Outside magazine, September 1996
Susie Maroney has had better mornings. At 6 a.m. on June 8, just two hours after leaving Havana in her attempt to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida, the 21-year-old Australian was alternately gulping seawater and vomiting as ten-foot swells slammed her repeatedly into her protective shark cage. She stuck with it for another 36 hours and then climbed into a dinghy and announced the crossing complete, saying she'd "reached U.S. territorial waters." She had slogged 88 miles, ending up just 12 miles shy of Boca Chica Key.
The obvious question: Did Maroney cross anything? While there are certainly opposing points of view, her undeniably heroic effort seems to have brought on not just friendly debate, but acrimony and even vitriol. "She absolutely did not make it," insists Skip Storch, who himself managed just 33 miles in a 1993 attempt. "It must be land to land." Tom Hetzel, president of the International Marathon Swimming Association, agrees. Hetzel maintains that Maroney should not be credited for the crossing, though he does graciously add that "she definitely holds the record for the longest swim from Cuba." Maroney's biggest detractors, however, won't even go that far. Tim Johnson, a member of Maroney's support team with whom she had a "falling out" three days before the attempt, says there's no way she could have made it under her own power. "She must have been pulled by the cage," he grouses.
For her part, Maroney seems to have grown tired of the war of words. She says she'll make another attempt in November and insists she'll put an end to the controversy. "It may take 50 hours," she says, "but I'll make it."
Open a World of Adventure
Our Dispatch email delivers the stories you can’t afford to miss.