Diana Nyad to Mark 10th Anniversary of Epic Cuba-to-Key West Swim with Oct. 22 Turtle Release

KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Renowned endurance swimmer Diana Nyad is to commemorate the 10th anniversary of her 111-mile swim from Havana to Key West by helping to release a rehabilitated sea turtle into the Atlantic Ocean from the beach where she completed her epic feat in 2013.

Nyad and her Cuba swim expedition leader Bonnie Stoll are to release “Rocky,” a 120-pound adult female green sea turtle that was rehabilitated at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital, at 9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, at Key West’s Smathers Beach on South Roosevelt Boulevard.

On Labor Day 2013, nearly 2,000 people gathered at the beach to welcome Nyad as she came ashore after swimming continuously for 52 hours and 54 minutes, becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to the Keys without a shark cage.

Then 64 years old, Nyad succeeded at the grueling Florida Straits crossing on her fifth try — achieving a dream she had held since first attempting the swim in 1978.

According to Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach, it’s appropriate for the marathon swimmer to release Rocky because the turtle’s endurance and determination echo Nyad’s own.

Rescued in January by Florida Fish & Wildlife officers off Key Largo, Rocky was struggling and unable to dive. At the hospital in Marathon, the turtle required an eight-hour intestinal surgery, breathing treatments and a blood transfusion to survive — followed by months of medications and recovery.

“Rocky beat the odds,” said Zirkelbach, “and now she’s fully recovered and ready to return to sea.”

For Sunday’s release, the Turtle Hospital team is to arrive at the beach with Rocky at 8:30 a.m. and conduct an informational session before Nyad and Stoll aid hospital staff in releasing the turtle into the Atlantic.

Many of the dedicated crew members that supported Nyad’s swim are to be on hand, and the public is invited to join them for Rocky’s release.

Also scheduled for the 10th anniversary is a 1-4 p.m. beach party Saturday, Oct. 21, at Smathers Beach where Nyad, Stoll and their crew members are to gather for remembrances and photos near the point where Nyad concluded her historic swim.

Like the turtle release, the beach party is open to the public.

Information: diananyad.comturtlehospital.org

High res images are available here.

Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY

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