KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Looking dazed and sunburned, U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad walked ashore Monday, becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage.
The 64-year-old Nyad swam up to the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after starting her journey from Havana on Saturday. As she approached, spectators waded into waist-high water and surrounded her, taking pictures and cheering her on.
“I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team,” she said on the beach.
“I have to say, I’m a little bit out of it right now,” Nyad said. She gestured toward her swollen lips, and simply said “seawater.”
Her team said she had been slurring her words while out in the water. She was placed on a stretcher on the beach and received an IV before she was taken by ambulance to a hospital. But her doctor later declared her essentially healthy and expected her to recover quickly from dehydration, swelling and sunburn.
“I just wanted to get out of the sun,” she said after coming ashore on a scorching, sunny day amid calm seas.
It was Nyad’s fifth attempt and what she had said would be her last try to complete the approximately 110-mile swim. She tried three times in 2011 and 2012. Her first attempt was in 1978.
“It’s historic, marvelous,” said Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, the Hemingway Marina commodore who helped organize the Cuba side of Nyad’s multiple attempts.
“I always thought she could do it given her internal energy, her mental and physical strength, her will of iron,” said Diaz Escrich, whom Nyad has called a longtime friend.