Troubled Waters: Diana Nyad and the Birth of the Global Rules of Marathon Swimming

Mississippi Sports Law Review, Forthcoming

UC Hastings Research Paper No. 117

57 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014 Last revised: 4 Dec 2014

Date Written: September 18, 2014


On September 3, 2013, Diana Nyad reported having completed a 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida. The general enthusiasm about her swim was not echoed in the marathon swimming community, whose members expressed doubts about the integrity and honesty of the swim. The community debate that followed gave rise to the creation of the Global Rules of Marathon Swimming, the first effort to regulate the sport. This Article uses the community’s reaction to Nyad’s deviance to examine the role that crime and deviance plays in the creation and modification of legal structures. Relying on Durkheim’s functionalism theory, the Article argues that Nyad’s perceived deviance contributed to the community in four ways: it fostered solidarity among community members, it provided an opportunity to clarify the rules, it prompted a clarification of the hierarchy between rules, and it offered an opportunity for change and modernization of the sport. The regulation process offers an important window into the role of deviance in creating law, and insights applicable beyond the realm of sports law.

Keywords: sports law, sports, swimming, deviance, regulation, social control, Durkheim, stigma, reputation

Suggested Citation

Aviram, Hadar, Troubled Waters: Diana Nyad and the Birth of the Global Rules of Marathon Swimming (September 18, 2014). Mississippi Sports Law Review, Forthcoming, UC Hastings Research Paper No. 117, Available at SSRN:

Hadar Aviram (Contact Author)

UC Law, San Francisco ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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