« Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations

Diana Nyad, Part 1: The Swim of Her Life

2018-05-28 | 🔗

At 64, marathon swimming champion Diana Nyad inspired the world by becoming the first person to swim 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. Proving the human spirit is capable of triumphing over extreme adversity, Diana explains why she decided to take on the quest and shares why the swim was about far more than breaking records. She also reveals her empowering three-word mantra, and shares how “The Wizard of Oz,” Stephen Hawking and the Taj Mahal helped her through the toughest times in the ocean.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I'm over Winfrey welcome to supersede conversations the podcast. I believe that one of the most valuable gives you can give yourself is time taking time to be more fully present. Journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper world around us start right now. Like so many of you, I watch Diana. I adds first tentative steps. Turning to land after more than two days at sea, I watched with wonder and amazement who is this woman, and how did she do that? What does it take to swim? One hundred Ten miles straight. It was a dream that began when Diana was just five years old, her father, under that our last day nigh, add mid champion,
swimmer in Greek, and that would become her clarion call. She began swimming competitively and school driven and focused, sometimes practicing more than six hours a day in nineteen. Seventy eight when she was only twenty eight Diana attempted two hundred and ten mile marathon for the first time, but rough seas forced her to quit a year later. After setting another world record she announced she was done for me. More than thirty years, she did not swim a lap. Instead, she forged a new path with a career in sports journal. But in two thousand seven after her mother died Anna began re evaluating her life and that unfinished business of the cuban swim began tapping her on the shoulder so at sea Diana returned to the water more fiercely
determined than ever. She try it another three times before. Finally, in her fifth gruelling attempt against all odds on September. Second, two thousand thirteen Diana and, I add, stood victorious. So when I first heard you finished, I wanted to talk to immediately my I just I just filled me up because I just became a swimmer couple years ago and not that good at it. Just you know, okay, I couldn't even imagine what it takes to do something for fifty three hours straight and I recognised. As I know you do that you had to do
and send your humanness and go beyond that. To something else. Is that true yeah? I you know, I think that the people with studied, if you could empirically studied the will know when we look at people in war and people in true survival, there's something beyond what the bodies capable of we do. All these measurements couldn't possibly ride up the Alps couldn't possibly well. You know the will is so undefinable and can push you so far beyond you know. I've had sport scientists, the best of them right me to say this, I'm sorry to tell you this is humanly impossible and I write back and say that to them you have no idea, then you're just doing your little studies on what the heart can do and what the what the lungs can do, I'm talking to you with a spirit can do and that's not measurable. Well, interestingly enough, before you attempted this, you did you not put together the team that would do
the measurement in other. Did they say that it could be done? Didn't everybody say it couldn't be done all of em. All of them cannot be done just go somewhere else. You know swim something lesser. Just issues cannot be done and I just said. I still believe call me crazy. You know, I don't want to go to ninety keeping dry in this every year, but I believe we're gonna make it across. So when you, when you had the failed attempt at twenty eight, this is what so incredible you had this dream, since you were howled, You know we re. Really. There came to me a twenty eight. I was finishing marathon swimming. I swung around Manhattan Island, and that was a kick in the past, all these other swims and then I was starting onto getting jobs with wide world sports there. They like that, I'm thirty two move on make some money become an adult, and sport is for the young and I'm better return. So I just got out the nautical charge to the earth.
