The 25 Most Adventurous Women of the Past 25 Years

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Diana Nyad
Jeffery Salter / Redux18/25

Diana Nyad

On September 3, 2013, at 64 years old, Nyad became the first person to swim nonstop from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, Florida, without a shark cage. It was her fifth attempt over 35 years. She endured 53 hours of hostile conditions, including strong currents, saltwater burns, rough waves, jellyfish stings, and the threat of sharks. It was considered one of the last great, uncompleted crossings and put her on the shortlist, if there was doubt to begin with, for greatest endurance athlete of all-time.

Nyad made her first attempt at the 111-mile swim in a 20- by 40-foot shark cage in 1978. She had to abort after 76 miles due to eight-foot waves and currents pulling her off course. She had already proven her grit with several record-setting swims in her twenties and thirties. The following year she retired from long-distance swimming and became a sports journalist and author.

In 2011, after her mother died, Nyad, then 60 years old, decided to come out of retirement to pursue the seemingly impossible goal again. After three more failed attempts with storms and terrible jellyfish stings (including on her tongue), she still refused to give up. Nyad gave it another shot, this time with a protective suit and a mask to prevent jellyfish stings. She made history and proved "you can dream at any age."

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