Naples kayaker recounts historic swim with Diana Nyad
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
CREATED Sep. 11, 2013 NAPLES, Fla. - Southwest Florida had a huge hand in history this month. Diana Nyad last week attempted a record swim and alongside her was several Southwest Floridians, from her navigator to 6 kayakers keeping her safe. Sitting inside Fernando the Bull Cuban Restaurant in Naples, one of those team members, Mike Devlin, reminisces on his time in Cuba. Cuba was only the beginning. It would be the starting place of an historic swim Devlin became a part of. "I knew Diana would leave everything on the field. I just knew that she would leave it all out there, win or lose," he said. Devlin was part of the Extreme Dream Team to help Diana Nyad on her historic swim. Devlin, from Naples, has been kayaking for more than 15 years and is the co-founder of Paradise Coast Paddlers Club. "I'm still in awe of what she did and what the whole team did," he said of Nyad and his fellow teammates. Devlin and other kayakers accompanied Nyad in shifts with kayaks equipped with technology to keep sharks away. "When we realized that we actually had a shot to make it, we put three kayakers out there with shark shields and we took every precaution we could and just rooted her on," he said. This was Devlin's third time helping the swimmer break the record to be the first person to swim without a shark cage from Cuba to Florida. To Devlin, something was different this time around. "Every stroke had a purpose," he said. "It was something to see. It was powerful." Reporter Kelli Stegeman asked Devlin on rumors that Nyad cheated by getting into a boat, or holding on for help. "Did Diana cheat?" Stegeman asked. "No," answered Devlin firmly adding that the if CIA can't keep a secret, how could 44 average people that were a part of her team not say anything if she did cheat. Nyad tackled the rumors herself Tuesday night as her peers decide whether her 53 hour swim was fair and square. "I swam, we made it our team, from the rocks of Cuba to the beach of Florida at squeaky clean ethical fashion," Nyad said. Devlin knows once doubters look at the outstanding navigating skills onboard, current speeds, and do the math, her victory will shine bright. "I wouldn't be talking to you now because I wouldn't be thrilled. I wouldn't feel a part of it," said Devlin about if those rumors were true. "I would feel disgusted, and I'm not disgusted!" he exclaimed with a smile. In fact, he's thrilled. "Everything just lined up, the weather, the current, the boxed jellyfish must have got the note that we were coming through, I don't know, but everything worked," said Devlin. The team wasn't allowed to touch Nyad while she swam or even talk to her. But, the seas can get lonely and the swimmer on a mission had a lot of time to think. Devlin said there was one point when she asked him if he was ok even though she was the one at risk. They also talked a little about the NFL. He says there were times his 3-hour shifts would turn longer, and the sleep became shorter. Every free moment he had was helping in the accomplishment and watching Nyad swim to glory. When a rough squall came through, Devlin was the first kayaker out to Nyad after divers, armed with PVC pipes to push away any sharks that came too close, started to cramp up after helping her to navigate the rough seas. He remembers swells up to 7 feet, and waves coming from all directions. The crew never told Nyad how much longer she had left until they could finally see the lights of Key West in the distance. After 53 hours, they made it. Now, Devlin is taking the time to reflect on his part in history. "I just wanted to soak it in and let it sink into my mind that it is history, and it will be ratified," he said. He hasn't talked directly with Nyad since parting ways in Key West. However, because all she was able to see was her strokes in the water, she did ask all of the members of her team to email her their stories and what they experienced so she could get a sense of what it was like. Devlin says should he ever get the call again for something like this, he's ready.