After nearly losing her leg in a freak accident, San Francisco resident Kim Chambers took up swimming to recover her ability to walk. She spent the next few years conquering obstacles on dry land and in the sea, completing the Oceans Seven swims. The former ballerina from New Zealand recently became the first woman to swim the 30 miles from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge. The historic effort inspired a documentary film, “Kim Swims” which will be released next spring. atombash.com caught up with Kim on November 8.
Mark Davis: Whom do you work for?
KC: Adobe. People here are so encouraging and so excited when I do these swims but I’m careful, I don’t take any more time off than anybody else. My day starts at 4 o’clock in the morning so that I can get my training done and turn up to work just before 9. My hair’s soaking wet but I guess if I turned up with dry hair people would wonder what was wrong with me. It’s a great group of people and it’s in the city.
MD: How do you manage the expense of doing these long distance swims?
KC: I literally broke the bank by completely self-funding these swims. I have a few sponsors but it’s mainly for gear. I have one sponsor, Blue Seventy, that’s actually a financial sponsorship. People often ask if they can contribute to my swims and I would much rather they direct their funds to the organizations that I support. I have all my contributions directly sent to a trust for a young man who was paralyzed. He was a swimmer. It just feels like the right thing for me to do. I’m on the board of an organization called Warrior Canine Connection. We provide service dog therapy for veterans and service members suffering from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. That’s an organization very near and dear to my heart. I’m on a team called Night Train Swimmers. We do swims around the world for charity. Vito Bialla of Night Train is responsible for my obsession with swimming. I met him in February of 2011 and he and his swim crew took a chance on me. He is the first to say that I was a real shitty swimmer and I couldn’t swim my way out of a paper bag. He mentored me and brought me into the fold and that was how I was invited to be on a relay swim in May of 2011 to the Farallon Islands. I was the only woman on that team. That was the moment I fell in love with those islands. It’s a very special group of people. We support the Semper Fi fund and we have a training program for at risk youth to learn how to swim. We’re always thinking about how we can push the boundaries and then also show people what it’s like to give back.
MD: How long did you train for the Farallones swim and what was the training like?
KC: I was sort of starting from scratch because I was so beat up after the North Channel swim with jellyfish. I got back into the water in January, early February I was of given full clearance. I live in San Francisco but I trained with a team in a pool in Larkspur called North Bay Aquatics. Every week day morning I was in the pool for an hour and a half and then I drove back to San Francisco to swim in the bay for an hour or so, and then I got to work by 9. Depending on where I was in my training plan I would swim after work in the bay and then my weekends would be completely consumed with ramping up. A two-hour swim on Saturday, a two-hour swim on Sunday, and then a four-hour swim on each of those days and then a six-hour swim, then an eight-hour swim. So, it’s this sort of ladder that you work up and it was again, not without personal and financial sacrifice. It’s such an incredible experience when you have this goal that scares you so much that you are willing to give it everything. Again, it was an all-consuming goal right down to my nutrition, to my sleep, to not going out with my friends. I love that feeling of pursuing a goal on the horizon. You feel so purposeful and you feel your body get so fit. It’s a really great feeling.
Next up: Kim discusses the documentary film “Kim Swims” and her feelings upon conquering the Farallones swim. Stay tuned…