110 miles, 53 hours: Questions for Diana Nyad



  • MvGMvG Brussels (BE) and Lith (NL)Charter Member
    Btw sincere thanks to Evan and Donal for animating this debate so well - and for going into the lion's den... - to @malinaka and others for some essential number crunching, and to @b9chris for having been such a great levelheaded contributor from DN's team.

    Who said that open water swimming is not a spectator sport?!
  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member
    Got another great comment on my blog from an Xtreme Dreamer:
    You sir, are a sexist pig you claim to respect Nyad swim but you infact belittle her with comments like this and I quote;

    IronMike September 4
    Charter Member 7 Likes
    Yes, "Pro" swimmer, but add in her feed stops of 12 min long, and those stops where her crew would clothe her and put her make-up on...but I guess you're right since she made up all that time on night two what with not needing water or feed for 7+ hours.

    Put her make up on??? It's called sun block. You said make up because you were being sexist - She's a woman so she wears make up! Pathetic!

    I would love to see you do that swim all the way - without sunblock.
    You are just a bitter little no-body who has to rain on someone's parade because you have no parade of your own.
    Do one - Ironpatheticmike!
    Uh-oh! My sense of humor was a bit much for Realswimmerfan (who also has an interesting email, which I'll not put on here for his/her protection).

    For the record, I was jokingly calling DN's jellyfish preventative gel "make-up" because in one of the videos (), it looks like a make-up artist putting make-up on her. It was not sunblock that I was making fun of.

    Ironpatheticmike, I like that!
  • JBirrrdJBirrrd MarylandSenior Member
    So you don't like us women, Ironpatheticmike???
    That saddens me.
    If we arrange a parade for you, will you change your sexist ways?
  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member
    As long as you all parade in your bikinis, @JBirrrd.

    I joke of course (but if you're willing...)

  • JBirrrdJBirrrd MarylandSenior Member
    edited September 2013
    That was good...laughing at your sexist pig humor.
    I guess that makes me Jpatheticbirrrd.
  • JimeboyJimeboy Temporary Suspension
    Are you guys serious about this or just kidding around? I must be missing something. I kind of agree with her gist but I do not condone calling anyone a pig. ;) Can't wait for tonight and tomorrow.
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    CNN segment that aired earlier today:


    I and some others were interviewed for a segment that will appear this evening on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer (check local listings).

    There will also be segments airing tomorrow on the NBC Today Show, and on CNN's New Day.
  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsCharter Member
    Link is dead and gone here in the Netherlands for that video.

    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member
    @Jimeboy, the quoted comment was seriously left on my latest blog post. Other than that, nothing I said about parades was serious. ;)

    BL: if DN were a man who had helpers in the water applying jellyfish gel, I still would have called it make up. (Also much easier than typing "jellyfish preventative gel" every damn time!)
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited September 2013
  • Diana Nyad and her team. A moderator. @Evmo & I and some well-known people to you all, some of whom are also members of the forum, and some others have been invited. Currently close to 20 people that I've seen on the invitation list.

    I suggest someone video it for those that can't attend.
  • AnthonyMcCarleyAnthonyMcCarley Berwyn, PACharter Member
    The analogy I have been using with non-marathon swimmers is: This is like me claiming that I broke the world record for running a mile, and… you are only allowed the watch the beginning and end of the run and in the middle I take credit for running faster than Usain Bolt can run 100m… yet my pace for the parts you were able to see were about a third of that speed. My story would deserve skepticism, wouldn't it? The analogy seems to work (at least with people that know me).
  • lakespraylakespray Senior Member
    @evmo well a link to this controversy has hit the Drudge Report, they listed the Daily Mail UK article.

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited September 2013
    Grace van der Byl on local TV in San Diego:

    This is a really, really good interview by one of the sweetest, most genuine people I've ever known. Not to mention an incredible swimmer.

