Is the movie Nyad based on a true story?

By Louie Fecou
Published: October 10, 2023 (Last updated: November 6, 2023)
Is the movie Nyad based on a true story?

Nyad is a Netflix movie that tells the astonishing story of swimmer Diane Nyad who decides at the age of sixty to attempt a gruelling 110-mile open ocean swim from Cuba to Florida. Nyad, played by Annette Benning, has given up competitive swimming, instead opting for a less physical career as a sports journalist, but finds the call of the wild swim more alluring, resulting in her decision to complete the lifelong achievement. Prepare yourself for a shock as we hit the water cold, and answer the question of whether Nyad is based on a true story.

The swim, known to those who move in watery circles, is known as Mount Everest of swims, and Nyad becomes fixated with the thought of conquering it.

Apart from the actual physical effort of such a feat, Nyad would be at risk from the heat of the sun, and the dangers of the sea at night, plus all manner of beasts that inhabit the sea — think jellyfish and sharks, trying to either sting, eat, or just drag you to a watery doom.

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The idea of doing the swim without the use of a shark cage seems particularly reckless, but Nyad, along with friend and coach Bonnie Stoll, set out to make the fantasy a reality.

The Netflix film focuses on the drive and motivation of Nyad and follows her right through to the end of the attempt, but this article is more interested in the behind-the-scenes action, and facts that can often be even more intriguing than the movie itself.

What is the movie Nyad about?

Basically, the film is about Nyad’s attempt to complete the dangerous sixty-hour swim, despite having failed it once before when she was a much younger twenty-eight-year-old.

Despite being advised against the task, she is determined to accomplish it, saying, “The only one that gets to decide if I’m through is me.”

It is a triumph over adversity story that champions a main protagonist who is older than most in films of this nature. As well as Benning in the titular role, her partner in the film is played by Jodie Foster, and the film was directed by couple Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, who would win an Academy Award for their documentary Free Solo, so there’s a lot of top tier talent on board for this production.

Is the movie Nyad based on a true story?

Yes, Nyad is based on a true story, but there is some controversy over the film.

It would be fair to say that the events depicted in the film are real, and Nyad did do the swim, but the details that surround the feat are somewhat blurry.

The swimming community was quick to point out what they felt were discrepancies in the record-breaking attempt, citing that Nyad herself seemed quite comfortable after completing the swim. They allege she would have been breathless and physically fatigued, and not really up for the speech she would provide after finishing. The lack of any official governing body and video evidence covering the entire swim also threw shade at the attempt.

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The LA Times covered the story and pointed a number of issues out, and Nyad would eventually say that the conditions, including a sweet current in the water that aided her time, would mean she was happy with the attempt being considered “assisted” rather than “non assisted”.

Whatever the details are in real life, it may be best to accept Nyad as a Hollywood sports film, with its inspiration coming from a true story.

What book is Nyad based on?

More of a memoir than an actual book, the film comes from written work by Diana Nyad herself.

Nyad would write four separate accounts of her life and training, and it is most likely that the film uses elements from her memoir Find a Way.

Who is Diana Nyad?

Diana Nyad is a sports journalist, author and long-distance swimmer.

She was born in New York on August 22, 1949, and grew up mainly in Florida. Diana graduated from Lake Forest College Illinois in 1973, and swimming became a passion. She would go on to break many marathon swimming records.

Diana was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.

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