Diana Nyad’s jellyfish-proof face mask

Diana Nyad’s jellyfish-proof face mask

By | Sep 5, 2013

OK, so it looks like something from a horror movie.

But a customized silicone mask, fitted over the face, head and mouth of endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, was a key difference-maker in helping the 64-year-old complete the grueling, 100-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Florida, on her fifth try.

Nyad needed the mask for protection against box jellyfish, deadly creatures common to tropical waters and whose venomous sting cut short her fourth attempt to swim from Cuba last summer. Because the mask is cumbersome, she only wore it Saturday night when her support team feared jellyfish were nearby.

“I was grateful for it. I knew I wasn’t going to be stung at all. I felt 100 percent prepared for the jellyfish,” Nyad told reporters Tuesday morning after her record swim.

But the design of the mask, with its narrow mouth opening, was not perfect. For 13 hours Saturday night and early Sunday, it caused her to swallow “tremendous volumes” of seawater, which in turn led to bouts of vomiting. Nyad grew dehydrated, weakened and discouraged.

“That night was hell on Earth, it really was,” she said.

The jellyfish dispersed by Sunday afternoon, however, and Nyad did not wear the mask again during the crossing.

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