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    lakespray said:

    a link to this controversy has hit the Drudge Report

    I'm guessing this site's bandwidth is not going to handle this.
  • Great interview with Grace - thank you for posting. I love that she calls it like she sees it - this was an assisted swim so don't call it unassisted.
  • mrfinbarrmrfinbarr Charter Member
    In my opinion the team at this stage has confirmed this is most certaintly an assisted swim, she was helped by an ocean current which moved a 1.5mph swimmer at 7+mph. This places it firmly in the category of Martin Strel's epics rather than Penny Palfrey's
  • mjstaplesmjstaples Atlanta, GA, USMember
    Great interview on ABC world news!
  • JimeboyJimeboy Temporary Suspension
    @evmo you don't look half as hideous as I pictured you might. ;) nice interview on CNN
  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Ventnor, NJCharter Member
    I can't find the interview on CNN other than the short segment, but here is a link to the ABC segment:


  • paulmpaulm Senior Member
    Does anyone know if the google earth download of the track on DN's site- a manually produced document (working off manually produced cordinates ) or a copy of a spot track ???
  • I am disappointed. I really thought that we would be the first web forum to bring the entire internet crashing down and dying a horrible death by overloading it, but it looks like it will survive.

    Next time I suggest that we get Kim Kardashian to claim that she swam from Cuba to Florida in a skimpy bikini. That should do it.


    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • Zero current, Diana Nyad no way could have done the swim. Look at the video of her swimming. Slow. Penny Palfrey, zero current, easily could have done the swim. Penny is strong and fast. I have escorted many swimmers across various channels, including Penny in Hawaii, Caymans and her Cuba attempt. Question to the Open Water Swimming Community. How can you ever get a level playing field? Diana could have perhaps got the once in a lifetine perfect current where she could have floated on her back the whole way and made it while Penny got serious cross currents pulling her out into the Atlantic and didn't, even though she was a much stronger and faster swimmer. All this is very confusing. Open water swimming is still evolving and I'm stoked we're having this discussion.
  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member

    I can't find the interview on CNN other than the short segment, but here is a link to the ABC segment:


    Damn you iPod and Flash!
  • paulm said:

    Does anyone know if the google earth download of the track on DN's site- a manually produced document (working off manually produced cordinates ) or a copy of a spot track ???

    I posted that - it's the Spot track. I wrote a little code to export what's in the site's db to kml and gpx. You'll notice the spreadsheet link on the site is identical to the one I posted here.

  • paulmpaulm Senior Member
    Thanks b9chris
  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
    IronMike said:

    I can't find the interview on CNN other than the short segment, but here is a link to the ABC segment:


    Damn you iPod and Flash!
    Thanks Rosemary,
    IronsexistMike, I just looked it on my laptop and it's only a couple of sentences. Enjoyed it and want to see the whole interview/discussion. Hopefully I can find the full thing on tv tomorrow before I go to work.
  • I must say that I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of the media coverage on this issue. The interviews with Evan and Grace were really nice and interesting to listen to. I also think it has been really nice the way Diana's team has been willing to share their GPS data, and I hope the discussion tomorrow goes well.

    I may be a little late to the game on this issue, but just wanted to quantify some of issues with Diana's speed and the assertion by her team that she got a rare Northward current assist. I will preface this saying that I am a physicist by training, so I'm to handling data and vectors and all that, but I am not an oceanographer so I'm slightly outside my area of expertise.

    I've been looking around for current data for the dates of her swim, and so far the best I could find was the NCSU model available on the SECOORA website (a few people have posted images from this site earlier in this thread). This Regional Ocean Model uses a combination of satellite and buouy data with a detailed numerical model to get the current, temperature, salinity etc in the region with very good spatial and temporal resolution. These models aren't perfect, but they are used in things like hurricane forecasting, tracking pollution (eg the BP oil spill) and things like that so a lot of work goes into them.

    I overlaid Diana's GPS positions on the surface current flow fields for the days and times corresponding to her swim. A few are shown below, the rest are available as a movie shared on google drive. The purple arrow shows the magnitude and direction of the current at Diana's position at each given time. As you can see in the examples below, the current is mostly perpendicular to her and I do not see the rare south-north current they claim to have ridden.





