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Courage Under Water: Swimmer Shares Message Of Perseverance In New Book

Long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad completes a lap during a continuous 48-hour swim event in New York's Herald Square, Oct. 8, 2013.
Associated Press
Long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad completes a lap during a continuous 48-hour swim event in New York's Herald Square, Oct. 8, 2013.

Courage Under Water: Swimmer Shares Message Of Perseverance In New Book
GUEST:Diana Nyad, author, "Find A Way"

This is midday addition and I am Maureen Cavanaugh . It was the fate of medical endurance that astounded the world. Diana Nyad finally accomplished her impossible dream of swimmingly 111 to miles between Cuba and Key West Florida. It was her fifth try at the age of 64. Now she is out with a memoir about her marathon swim, her career as a journalist, and her life journey. She documents some very bad early experiences along with triumphs that marked her later years. She demonstrates to her own determination how is that Tim can become a Victoire. Durning -- how a victim can become a Victoire. The pleasure is all mine. I've heard of you for a while you are an icon of public radio. It truly is my pleasure to be with you for conversation. That sweet. You are the first person to accomplish the Cuba to Key West swim without a shark cage. You tried four times before. Why did you want to swim so badly? Truly was for me, even back when I was in my 20s, something apart from the world of sports. All of the other swims I had done dlike Manhattan, Bahamas, Naples Italy, it seems at some point that I was swimming across most of the watered earth. But all of those words life experiences in building of character. But the Cuba swim always to be represented living life large. Some impossible dream. People have tried since 1950 and it's been called the Mount Everest of the world's oceans. So it has a lot of swimming vocabulary to it. But in the end for me, it was asserting that the soul and a living life to point you had to dig and drill down into every drop of courage. Every ounce of intelligence in you and the people close around you to even give it a go. It's my for data. The vast wilderness it's a dangerous wilderness. It was turning 60 when I first wanted to do it. I failed at it and couldn't get back in because of government issues, but when I turned 60 my mom had just passed away. She was 82 and I was 60. I thought, is that what my genetic readers, 52 more years? You just blink and 10 years go by. I thought if I'm going down in 22 years I'm going down in a blaze of something vague. And this was big to me. You're right about that existential inks when you turn 60. You ask yourself if you have become a person that you could admire. One thing I thought when I read that Diana was after such a rich and even full life, why could you not say yes to that question? I think we evolve and our definition of success changes. When I was younger I was a little more intense. Was much more driven towards the ledger. Are you in the Hall of Fame and how much money have you made. It was much more of a superficial deep awakening. When you get older your definition of life and values evolve. On my gravestone it's going to say she was the greatest friend, kindest person, someone who cared about humanity. These are the things we get into. I just want to be someone, the one thing I want to be a somebody who engages full throttle. The Cuba swim is what brought me back to feeling that engagement. I'm speaking with Diana Nyad talking to her new memoir called "Find A Way" . I'm wondering in all of that record-keeping and ambition when you were younger, and even now, how important has it been to you to establish the idea of women athletes as strong and capable and remarkable. I think the ultimate irony of that is, if I upset any examples or been a part of the pantheon of great women athletes, it's because I don't pay attention to gender. I think the same goes with age. I did this swim at 64. On a one-way street when you reach 70 or 80 or 90 or 100 you reach the end of that street, so being a woman, I rail against and standup that women's conferences. Don't count me naïve, it equal pay for equal work. Work needs to be done, but I stand up in front of them and say I cannot wait for the day when we don't have women's conferences anymore. We have human rights and human dreams and we should just be one big humanity that is protecting each other. So I think the way, ironically the way that I have served womankind is not paying too much attention to gender. I don't wake up every day saying I'm a one in and I'm being treated less than. I just wake up a soul on this planet who deserves to live a happy life. Someone who wants to contribute so others can live a happy life as well. Not as a woman, not as a 66-year-old, but is even being on the planet. One way you have contributed is as a broadcaster. Many will remember you hosting the savvy traveler and your regular spot on all things considered work you were featured on CBS Sunday morning pod, but what did you find satisfying? I worked for 30 years and the most memorable would be the Wildwood of sports. And since I was I was a kid I wanted to say the thrill of Victor, the agony of defeat, I've always wanted to say it on the air. But of all the shows we could name, the two that were by far the ones that may be the most proud are NPR. Is not much work just once a week. But it was crafting a story of beginning, middle, and. The truth is my call them was called the score. I think in 22 years I never mentioned the score of anything it was the poetry and philosophy. Sports lens to great storytelling. So was figuring out that and delivering it like you're on Broadway. That was $150 a week. To me CBS Sunday morning is the best show on television. I'm a devotee. So I watch it every week. Every story appeals to me and I think that is true of a lot of people. It happens in the bowels of the CBS building in New York. You can't believe how dusty and dirty the holes are but they pride themselves on that. So those are my 2 favorite jobs. In your book find a way, you take us on a journey. A journey of your accomplishments and you also reveal things about your past. Like sexual abuse suffered from your father and a swim coach. I was wondering, did you ever have anybody you could talk to about those incidences when you are young? I guess not, or I would have. My mother and eyestrain doll that out in later years. We had some very tender loving exchanges and we always loved each other we were just always angry at each other. A lot of it was over the sexual abuse that she felt ashamed about. She felt ashamed for not protecting me for it. And I felt angry. So we, menus later, came to a mutual forgiveness over all of that. I think there are a lot of kids the can say those words now. They can go to a parent and teacher or a friend and say what's happening but not in my era you wouldn't breathe a word. I was shocked and embarrassed and humiliated. And frankly the killer was blaming myself for all of that. But the truth is, it is important and I can't live any other life but my own. I wasn't in the Holocaust and I'm not in Syria today. So my life had a story of sexual abuse. We all suffer something. But I don't think I have ever put it up to a level of say I suffered and my life has come crumbling down. And strong, and angry. I was hurt little girl. But the truth is, it's very clear to me that millions of people have suffered more than I have worked so acute that in perspective my life has been chopped through of privilege and wonder. In reading your book a lot of critics have drawn the line from your abuse to drive to succeed. To see that two I love that narrative. How can they resisted. You have a dark past and now you're in this sport that seems like sheer masochism. Your suffering through the hours. But I can say when I was younger that I was in the sport that does have a lot of loneliness and discipline. Being immersed in this jewel of a planet of ours. It's not just one or the other. But, I do think that a lot of the anger I felt, I felt it in the water. I was literally not able to be touched by was in the water. But I took out a lot of that angry little girl who did not want to be the person who is violated that way and couldn't stop it herself. Not on this iteration. I turned 60 and got back into the water, some days I was suffering with the physical hardship of the sport that I was in all of this life that I got to lead. I don't live it too much anymore. It is not a direct draw in the sport. When you were talking about this marathon swim from Cuba to Key West. You set this was dangerous. Life or deaths. Did you ever feel like you were going to die two I should of. The box jellyfish, which is the most fatal jellyfish on earth. More people die from that than shark bites. I should've died that night. There was a medical team there I had epinephrine and oxygen and how does out and all of that stuff. But I believe the reason I lived through that potentially fatal night, was sheer will. I don't think any of us can measure the power of the human spirit. I do believe that it was a resolve that was set so deep and firm within the beginning of training that no matter what came, the box jellyfish sting is the only time I could say we were without the precipice of life-and-death work when you completed your swim in 2013, when you walked onto that beach in Key West you said three things. The first one was, never give up. Do think that people give up too soon? Yes. The new generation does. We have a very short attention span if things don't happen right away we move on. Our people used to stay at their job for 40 years until they got the gold watch and then I took a cruise to Europe. That is the way they lived. That is gone. If your two years now I've job, that's it. So I think that people quit easily and when they do stick with it there is, kids have tremendous self pride now and sticking with something. I coached my God some a few years ago on a track team. He pretended to be sick with a bad stomach ache. I sat down with him and said it's okay if you don't want to go you're allowed to say you don't like sport. What's not okay is to pretend the hypochondria of it. He stuck with it although he's never going to be a track start. Years later he told all of his friends about that experience. Diana Nyad will be speaking about her memoir, "Find A Way" , it La Jolla Riford Library . Thank you so much for joining us.