Surface my New York apartment when I saw Cuba it at my heart took a leap, and I said there is nowhere else. The earth is forfeits water So you can go to the Maldives and Guam in the Straits of Messina whatever, but I saw Cuba that did it is in my heart. It moves me, the forbidden country, the beautiful land of Cuba and the two nations that we use all of it just moved me. I thought I'd, there's nothing else. Nothing else could spark me do this its Cuba, ok, I love that shot where they that your nephew to this beautiful found, yes, yes, ashore, yes, but I love that part of the film were the first time they're taking you out of the water, you lived huge. Will you did it? You can barely stand up there. Taking you out, and you look like what I don't want to quit. I don't want to just quit after forty two hours in two hours and that's what I mean about the Zadig, your eyesight yet go now and I'm in
can be great. For me, though, I'm because Albion, all the before picture, you got nowhere to go about Georgia, and so even then you have that kind of drive and determination. At forty two hours you ve, been you ve been sick and vomiting and cold, and all of that and still didn't want to go there. But that's what I mean I think about. You know that this period is larger than the body of the body is pathetic compared to what we have inside us, and then you didn't do a stroke in the water. For thirty one years, you're done done, burnt out enough already and sorrow
didn't make you buddy in aid at me a little bed. It was a treasure of a dream, but you know you can only take so much after a while- and I was you know, starting to work and the big world of olympic coverage, unknowns, Morton, living a different dream, and so I wouldn't have during those thirty years of you and I have been hanging out, he didn't, I wouldn't have said you are purchased. It eats up my soul that Cuba swim. It hid it. We represented the metaphor of who I am I just let it go. I can't live without it. It wasn't like that, but it was more this little whisper. It was this little whisperer that cash it would have been magic, one that you're a little whisper. Was it. And then to the whisper? Turning to a little nagging thing? Well, it was more turning sixty that prompted the nagging thing my mama just died and she was eighty two and I miss her. So I started thinking my mom died at eighty two. Does that mean really? I have twenty two years left and maybe those
as to whether we are for our economy be vital. I don't know, but the clock is like joking me now, and it wasn't so much. What did I want to do? It was who I want to be like that but it was like that. I really don't have in front of me, but there's a Henry David Thoreau quote that really grips. We art and it says when you achieve your goals in life. It's not what that gets you, but it's who I am right. It's who I am, and I and I needed at sixty, I needed to say, forget about the ledger. Are you in the halls of pain? Did you make some kind of money? Do Don't care about that any more! As you know, those things just as you get older and Israel's right am I having the life that I can admire, am I m m. I gonna leave this earth. Maybe, as you do leaving at a place where there is a little more just Then it was and human rights have been fulfilled more than they are. Those are my values and never giving up and
finding a way through your obstacles and invite finding your grit and your will Those are what I value and at sixty it wasn't have swimming and swim for me has never been about swimming and I don't think anybody out there it's about swimming about those values, and you know what I am that person swimming or not, and I proved it to myself and that's. Why did this went what I thank you know when I watch the other shore and in everybody I know in the office have seen it everything for wonder. When the producer said she was walking in the rain the other day and normally she would have complained, but because she had seen that He walked briskly and embraces rang, I'm here in everything that you do when you think about giving up, or you think that you're tired what you showed us all is what a real warrior looks like yeah. So will you not please with where you were fifty nine you didn't like the way your life out there, but, but you know,
I don't know why we take birthday so seriously and our culture, you talk to people from India, they don't even know when they were born. So it's a little silly yeah, but you know you do we do this reckonings? We have forty, you talk you up and give a speech with a glass ashamed and in TAT. I want to do this and I want to be this and what have I done? What I regret that, and so I just wanted to get to the point where the forget about. I guess I was doing the best I could with the skills I had at twenty and thirty boarding fifty. So I know it's not like I'm not proud of myself for all those years, but who cares about them anymore there in the past, and I just wanted to start at sixty, because I could what didn't teach you about yourself. This experience, you know a lot of things I used to and it could be from you know, going through I'll teenage sexual abuse that I'm gonna be a classic response to that which was put on a suit of armor, say I'm tough need any help. I can muscle my way through everything in this life and my own. I'm on an island, you don't know me:
helping me. Yes how I was you know I was wrong. I was struck in in the film you know when you were talking about one of your coaches and it was Classic Abuja, epidemic epidemic, epidemic, classic abuse where you said in the end, you said I allowed it to happen, and I was struck by that because it sounded somehow like you were blaming yourself for it but don't don't? We all, isn't that the ammo. You know you know, doesn't every kid whose whose parents divorce think it's therefore yeah. It doesn't every kid who goes through sexual abuse. They they data. That and that in the luxurious reason ones ants what they abuser counts on the accounts on that. If he gets you in and can convince you that you should do it, don't tell the first time it's hard to tell the second alert You must have liked it. Oh yeah. I believe all all the things that you don't understand it, as is the most important thing in my life, and you will.
