Music TED Talks

Diana Nyad shares the epic playlist that kept her motivated on her swim from Cuba to Florida

Diana Nyad brought down the house at TEDWomen, telling the story of how she completed a record-breaking swim at age 64. Photo: Marla Aufmuth

Diana Nyad brought down the house at TEDWomen, telling the story of how she completed a record-breaking swim at age 64. Photo: Marla Aufmuth

Diana Nyad swam 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, a journey that took her just under 53 hours last September. In today’s talk, Nyad gives a vivid account of what it was like to be out in the water, making her fifth attempt at this swim — one she first tried in 1978 when she was 28 years old. So how did she make it through the jellyfish, the unpredictable currents and the darkness “like you’ve never seen?”

Diana Nyad: Never, ever give up Diana Nyad: Never, ever give up The answer, as Nyad reveals in today’s talk: a deep belief in perseverance, and some really good songs. Nyad says that singing a playlist to herself over and over again — anchored by John Lennon’s “Imagine” played more than 100 times — helped tremendously.

We asked Nyad to share the motivational playlist that propelled her through the swim and all the training it required. She obliged. As she sets it up: “Here’s a list of 120 songs … I sang in my head to ease the long hours, to connect with the infinitude of the majestic ocean. Some I know well and would sing all the way through, including humming the musical interludes. Others I would only use the chorus or maybe a first or second stanza — whatever moved me and gave me pleasure out there.”

Her playlist is divided into two parts—first, a Spotify playlist of artists ranging from Otis Redding to k.d. lang, and then a list of Beatles songs (not available on Spotify), as they are Nyad’s favorite.

And now, her Beatles picks: