NYAD Ending Explained – What was uncovered from Diana’s past?

By Amanda Guarragi
Published: November 4, 2023 (Last updated: November 6, 2023)
NYAD Ending Explained
Annette Bening and Jodie Foster in NYAD | Image via Netflix

The ending of NYAD finds Diana Nyad making a marathon swim from Cuba to Florida at the ripe age of 64, decades after her failed first attempt to complete the swim in 1978. It takes Diana five separate attempts, the first four thwarted by a combination of the elements and jellyfish before she eventually completes the favourable fifth swim.

Diana Nyad’s journey was a difficult one and the ending of this Netflix film explores that it truly takes a supportive team to help anyone through the obstacles they may face. The more challenging the trials became for Diana, the more she fell into her past and what happened to her as a child. In a way, her childhood trauma shaped her into the person she became. It’s heartbreaking to say that, but it’s the truth. She closed herself off because of what happened to her and put all her focus into training.

NYAD Ending Explained

She has a very individualistic mindset and feels like she can only depend on herself. So throughout the film, she keeps Bonnie as a second fiddle without even realizing it. Bonnie is a friend everyone needs, a person who will call you out and put you in your place. She is what Diana needed once she started spiraling and got lost in her ambitious obsession. It wasn’t like Diana didn’t have incredible achievements, but she still wanted to prove that her time as one of the best athletes in history wasn’t up. Of course, when she saw a younger swimmer attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida, that’s what set her on this journey.

She built a wonderful life after she took a rest from competing and became a journalist. However, the drive she had and the elated feeling of being in the water took over her mind. She couldn’t focus on anything else. She wanted to complete a goal that had been shoved aside many years before. Bonnie knew how dangerous this was for her at her age, but she was even inspired by her best friend to the point that she coached her. From sharks to jellyfish to choppy waters, Bonnie, Diana, and the whole team on that ship pushed through. They used sonar, different suits underwater, and a meteorologist who knew the waters through and through. Each time they went out there something happened to Diana; she either starved, got stung by a jellyfish, or even suffered a panic attack.

What was uncovered from Diana’s past?

What was so heartbreaking and unexpected about Diana Nyad’s past was the sexual abuse she faced as a child. When children grow up they do not realize the situations they are put in. Not only by adults but also by other children around them. As Diana practiced and overcame obstacles, she constantly had flashbacks to her father or her old high school swim coach. The suffering she faced didn’t come to full form until those flashbacks showed what she had repressed for so long. Even as she was reaching the finish line from Cuba to Florida, she still thought of those devastating moments to push her forward.

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For women, these sexual assaults happen more often than people even understand. Especially at a young age. As children grow older they tend to hide it in a childhood vault that would never be opened again. Memories can change because our mind has the power to make light of serious issues so they won’t be triggering. However, as adults, those repressed memories can come to the forefront and affect you all over again. It took so much of Diana to express herself and finally tell Bonnie what she went through. That one scene shared between Foster and Bening was powerful because women often feel ashamed and broken when telling anyone that they underwent sexual abuse. This is why stories about women at an older stage in life are important.

Does Diana complete the swim?

Diana completes the swim on her fifth attempt through a combination of favorable conditions, teamwork, technology, and coming to terms with her deep-seated trauma. The ending of the film makes it very clear how reliant she was on her expert and dedicated support system, including skilled navigator John Bartlett, whose memory the film is dedicated to.

In 2013, the real Bartlett died in his sleep from heart failure, which Diana writes about in her book.

What did you think of the ending of Nyad? Comment below.

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