Ever make it as a swimmer. You need to do what I say and I you know he's up on a pedestal, but I for years until very recently did blame myself. So it is a classic example and it's an epidemic- and you know what I'm here to do something about not about him. Who cares about him? I'm here to talk the young people suckers girls, boys going through joint. Now I know one in four girls, one in six point- and I am here to say you can you a young age. You see it, you just say no get away from me. Even if you don't have a strong parrot, which I didn't, may my mom rest in peace at that time to go, you just say to yourself. I know this is wrong. Get away from me but when I didn't have they're gonna leadership, but but I am not blaming anybody yet. No often people say to me in a hoodie admire and life. It's just is people who decide that they're gonna live a good life and I met this woman. I told the story of my sexual
you son stage, one time at a corporates talk, and sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't it's just my life and yes, I dont suffer through it, I'm no victim, but I tell it because it's real and because it is an epidemic, yes to just put it out One night I talked about it and later that night I was invited this dinner, and this woman, older she had already retired, is a professor upper eightys, but she had the light of wife and arise. She was she was. She was still burning strong and she reached across the table to get something that might like this and are sleeping back, and I saw the numbers number etched on reform and I said you're survivor, and then she told me about it. Three years old Poland, Gestapo came in got the family, the father said: I'm not going. You can shoot me right here, I'm not leaving my own not go into that gas, whatever you're taking me to shot him right here. She remembers edit aged three. The mother and six year old were taken that way. She never saw them again in her life at three that day became the
That's officers concubine and was forced to do. You know the whole thing for two and a half years at three. I started weeping at this table and I said first of all, I feel so a shame that I brought up my little story onstage tonight about what I suffered in my life said. Don't ever that every human being on this planet has their pain and their hardy, and it's up to all of us to find our way back to two to light and she she said to me: she was adopted by a cousins in Paris and that mothers, and now she six after they were saved the allies came in the mother, came to her in the garden and the little girl told her everything and this woman said to her look darling, hold Mayans. You will never forget this experience, you can't it happened to. You is real, but put it in your soul deep, deep down and
Don't let it live on your skin, because this is a beautiful life and almost all the people on this planet are beautiful, loving people and you're going to know them and you're going to live a beautiful life filled with joy and that helped me her night. Telling me that, while held me more than anything, I've ever heard about the whole sexual abuse thing fine, it happened you that anger,
but where it on your letter and when your life. This is your life, not his life, you know. So those are the people I admire, who have had real tough roads, but they have found a way to still live a beautiful life. You know I am someone by that's in August, two thousand thirteen, amidst a crowd of devoted vans and brimming with confidence, Dinah made her fists attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida, though she a train diligently four months, many believed it was impossible dream Diana would never realised, and while most of the media have lost interest, Diana set out to achieve the dream that had eluded her for thirty years. What are you thinking is you're going out into the water? What are you thinking you now the reason that the disappointment,
not making it. The four times are so crushing is cause. I I didn't leave any room for that. I was an absolute, unwavering belief. Yeah you're not filled with fear, you not feel with all well well, maybe I might not make it so. If I don't, let me see, how can I put it together again for next year, you know you are making yeah. I believe that when it's over and you and your pulled onto the boat and now you're chugging indicate West you just you, you your stand, because there was no room for that and their Gabby their Campi. This final run, you were more prepared because What did the jellyfish teach you? I feel like I'm yours, I feel like I took that variable out. We had the world's leading expert on the box jellyfish, the box. Jellyfish kills more people than it does shark bites every year, you're very lucky to live through it good guy, it's otherworldly! You go into proxies is of paralysis and Europe.
You know you're your heart and your lung. Stop is not a matter of mind over matter. You're done, and I did. I is something in the will took over and after verse, mass abstaining as you can see the marks there. Yes, though, Every little point on. There is a harpoon right there, though those marks with their have a hundred thousand. On every one of those whips of venom into your cardiovascular system had stopped you so you're swimming like this you're breathing. I was yelling to Bonnie, I'm on fire fire out me. It was life. They are trying to shoot. You they're shooting you in the water adrenaline his own, so Yankee Bree there you pretty breathing and I went for twenty four more hours. You know so current are you when I read that and who are you? Well, that's when I say I don't even think that's conscious you decide beforehand. You want to do this and you will do
but but you don't think wrong and you can barely breathe and now you're not swimming like the area you swimming, like yeah debilitated. Do you put your mind? Someplace know. You're you're in the current crisis you know you put your mind somewhere else when you're fairly well, like this time that first day, those first ten hours off Cuba, I was happy. I was gliding along the surface. I was being feeling part of this universe. I was looking down at a blue that a painter can't even in imitate in the Gulf stream, the team I see them on every breath, taking their spots and doing their jobs and we're just clicking like a well oiled machine, and it was beautiful. It's we're prose while swimming is a solitary sport. Diane is hardly alone. Would you terms a marathon she surrounded by a dedicated team of thirty five people, including key actors, navigators positions, jellyfish experts
at the helm. He's dying is business partner and best friends, one stone. We have TAT two's. I never thought I'd have a tat, but now I'm I'm like in the young grew by having had to this as issuing Densher. I have one here. She one here and it means one one might say one which world for forty hours. We don't talk anymore. She goes like this and I come over and I look in her eyes and she goes like this. Give me five more minutes come on. Let's see DM five minutes in you, let's not talk about the whole thing. We may be quit in five minutes, but show me five more minutes and you go on so Y know its deep. It's it's a deep thing, but I was gonna say my mantra this year and they have to be out of your somebody onward just plough wandered, but the Uruguay we're divined by way find West matter. I love you that, and you know what that's what people resonate too Talk about any blind away. People working through their there there teenage daughter is has become.
