NYAD summary and ending explained

NYAD is a biographical sports drama film based on Diana Nyad, who became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage. It is now streaming on Netflix.

Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers

Plot summary

In 1979, the renowned long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad states her desire to complete the 60-hour swim from Cuba to Florida.

Fast forward to 2010, and she remembers how she failed that attempt. She had already said that it would be her last swim and stuck to that.

Her friend, Bonnie Stoll, plans a surprise party for her birthday. Diana is facing an existential crisis. She does not want to succumb to mediocrity.

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One day, she remembers her words from the past. She goes back to the swimming pool and regains her passion.

She tells Bonnie that she is willing to re-attempt the swim from Cuba to Florida. Bonnie thinks she has lost her mind. Diana asks Bonnie to be her coach, given her experience as a professional Racquetball player.

At first, Diana can only manage less than 5 hours in the water, but with a little motivation from Bonnie, she goes up to 8 hours.

Bonnie asks about the shark cage, but Diana tells her she will complete the swim without one, becoming the first in history. However, they are struggling to get sponsorship.

For safety against sharks, they hire shark experts with sensors that act as shields. In case the system fails they promise to prod the sharks away.

After finally securing the sponsorship, they get John Bartlett, a reputed navigator on board for the swim.

At the age of 61, Diana begins training for the day. After completing her practice 24-hour session, Diana finally undertakes her second attempt.

However, she gets sick along the way and has to abandon mid-way. Her faith remains unshaken and she goes for her third attempt.

Another setback occurs when she is stung by a box jellyfish. She begins hallucinating and it eventually gets too much for her. She has to be taken out again.

Bonnie asks her to quit. Diana wants to give it another try with a box jellyfish expert, who designs a special suit.

Diana and Bonnie are concerned when marathon swimmer McCardell attempts the same swim. They are overjoyed she is stung by jellyfish along the course as well and refuses to attempt again.

Diana convinces Bonnie and John to try once more but fails again due to bad weather. Bonnie tells her everyone’s exhausted and they want to stop.

She refuses to accept that her dream is over but Bonnie and John say they will not continue. Diana and Bonnie fall out.

NYAD ending explained in detail:

Do Bonnie and John rejoin the swim?

Bonnie has a talk with Diana about the passing of her former coach, Jack Nelson. Diana remembers how he molested her and other girls but still found himself in the swimming hall of fame. She regrets not fighting back harder but Bonnie consoles her. 

In 2013, after thinking it through, Bonnie returns to help Diana in her next attempt. Even John rejoins the crew.

Does Diana complete the swim?

During the fifth attempt, the shark shield suddenly goes down. The crew members prod the sharks as the sensor is fixed in a rush.

Thankfully, it’s fixed just in time. John tells Bonnie that he’s sick and this is the final adventure of his life. John tells Bonnie that this is the farthest they’ve made in all their attempts.

Diana starts hallucinating again but Bonnie uses this to motivate her. She says she can see the Taj Mahal, and Bonnie directs her to the destination, telling her that’s where she needs to go.

Bonnie tells Diana to dig deep and carry on swimming. Later, John states that Diana is wasting strokes. Bonnie swims to her and directs her to use the strokes towards the course of Florida.

Diana finally reaches Florida. She has completed an achievement many thought was impossible. What makes it even more remarkable is that she does it over the age of 60.

What happens at the climax?

As she completes the swim. Diana states three things. Never give up, you’re never too old to taste your dream and although it looks like a solitary sport, it takes a team.

At the end of the film, a montage of the clips of real-life Diana is shown alongside her crew members, celebrating an achievement that has effectively made her immortal.

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