    (let me know if you have trouble with the movie)

    Plotting her speed, bearing, as well as the current's speed and bearing, you see that this is generally the case for whole swim. (I used the same gps data set as in my last post, just took only the data at 3 hour intervals after applying a 3-point average to the raw data). If you add up vector for the current and her absolute velocity to get the speed she must have been swimming to maintain her course, you see that if anything the current makes things worse, since she has to account for the very strong cross current.


    This isn't completely definitive, the true currents could differ from the NCSU model. However, they would have to differ by a whole lot. Like, pointing almost a full 90degs in a different direction. A 'rare current' like this should show up in other oceanographic data, and not just be localized to her boat crew. If there is some other data somewhere showing a 2mph current from Cuba to Key West during her swim, that would make the speed issue disappear. But absent that, both general picture for how the gulf stream works and specific modeling info for the days of her swim paint a very different picture.
  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsCharter Member
    @jroyer nice work.

    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • As often is the case, the comments to the article prove the most fun reading, first one first!
  • MvGMvG Brussels (BE) and Lith (NL)Charter Member
  • JBirrrdJBirrrd MarylandSenior Member
    "Janet Hinkle, a Key West boat captain and acquaintance of Nyad's, was called to be an observer for the swim when Steve Munatones, a former U.S. national open-water coach, was unable to make it." (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57601879/diana-nyad-team-becoming-sensitive-to-skeptics/)

    OK this just struck me last night. A while ago I read the explanation from DN's team of why she had 2 unknown to the open water swimming community official observers for this particular swim. They had lined up Steven Munatones (http://openwaterpedia.com/index.php?title=Steven_Munatones) for that role but when it was go time, he was unavailable. I believe I read he was on a flight to Japan. So they had to scramble and ask 2 people with no reported open water experience and no known training to play such a critical role in a swim that would no doubt gain worldwide attention if successful.

    Gosh, that makes sense, right? Gotta do, what ya gotta do.

    Then I recalled the report from Chloe McCardel's team about her observers:

    Observer 1 Dan Simonelli http://openwaterpedia.com/index.php?title=Dan_Simonelli

    Observer 2 Grace Van Der Bye (Grace will also do some paddling )

    Reserve Observer Jen Schumacher. http://openwaterpedia.com/index.php?title=Jen_Schumacher http://www.marathonswimmers.org/forum/discussion/327/chloe-mccardel-cuba-to-florida-swim/p1

    How cool is that, I thought. I know them all. Strong team of observers...

    So it strikes me odd that Diana's Team had only arranged for one observer for a swim that was projected to take over 70 hours (Sorry Steven, not allowed to sleep) But Chloe McCardel, a foreigner, travelling from half-way across the world, on a shoestring budget, was able to arrange for not one but three highly qualified and experienced observers from the marathon swimming community. Diana Nyad's team says they also had limited resources (no gps device--had to loan one) but everything I see and read screams the contrary (nice 4 boat flotilla.)

    I realize this is late, but please add this to my list of questions:
    Why did Diana's team only arrange for one qualified official observer?
  • lcolettelcolette Charter Member
    OK, I have been good. But I did see numerous articles where she is going to meet her peers in the OW community today "Tuesday - 9-10-2013." Anyone here on that list? I couldn't find the list or a list of her 3 OW swimming world organization she is going to submit her swim to. I think we have already established that Guiness won't accept after the fact...

    I am curious to see who she considers her peers?
  • edited September 2013
    @jroyer. I'm confused. I thought this matter was resolved when a Mitch Roffer was cited (who seems affiliated with SECOORA from his C.V.) as saying the currents were most definitely pushing her north? http://secoora.org/sites/default/files/webfm/news/documents/may2012_election/Mitch_Roffer.pdf
    Is it possible there are more detailed charts not available to the public?