A hormonal nightmare and they don't they, then they might commit a homicide over the next two, but that Ireland I find a wave, is important to you. We can all we can get there, and so that was my thing. This year, jellyfish sea sickness pain, cold find a way As we all know, Diana found a way to prepare for her fifth and final Cuba to Florida. Swim Diana took every precaution to protect herself from the botched jellyfish she wore a like pursued, booties, an especial silicone mask. She remain vigilant, not to fall. Victim to the stings of the past. It was difficult to swim in, but I never would have gone back issue without it. It was my saviour there. You can see. I have a pseudo surgeons gloves. I got booties all legal, your the latter were neoprene. That was lycra that the faces silicone and you know it's difficult its burdensome.
You're taking in salt water. It robs huge lesions on the inside your mouth, but who cares? No gently fishing. Get me with that on this year I came back and I knew the jellyfish were no longer an issue. Let's talk about this last run. You said the first ten hours you were happy. I was I was, but you learn cycle little microcosm of life. You have a great day. Everything's all said he love all the people in your life and then the next day. Someone wrongs, you can, you feel betrayed and you gotta do it. So you do you don't ever coach, you don't ever take it for granted. People say this in their relationships that are marriages all the time you don't you say all this is gonna go forever. You know unless you're working on a constantly, it's not gonna go forever, as the saying with this swim is just like. I was happy to plan the first ten hours and ban the night hit. The jellyfish mask went on. The waves came up to two to four feet and I'm walking out there thinking. How will I last for three days, which is what this is going to take two to three days,
How I know- and I went to body- and she said just make it through the night. Just let's get to dawn, let's get to the sun comes up, find a way find a way through the minutes away hours and get to dawn. Then we'll talk about the next, whatever we're gonna make it through so How is that possible to even comprehend, because I know what happens when in every one of you know what happens when you don't get enough sleep? There is no sleep in the fifty three hours and there's no sleep now and tell me at what point do you start to become? delusion alone at what point hours, and you still have no still have you know it depends what you're going to physically what drains you, but for me it always seems to be around thirty hours. I don't know I've done. Many is what are you waiting or you eating was we'd where they feeding who peanut butter? Where real I learned to not just eat all these compressed marathon foods,
you know an astronaut booze, they just take butter, pasta, Bonnie will take finger, falls, a buttered pasta and I'm like a train seal. I opened my math, I dread Waldron Cheap, but of the Lord and our global down, no gimme the peanut butter and honey sandwiches Pauline via the diner makes for me and so real food. Do it absorbs the salt water summit? It makes you feel normal. You know if you can guess what does all of that salt water due to your body, because a dog, I would think so, even though Diana eat every ninety minutes, while in the water she can lose as much as thirty pounds during a marathon swim. Salt water is a huge challenge. After so long in the water, it essentially becomes poisonous, as the body absorbs way too much, so it causes swelling sores, dehydration, vomiting and even impaired judgment in hallucination, as the hours were on it can become increasingly difficult to stay, focused and alert.
That is something that drives people quite literally crazy, we're out in the water. You hear stories of people who are trying to survive being stranded in water. They lose their my as the salt water area. So what mine games did you play with yourself? I read heard you sing song, you yourself, I haven't, I lay list of about eighty five songs and they're all too there my generation, so you're not listening, do no. No it always it's all in my head, and I hear it I hear it is if, as if I can hear every guitar storm- and I can hear all the all the harmony, so if I get to the end of that song and sing that thousand times I've got nine hours and forty five minutes to the food to the beat so all know, songs help me. Yet only do I like the pleasure, a meal young j-
That's Joplin. Yes, you know Simon Garfunkel, that's my generations by NEO liberal Visa, about whether you know when I single song. Not only did they help me, but I, but that their metro dynamic there you're in the Euro, your steadily meditating you're off somewhere else. You thinking about the you know. How could the universe been created, and I'm said, I'm not a religious person, but when I left this time I finish. Reading Stephen Hawkins revision of these book on the history of the universe and he says ass for physicists bleed, but it blows. I read the sentence and I lie in bed. You say what that blows my mind and when I'm out there there's no better placed to think about that stuff when you're under the stars and out in the best. So he says that all of this matter in this universe it used to be one I'm in the size, literally a millionth of a million a millionth of a penny.
Now come on come on one day? I just couldn't take it anymore and there was a nuclear fusion and when China became this year, the earth over there. Next to the sun, and then life happened so Oh, I'm just do it when I'm out there I'm singing no reply and I'm counting german and friendship, but I'm also that there that three thousand and thirty six forty hour, I'm going off to show this universe used to be now it's and how long would it take you there and what is it? You know we're all going and where are we?
I'll go with you fill while of wit the ocean. At some point you judge aerial like cheer, there's no difference between your body and you're, a stroke and the water, and this round I do around you. I do I feel at home in the ocean. Not Nepal, not delay river, not too late for the ocean. I actually feel the title pool and my field, the moon, pulling the tides out there in its it's on its. I guess what mountain climbers feel when they get to the top of the mountain, not that they conquered it, but that their part of it marathon swimming, takes its toll on the body, the mine and disappeared, we're Diana Mix of deregulation, sleep deprivation and prolonged saltwater exposure produced a dream like state. They took her literally out of this world. I loved that you started to see the folks from the yellow, brick road, oh yeah, but just as our road is arm. Well, you know I love
the wizard of OZ, it's great, but it's not like my favorite musical of all time. I don't have it like as my yes and I'm, but I was looking under water, and I said the Bonnie body see the midnight I see the yellow brick quotas like it's like go along like this, and but really weird is wasn't the yellow brick. I would like the tin man and the lion, but that's not. It was on its like those we'll guys who had the knapsacks? saying I hope, like those people and so she's gonna, spend time talking me out of an hallucination. Why would you try to get me? the reality is, I got my Mama Alzheimer's or we're gonna. Try to tell her that we already had breakfast. You know who cares so she would say she's me, you follow them, they are going white, were we going better garages I'll get why over them and go where they are going and I would go along on. I heard them. I hope
I saw that four hours there was no doubt in my mind. It was like. I was aware, that's a hallucination. I said I see the yellow brick road nice, those little men walking along yes, they are getting anything else. Well, this year eyes I saw the TAJ Mahal Solid, Another thing I've never been to the charge more, but I guess I've seen pictures of it, but I was out with a shark divers. There is big storm, and so we have no boats with us and they form a circle around me and I'm just treading water, and I was hanging on by a thread I remember just kind of going under and they would say, let's do little breastwork what's weaker. Let's give you know and you I was getting cold too, so I would do breastwork just following them and I said to one of on ice DC. Their use, their ties and the whole is over your niece. Yeah yeah, I see it and I started, but I mean it so aren't we like between cuban word is at the time. I was the geography There was land. I saw all the sand on the ground,
all around, and then I thought would if I could get out a walk for what you know instead of being on the water, and there was no doubt in my mind that you saw the TAJ was a was there. It was there Your I mean after how long before you you, your arms, get physically tired, like I can't move another stroke. You know what Oprah was so proud of myself, this time cuz when I reach the beach not a moment of soreness, and you know why it's because of those one thousand six hundred and eighty twenty train, I did the training. I didn't leave a thing, I'm so I knew that ever was gonna, be eighty hours that this one was still gonna come out, and this was gonna come out after it amazing it is it is. It is amazing, so you're gonna do you gonna now
when for charity yeah, you know I'm gonna get into a pool and Harold Square and swim for forty. Eight hours up and down with my heart focused on those good people whose lives and homes were wrecked by Hurricane Sandy and many of them thousands are still suffering. So I was in New York and I I'm not gonna. Forget you, I'm in a swim for forty eight hours and remember you the whole time all the well known people and not so well known, wounded warriors kids. They gonna do a few lapse, but we are going. If a whole pile of money. I opened the end, so I'm not going
a swimmer any more, but I am going to swim up and down in a pool in recognition of the fact that we cannot forget our brothers and sisters because we wouldn't want to be forgotten ourselves if it happened us our conversation will continue in the next episode. You can listen by downloading part. Two I move ruined free and you ve been listening to supersede conversations the pod cast. You can follow super soul on Instagram, twitter and Facebook. If you haven't yet go to Apple POD, Kenneth and subscribe rate and review this plugins,
join me next week for another super, so conversation. Thank you for listening from the women who brought you sugar, Emmi working, visionary filmmaker to furnish an executive producer. Oprah winfried comes the New Authority drama series. She was the day exploring the strong relationship of one young couple: storing social, Lock, Olano Miller, Michael and a legendary Sicily, Thyssen, every second, every minute, every hour cherish the day, don't mister tombe they permit any real evidence on the upper Winfrey network.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-01.