KEY WEST, Fla —
Amid cheers, applause and whoops of joy Tuesday, Diana Nyad celebrated her record-setting, 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida — the first swimmer to make it without a shark cage.
The 64-year-old swimmer appeared refreshed and invigorated less than 24 hours after she had arrived dazed and sunburned, with lips swollen, onto the shore at Key West.
Nyad, who completed the swim Monday afternoon on her fifth try, told a news conference that the biggest challenge of the 53-hour swim this time around was high winds and swallowing large amounts of seawater, which she said made her vomit continuously.
“It was rough stuff,” she said.
Cracking jokes and gesturing energetically, Nyad heaped praise on the members of the team that accompanied her, from a young man who swam beside her and encouraged her to keep going, to a box jellyfish expert who kept an eye out for the deadly creatures that ruined her past attempts.
The stinging sea life that had plagued her four previous attempts to swim the Florida Straits failed to appear until the final hours of her journey. That left Nyad free to concentrate on defeating the elements and persevering until she could step on dry land.
To help her fight the jellyfish, Nyad wore a protective silicone mask that had bruised her mouth and a full-body “jellyfish suit” that weighed down her crawl strokes.
She was free, too, of the nagging demons that drove her to attempt the treacherous crossing five times. She tried three times in 2011 and 2012. Her first attempt was in 1978.
Asked what she would do to celebrate, Nyad said a party would begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday night “and I expect it to go 53 hours.”