on the real-life story of the prolific swimmer who created history in the year 2013, when she swam from Cuba to Florida and covered an unimaginable distance of approximately 110 miles. Yes, for those of you who haven’t heard about this Iron Lady, it might come off as a shock to realize that somebody at the age of 64 decided to take a challenge where they had to swim more than 100 miles through the treacherous ocean waters. This thought always comes into people’s minds as to why somebody would want to put themselves through such misery, pain, and danger. There is no answer to it. Sometimes, you are just born with it, and sometimes, that madness grows inside you eventually with time due to certain experiences. Those who are not bitten by this bug to outdo themselves, to constantly challenge one’s limit, to achieve greatness, never understand why a person would do that. I mean, there is no better way to describe what Diana Nyad decided to do than to call it madness. But madness is what you need to do things that, as a species, we consider impossible.

Is The Film Different From True Story?

Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Nyad is a true story based on marathon swimmer Diana Nyad’s life. It sounds like fiction when we see that she actually swam from Cuba to Florida, but it is true that she achieved that feat in approximately 53 hours and told the world that the word impossible does not exist in her dictionary. Diana had been trying to accomplish her goal since 1978, but she had been unsuccessful back then, as shown in the series. But Diana didn’t give up on her dreams, and she ended up doing the unfathomable when she was 64 years old. Before successfully completing the distance, Diana had failed more than a couple of times, but failure didn’t lower her spirits, and giving up was never an option. There are a lot of people who have been raising questions about the GPS data from her swim, and they are of the opinion that Diana improvised the rules, but the makers have gone ahead and supported Diana’s narrative, and the film affirms that her swim was in accordance with the rules. 

Why Did Diana Want To Swim From Cuba To Florida?

Diana, in 1978, for the first time, tried swimming from Cuba to Florida, but she was unable to complete the distance, and she stopped because multiple things went wrong for her. Years passed, but Diana was still stuck on the fact that she hadn’t been able to accomplish what she had set out to do. When her peers were making retirement plans, Diana decided to realize her dreams and give it her all one last time. If the experts had said that swimming from Cuba to Florida was humanly impossible back then in 1978, then you can imagine how people would have perceived a 60-year-old woman wanting to go to the open ocean to literally get herself killed. People asked why she had to do that and what she wanted to achieve or prove, and Diana, to be very frank, didn’t really have an answer for it. She couldn’t make others understand why she was risking her life, and she was fine with people thinking that she had lost her mind.

Diana always said that she hated mediocrity and that her sensibilities did not align with most people. Diana just wanted to take her time off, but she craved to achieve greatness. She always said that we have one life, and whatever one needs to do must be done now. She knew that she wouldn’t live forever, and so, she wanted to amount to something, do something that had never been done, and become immortal in that moment. She knew that the odds were not in her favor, and some people considered that she was risking her life, but giving up was not in her DNA. For 33 years, she had been trying to get over the fact that she had not been able to accomplish what she had set out to do, but she couldn’t make peace with it. She decided that she would have to do something about it, as this was not how she could lead her life. She had this belief in herself that she could still do it, and so she decided to follow her instincts and try doing what the world thought was not possible.

Was Diana A Selfish Person?

Well, we won’t deny that after seeing the film, Nyad, we also felt that somewhere, Diana was at times, selfish in her approach, and she often didn’t take others’ feelings into consideration. She did feel that she was superior in a lot of ways, and at times, we could also say that she was judgmental of others on a lot of occasions. But then, in Diana’s defense, had she not been selfish, the world wouldn’t have let her swim from Cuba to Florida, and she was judgmental only because she could see an entire population wasting their potential and making some or the other excuse in life. She accepted in the film that she felt that she was superior to others, and that made her believe that what others thought to be impossible was possible for her. Her selfishness made her go after her dreams without thinking about what others thought, and her superiority complex made her determined and adamant to fulfill her destiny when no one believed in her. She was not a toxic person at all, and these vices, in the degree they were present inside her, added fuel to the fire and propelled her to achieve greatness and defy the limits of the human body. At the end of Nyad, Diana approached her great win magnanimously, and she accepted the fact that no matter how much confidence she had in her own abilities, the feat wouldn’t have been possible if Bonnie and her entire team hadn’t been by her side. She said that though it looked like a solitary sport, it took a team to do what she had been able to do.

Where Is Diana Nyad Now?

Diana had been abused in her childhood, and though her scars hadn’t healed, she swam to overpower that trauma. She wanted her journey to inspire others to never stop chasing their dreams. Diana saw a new dream together with her coach and friend Bonnie Stoll, which was for the people of her nation to leave their sedentary lives and become healthy. That’s when she started the initiative, “EverWalk,” where she motivated people to walk three times a week. Today, Diana Nyad is a motivational speaker, a role model, a writer, and many other things. She encourages people to leave their fears, inhibitions, and limitations behind, map uncharted territory, and expand their horizons. She wants to bring about a change in perspectives and make people realize that one’s willpower can help them overcome any obstacle. Diana has become somewhat of an influencer, too, and she has 19k followers on Instagram, where she constantly motivates people to challenge their own limits and strive to become a better version of themselves.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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