tv Tavis Smiley PBS December 31, 2013 12:00am-12:31am PST
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight, a conversation with diane anaya that accomplish to feed that most of us can barely imagine. she finished a 110 mile swim from cuba to florida, successfully battling fatigue, jellyfish and sharks to complete a marathon swim that had previously defeated her four times. she has a bunch of other records to her credit. this is the feat that she no doubt wanted the most. we are glad you joined us. a conversation coming up right now.
>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. nyad tried to swim from cuba to florida for times only to be defeated by strong currents and merciless jellyfish. but she refused to give up than five times was the charm. she completed the marathon swim without benefit of a shark cage and help someone buy a device
that electronically warded off sharks. no device can substitute for her amazing mental and physical strength. i am honored to have you on this program. >> the honor is all mine. tavis: i wrote this down because i wanted to make sure i got this right. you were in the water for 52 hours. 54 minutes. 18.6 seconds. it was 110.6 miles. >> that's it. i will never forget it. tavis: i guess you won't. why, diana? >> we can go back and talk about the sport. or me, it really wasn't about the sport. i turned 60 a few years ago. hadn't swum for 30 years. no swimming. i tried cuba in my 20s, it was the one heart dream i had in my imagination.
i didn't make it. it's not as if you and i had been friends, i would have said to you every day, i've got to. but it was somewhere in the back of my mind. that was the one. the one that i wanted to make. i turned 60. my mom had just died. to live.2 years it blink your eyes -- you blink your eyes, ten years has gone by. it took that long of being timid and fearful. i wanted to be bold and i pick something that will wake me up and feel alive and alert and take every ounce of unwavering commitment of it. what will it be? what will i do? i will go back to that dream that has haunted me.
will i have the shoulders? will i have the will? into the cuba swim that nobody has ever done. since 1950, they had been trying. lots of people. at that area of the world, there is no famous body of water. it given the people that tried to make it across on rafts. it is a 100 mile stretch. for the open ocean summer, it's a long way. boom fellow generation will say, right on. show us the way. there were all kinds of non- swimming things motivating me as well as the sport itself. and since that day four years ago, i was 60. i have been in the world of unwavering commitment and it has made me hi. i'm not doing any more marathon swims, but i will live like this
until that 82 or whatever, until i go. it taught me the lessons and i am back. fully committed every day. why walk away from something you did so much and love so much? >> i was 30 and as a general rule, in the world-class level of sports, you don't see too many quarterbacks, tennis players, whatever. there are older people that do things but not at the world- class level. i was 30, i was pretty burned out. except for cuba that i didn't make.
i was getting offers as an announcer. move on to a profession. there is a lot of back and forth. tavis: you started out as a sprinter. i read somewhere that you have some sort of -- >> i had a heart disease when i was 16. it wasn't life or death but i had three months of bed rest. and not going to sit around attend i was going to be the big olympic champion. we had fairytale dreams of being the best and going to the olympic games but i was not right on that exact precipice. i was just a decent sprinter. at 64, i get back the challenge at that age.
what made you become america fodder -- a marathoner in the first place? >> i put a lot of time in the pool and my friend said there is this adventurous sport, people that bumped up from the 1500 meters when they were done, it's like a marathon running. done sprint swimming and when i turned 20, a friend said to me that these eccentric people go around the world and swim in the bay of naples and maro plata in argentina. they stand on the shore and a gun goes off and they try to beat each other across lakes. to travel and you love the character it builds. give it a try. with graduate school and living, doing that sport.