  • @tricoachmartin
    It certainly could be the case that there is some better data somewhere that would show the gyre that Roffer mentioned in the nytimes article. Roffer does have a phd in biological oceanography, and quite likely access to data that I don't have.

    However, given that this conflicts pretty strongly with the data that is publicly available, I'd like see some of this made public instead of just having a single person give their assessment. Most people looking online for current data that day saw something moving west to east, and which raised questions about her speed. A map showing a 2mph current pointing toward Key West would put these questions to rest.
  • Mike Lewis, author of the swimswam article will be part of the review. The article displays that two different people can look at the same event and reach different conclusions. It was that same swim in 2011 and those events he mentioned that he found positive that changed me from being interested and a supporter to otherwise.

    Changing the governing rules during a swim is not an option ever available to any of us. This possibility had never been mentioned beforehand and the issue of getting on the boat was another aspect that was once again raised in 2012, without any clear indication either time.

    This is why I repeatedly say that a Golden Rule is, you must state what the rules are before a swim (that will not be following usual EC rules).

    Since this is repeatedly wrong in many of the articles, we should stress also for the lazy journalists reading here who are still uncomprehending, that English Channel Rules do not merely apply to the English Channel. Since it was the first and remains the standard, they derive from those rules and are used, with known published exceptions such as Cook, to apply to "standard" marathon swimming around the world.
  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Ventnor, NJCharter Member

    Since this is repeatedly wrong in many of the articles, we should stress also for the lazy journalists reading here who are still uncomprehending, that English Channel Rules do not merely apply to the English Channel. Since it was the first and remains the standard, they derive from those rules and are used, with known published exceptions such as Cook, to apply to "standard" marathon swimming around the world.

    This is probably one of the most important messages to people outside the sport. They see the reference to EC rules and think those rules only apply to that particular body of water. They don't grasp that EC rules are the foundational standard and verification method of the sport and that those methods are used worldwide so that swimmers have a set of equalization standards in which to compared themselves with (sorry, just threw all of my journalism training out the window there and replaced it with grad school speak.) The bare-bones rules exist BECAUSE nearly all deviations make the swim easier.

    I loved Grace's comment on her interview yesterday regarding making things harder. I can't quote it at the moment because I'm at work and can't play video, but I think that's a message that also needs to be conveyed strongly to those outside the sport.

    Also note, I don't necessarily think the lack of comprehension among some journalists is laziness. I think it really just is a reflection of the fact that reporters have to report/write fast, be dropped in on something we know nothing about and manage to make sense out of it. Please note that the MSM is rarely going to get the details that one particular community cares most about because of that as well as the assumption that their audience isn't going to care about that. That is a trait that transcends nearly every complex topic a reporter may have to cover. Also, research methods training is not a strong suit among journos -- and this discussion ultimately is about methods.
  • Thanks @rosemarymint, you and @Jgal are not in least included as my target, I know you are both careful in your comments. Mike Lewis however is a swimming journalist for a swim blog/website, who has interviewed many long distance swimmers. I don't think he has the excuse of lack of time other may claim to dismiss EC rules, as not being relevant since the swim wasn't in the EC. He has more of a responsibility to explain therefore why they are important and used, as you have so ably just demonstrated.
  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Ventnor, NJCharter Member
    I was referring more to the mainstream media missing key components in certain stories than Mike Lewis. He without question has a responsibility to explain the reasoning behind EC rules in his work because he is writing for a swimming audience. I don't know how to describe why that is missing in his work because I have not personally talked to him, but yeah. Just as I have a responsibility to explain certain technical things in my work on subjects in my expertise and of high interest to my readership, he has the same and I would hope he does that in follow-up stories on this topic and in future stories regarding marathon swimming.
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited September 2013
    We need to keep in mind that the swimming media, and Mike Lewis in particular, are more about cheerleading than actual reporting.

