TODAY   |  September 03, 2013

Diana Nyad: Obstacles made swim ‘hell on Earth’

TODAY’s Willie Geist, Al Roker and Natalie Morales talk to the 64-year-old, who completed a first-ever successful swim Monday from Cuba to the U.S. without a shark cage.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> 64-year-old diana nyad completed that historic cuba to florida swim yesterday afternoon 54 hours. she joins us live from key west . it's great to see you again. congratulations.

>> thank you, so much. and, you know, natalie was down here with me last year and, you know, she knows how much i suffered through not making it and how many times so it's finally good to get the euphoria of getting to that beach.

>> we're so proud of you. i was watching yesterday and i had tears in my eyes. i think everybody did who was watching as you swam to shore and it was amazing to see how people were out there swimming along with you diana . i was wondering if they kind of got in your way a little bit or was that great to help you keep going the last couple of feet there?

>> no, i didn't notice any swimmers, myself. i never saw that. so you must have been seeing a different angle. i saw people cheering.

>> and what's the song that you listen to over and over that pushes you through this. you sing to yourself that pushes you through and makes you keep going.

>> you know, al, i have a -- kind of a play list of 85 songs. the one that sort of really stirs me the most, at 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 in the morning is neil young the damage done. i spoke to him directly and he said the story about heroin addiction in new york city . that doesn't sound very inspiring. i said i know. but it's not the subject of the song. it's that eerie voice, hear it.

>> yeah.

>> we thought we would play it for you this morning.

>> thank you. i hear it on your air. i hear that in my ears and i sing it to myself at 3:00, or 4:00 in the morning and i'm in a whole -- i thought i saw the tajma hall. i can't cheat. i can't go up on the land and they said there's no land. we're in the middle of the florida straights . i said no, and they said okay, okay, just keep swimming.

>> that's very fitting for that, then.

>> oh, wow.

>> that would have been a severe wrong turn diana . tell us a little bit about the physical aspect of all of this? we talked about sharks, we talked about jelly fish stings. you did much better this time with those than in the past but also that sea water , the salty sea water that you were essentially drinking as you swam. that had a big impact on you as well.

>> it was the biggest this time. every time you go out there it's something else. i will say it's sort of the ying and the yang. on the negative end i had this beautiful jelly fish mask. i'm sure you saw it and it allowed me. it's all silicone and even goes into the mouth so the deadly animals, they give a fatal sting couldn't get me. i always had a suit and i had gloves and i had booties. but i never could figure out how to breathe and protect the mouth. so they made me this beautiful mask and it worked so i have to be happy and grateful but with the waves, we had bad weather in terms of wind and that made me swallow, as you putting it, all kinds of sea water . i have deep lacerations all over the mouth. really painful. and but the ying and the yang, the good thing, the gulf stream shined on us. it's always going in the wrong direction. it's always huge turbulence but for me it went north and i went north with it.

>> what was it, the fifth time diana and you mentioned the gulf stream and you mentioned weather but what was it that you think made it possible this time around? what got you over it?

>> well, you know, it's all of those factors out there. you can't control them but you have to have some intelligent answer to them. you have to have solutions. the world's leading expert on the box jellyfish was literally with me throughout the night with the shark divers. she was in the water with her lamp and she had a net. she was literally scooping up jellyfish and telling me get over there. get the mask back on, you need it know even though you're swallowing saltwater and i started vomiting a lot because of the saltwater. once you get in that situation you don't want to eat any food. then you start losing strength. then you start getting cold. i'll tell you something, that first night, saturday night, those 13 hours were hell on earth . but i had angel with me. i had john bartlet , my navigator who is a genius and he has figured out the gulf stream . we got lucky with it but he also knew it and my whole team, 35 people, just rock.

>> diana , given all that you have been through, i know you are getting back in the water relatively soon in october but it's a special benefit here for hurricane sandy relief; is that right?

>> it is. i'm going to, along with my personal goals in life, my sort of cause is going to be we have this beautiful pool built by the olympic pool people. we're going to install it in harold square and i'm going to swim for 48 hours and after the jellyfish in the ocean that will be a piece of cake . and next to me, and i hope you three are going to be there, i'm going to, you know, invite all kinds of notable new yorkers to swim next to me and we're going to raise money for hurricane sandy.

>> we'll come swim.

>> right. now, okay you just made the public announcement.

>> i want to see the speedo.

>> no, not speedos.

>> you're trying to raise money .

>> al, we'll get them for you.

>> okay. you might want to rethink that.

>> americares will pay for you to wear speedos.

>> we are such huge fans of yours. congratulations and we have signing ourselves up to swim with you.

>> done.

>> congrats.

>> thank you, thank you.

>> get some rest. you deserve it.

>> she's the coolest.

>> will do.

>> she's got that enthusiasm and spirit after that.

>> never give up and you're never too old.

>> she gave me a swim lesson when i went down to key west . talk about getting a swim lesson from