the world trade center's were there at that time. it was a kick in the pants because there was a lot of pain to it. as best you can describe it, i just give the numbers. it to two hours in the water. to 53.s rounded up we don't want to chop off that time. don't forget the 18 seconds. it makes a difference. what is it like to be in the water for 52 hours? all of those elements like sharks, jellyfish -- what is that like? >> there is the body and there is the mind. , i had been inht about 40 hours at that point and
i was in full-fledged hallucination. i could not tell what was real, i was hanging on by a thread. the body was so trained in when your traitor says -- trainer says, let's go, this metronomic stroke starts back up. i wasn't even sore when it was over. but what the mind had been through, it was foggy. tavis: we saw some pictures and i am sure they will put them up again. give me a sense of who these people are in the water with you. give me a sense of who is hanging out with you. ofi have a flotilla, a team 34 people. i am swimming next to an escort boat. they had me stuff off the side of the boat. over to the next side, that is my escort boat.
down near the edge in the water, that is my team of handlers. up top is the shark guy, spotting. they are looking, they have very good visibility and can see him. the two kayakers, they have electronic shields that dispel sharks, too. that's me, that white ribbon there. fromare protecting me sharks with the electronic shield, the divers are up top. at night, they are in the water with me and looking with large eyes underneath. it is a big predator. if they had spotted 1 -- >> we never use anything fatal. they use this big wire coat hanger that is a big piece of piping with a hard tennis ball
at the end and they are ready. they are ready to poke it in the nose. it is very sensitive. an aggressive action like that will make it not take a chance. .> we have this aerosol can protection, if a dangerous moment comes. it makes a big horrible smelling liquid in the water. the shark cannot tolerate it. we did not use it at all on this swim. tavis: what was the most desperate moment for you? what was the most desperate moment of the swim? the first one was physical.
it was the first night and i decided to protect myself from the box jellyfish, most deadly animal in the ocean. this has a venom that you would not wish on your worst enemy. it doesn't just sting your skin. him with hundreds of thousands of harpoons and goes right to your spinal cord. lungs.art, and your it takes a fish within two or three seconds. we are bigger and we can maybe last through it but most people die. it is a fatal sting. used pantyhose and surgeons gloves. i wore a tight sprint suit that is made out of lycra. it is hard to swim and all that stuff but still, with the pantyhose, only the mouth was open. just those little lips, these animals are geniuses.
600 million years old and have six sets of eyes that swim at four knots an hour. you're not going to beat them and they are everywhere. i am debilitated. what fool would i be to go back? people that hit in the war with grenades, he makes these beautiful silicone masks. it came up and into the mouth so that i could breathe, inhale and exhale. but it was tough to swim in. the inside was chopping up my mouth and making big legions that was tough. but i had it and it protected me. but 13 hours of the mask the first night, i thought to
myself, i thought it was a tough cookie and i had all the resolve in the world. i am not sure i am going to make it through another night with this thing on. they come up that night. they are photo phobic. by the time you are in full daylight. when was the time in this that you the moment recall that you were the most tired in terms of your stroke? and where was the time that you were stroking and thought, i've got this. >> they were almost back to back. it was psychological. >> about 36 hours, we have to look at the logs. we have a protocol.
i go with them away from the boats. and we just had lights and made flares and just tread water and hang out in the open ocean. they are not allowed to touch me and we are really careful about the rules. tavis: you treaded water for an hour and 30 minutes? >> i was just barely hanging on. i thought i saw the taj mahal. . did not know what was real we see giant pine trees the size of the milky way. it is ok. just keep treading water and we
will get to the storm. i was starting to get chili from not swimming and just treading water. it was an hour and 20 minutes. the boats come back into configuration and i said to my trainer, i don't know what's real. i guess if i start swimming, i will get my clarity back. she said, look over there. i saw, on the surface, a white light on the horizon. i thought, the sun is going to come up soon. i have better news for you than that. that's not the son, that's the lights of key west. daytime tomorrow, you're there. just minutes before, i did not know if i was going to make this thing and now the lights of key west are there and you can make anything when you know it is there. about what did you learn
yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually? >> i almost wrote myself a letter, to have it there for me. for anot go into this world record, that's fine. it's a big athletic achievement, i don't turn that down or negate caring about that. 60, youid to myself, at want to stop worrying about things you can't control. there are bigger things in this universe even if you don't believe in god, per se. there is nature, energy, friendship bigger than your little life. as hard as i tried to be the disciplined one, my personal handlers, i worried about the weather. i was in neurosis about hurricanes and east wind.