    A real reporter would also reference sources, which in this case is the forum. Even the major news outlets that know nothing about swimming managed to do that.
  • timsroottimsroot Charter Member
    edited September 2013
    From Lewis's article:
    Nyad’s critics also assert that her swim is tarnished because she didn’t not adhere to English Channel rules – purportedly she was touched by her crew when they aided her in applying sunscreen and lubricants that prevent chaffing. OK, so? This wasn’t the English Channel. The English Channel is just short of 21 miles – Nyad swam over 5 times this distance. There is no reason why her swim should be tarnished based upon a lack of adherence to these rules.
    I personally don't have a huge problem with her not adhering to EC rules. I don't think that many of us really have that big a problem with it, either. Penny Palfrey didn't during her attempt last year, and no one said boo about it. The biggest difference, as has been mentioned here at length, is that Palfrey was clear about what she was attempting, and the rules by which she was attempting it. Perhaps that's cherry picking the rules, but she was up front and transparent about it. Nyad wasn't, and hasn't been in previous attempts, either.

    This point is the one that raises so many concerns among the now infamous marathon swimming community, not that she used a stinger suit or a mask or a streamer or a marching band or a partridge in a pear tree. It's also the point that journalists seem to gloss over.

    Sure, the swim would be even more impressive if it was done in strict adherance with EC rules. But Mr. Lewis is right when he says it isn't the English Channel. But, as @loneswimmer and plenty of others have said

    This is why I repeatedly say that a Golden Rule is, you must state what the rules are before a swim (that will not be following usual EC rules).

    (I would also add that if you are going to stay within EC rules, you should state so, to avoid anything being implied that the swimmer does not intend to)

  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsCharter Member
    edited September 2013
    OWSmile said:

    I heard tonight on national media how "The Marathon Swimmers Forum" will ask questions tomorrow. They seem to see two issues, 1. the suit and 2. was she assisted .

    They miss the even bigger issue of the current. I doubt there was a northbound current.

    If there is such a good north bound current at the time Diana was there, how come we can’t see it on the flow charts.?
    How likely is it that such a current can come into existence without previous signs leading up to that north bound current and afterwards signs of everything coming back to the normal flow direction?
    Or do you expect us to believe that in a strong easterly current there can originate, in say a time span of 1 hour, a current with 90 degrees different direction that lasts 8 hours and disappears again within an hour without leaving any traces?

    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • GordsGords Salt Lake City, UTCharter Member

    I'm no oceanographer, and this Mitchell Roffer has a pretty impressive background.
  • NatalieswimsNatalieswims Orange County, CAMember
    Where is the video of her on the "electronic walkway?"
    Also, news media has not addressed her seven hour stretch w/o feeds.

  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Ventnor, NJCharter Member
    I'd love to see the specific data/maps that Roffer is talking about. If anything, that type of data would be really valuable to other swimmers planning swims elsewhere.
  • GordsGords Salt Lake City, UTCharter Member
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited September 2013
    All considered, I think John Zarrella at CNN did a pretty good job:


    The title gives interesting insight into their angle, which I did not have (but probably should have expected) during the interview. At several points I think they were trying to get me to say on camera that she cheated, or got on the boat, etc., but I avoided this and focused on the fact-gathering mission.

    Also - yet another reason to check your grammar & spelling before posting here - it might end up on TV!
  • Diana Nyad's PR team has done much to bring marathon swimming to the attention of the media. NPR followed it, as did the BBC, and therefore it was world news. She is quite a phenomenon, even drawing wide publicity for her previous unsuccessful attempts.
    By comparison, Trent Grimsey's superhuman EC conquest barely got any news coverage. Steve Redmond's (Oceans Seven) Ireland-to-Wales attempt hardly made the news.

    I cannot help but think that one of Nyad's goals was to detract from Suzie Moroney's accomplishment. "First without a shark cage." If memory serves, Nyad swam from Bimini to FL in a shark cage, and Stella Taylor did the same without one. If so, Nyad had no qualms about it then.
    Other minds will decide if her swim was assisted; there will always be a cloud over it. I wish there was a better balance in the news coverage of marathon swimming.
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