Diana Nyad In San Diego

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: La Jolla Riford Library at 7555 Draper Ave.

Cost: Free

Diana Nyad accomplished something at 64 that she had set out and failed to do at 28: swim from Cuba to Florida.

Nyad’s new memoir, "Find a Way," chronicles her mental and physical endurance that astounded the world. She is the only person to make the 100-plus mile swim without the aid of a shark cage.

She made three other attempts in 2011 and 2012, but her efforts were hampered by injuries, respiratory distress and jellyfish stings.

But on Sept. 10, 2013 Nyad crawled on to a Key West beach after 53 hours at sea. Her message: "Never, ever give up."

Nyad, who is now 66 and has received numerous athletic awards, said the swim from Cuba to Florida is largely considered the Mount Everest of swims.

“The Cuba swim, always to me, represented living life large,” Nyad told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. “You have to drill down to every ounce of courage to even give it a go. It’s life or death.”

After she turned 60, her mother died, and that’s when she reconsidered the swim.

“She was 82,” Nyad said. “I said, ‘Is that what my genetic root is? Twenty-two more years? If I’m going down in 22 years, I’m going down in a blaze.’”

“I want to be is someone who engages full throttle. The Cuba swim is what brought me back to feeling that engagement.”

Courage Under Water: Swimmer Shares Message Of Perseverance In New Book