you can do this without some lock. -- luck. why worry about it when you can change it all? just get yourself ready and you get your chances or you don't. but you can't be an erotic about it. -- neurotic about it. think big. life is fun when you dream big and think big instead of thinking the smallest of yourself. failure is ok. you go ahead and be the critic. look at him, he looks bad. you are bold and fierce and not timid. you fall down over and over again. that is the person i want to be. that swim proved to me that that is who i am. you mentioned this earlier, it was so moving for me
and i want to give you a chance to expound upon it. of this effort, you expect to impact your life in what ways going forward? you expect. are you going to swim across the pacific ocean? no, i am done with that. i'm going to do some charity raising swims like in new york one month from now. i will be in a very cool pop-up tool and i will do 48 hours. i will ask all kinds of celebrities like yourself to get in the pool next to me and do a few laps. swim. black folk can't don't send me letters, it's a bad joke. >> all these other people can't
me and we will give it to hurricane sandy victims. became that person i have always been. don't forget this. you might just be doing your one-woman show or helping your friends down the block, but do it like this. think big, dream big. don't leave anything out there and go to bed at night flat-out exhausted and get out the next day and grab the tiger by the tail one more time. that is how i am feeling sitting next to you. tavis: what kind of responses have you gotten from people your age? >> this was last year when i did not make it but i am trying. he wrote me and said, i'm about harvard and i was the summa cum laude graduate that is going to write the great american novel.
but things happened. my wife died and i am left raising four children by myself. making a living. that novel went in the attic in the back of a drawer. i kids are up and out. is it too late for me to write that great american novel? i have dragged it out of the attic and i am at the computer. we are not done. when you're 90, you can go on the front porch and watch the sunset and recollect your days. 64 is vital. i feel i am at the absolute prime of my life right now in every way. even physically. tavis: i hope this doesn't come off as sexist. you walked in and gave me a hug. i was squeezing you, kind of checking you out. i felt it. >> i want to keep that going, too. out,: before my time is
you talked about the weather and how it has to cooperate. how did you choose the time, day, that you were going to do this? on juneived in key west 25. --stantly, every other day it looks like the window, it is not going to be long enough. easterly wind. the weather is ok but the gulfstream is going crazy. that is the reason no one has done this. not only the jellyfish and the sharks and the distance, but all the conditions are very unpredictable. it is hard to get them in one day together. tavis: i am thinking about the irony of the lesson you learned about letting go of things you can't control when this feat that you accomplished was done against things that you could not control.
>> you need luck on your side as well. you can't press mother nature. you just have to be who you are and go with it. happy?are you >> i feel more in relation with being done with it after all the emotions andr of immers not making it four times, letting people down. the training is grueling. i feel more relation with that. i stuck with it. 52 hours, 54 minutes, 18.6 seconds, 110.86 miles. that would be diana nyad from
cuba to key west. it's been great talking to you. >> may i say act oh i have done a lot of -- may i say? all my life i have done a lot of interviews. i have been a fan of yours and i watch your show. sincerelyth you, your intensely engaged and there are not too many interviewers of that ilk. they think about how they look and what is next but you have been right here with me and i appreciate that respect. tavis: comeback anytime and cohost if you want to. that is our show for tonight and until next time, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with jazz great musician and composer wayne shorter next i'm, we will see you then.
welcome to this is us. this week, we're in albany california at golden gate field. >> this is the only major racetrack in california. >> this track has seen this history since 1941. >> even the legendary john henry raced heir. >> d here. >> we are going to introduce you to some win withers. >> we'll also meet a marin firefighter and his best friend, dog named nemo. >> and the legendaire russell bays.