In 2007, after a freak accident, medical experts informed Kimberley Chambers that she had a 1% chance of walking unassisted again. Diagnosed with Acute Compartment Syndrome in her right leg, and a mere 30 minutes from amputation, this former classical ballerina and rower at UC Berkeley, knew she had to prove all the doctors and surgeons wrong. Despite much uncertainty and multiple surgeries, Kimberley spent 2 years rehabilitating her leg.
Six years ago in 2009, as part of her rehabilitation, Halberg Award Sportswoman of the Year 2015 nominee Kimberley started to swim for the first time since primary school in New Zealand. 7 months later she swam from Alcatraz to Aquatic Park. Later that same year, Kimberley ran an ultramarathon - the Quad Dipsea.
The following year, in 2011, without a wetsuit, Kimberley became the first woman ever to participate in a relay swim from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands. Since then Kimberley has completed multiple open water swims around the world: a successful relay swim across the English Channel, a relay around Manhattan, solo swims of Cook Strait (17 miles), the length of Lake Tahoe (22 miles), Molokai Channel (26 miles), Strait of Gibraltar (10 miles), Catalina Channel (20 miles), English Channel (21 miles) and a solo swim across Tsugaru Strait in Japan.
For the past two consecutive years, Kimberley has been nominated for the World Open Water Swimming Association Woman of the Year Award.
All her swims follow traditional marathon swimming rules: wearing just a regular swimsuit, latex cap, earplugs and goggles.
On September 2nd 2014, Kimberley endured hundreds of jellyfish stings during a 13 hour successful crossing of the North Channel (Northern Ireland to Scotland), her 7th and last Oceans Seven swim. The Oceans Seven is the open-water swimming equivalent to the Seven Summits of mountaineering. These seven swims are chosen for particularly challenging water conditions (strong currents/cold water) with significant wildlife risks such as sharks and jellyfish. Kimberley is the 3rd woman and 6th person ever to complete this challenge, and proudly the 1st New Zealander.
On August 8th 2015, Kimberley set a new world record becoming the 1st woman ever to swim from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. A grueling and dangerous 30 mile swim (over 17 hours of non-stop swimming) through one of the most highly populated Great White shark habitats in the world.
Kimberley is also a proud member of the Night Train Swimmers who as a team raise money for at-risk members of the community. In 2012, she joined five others from the team in a relay swim from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. After six days of swimming around the clock - day and night - and enduring horrific jellyfish stings, they were forced to abort after swimming 181 miles. Despite falling short of breaking the world record for the longest continuous open water swim, the team raised over $1.2 million for Semper Fi Fund.
Less than a month after setting her world record solo Farallon Island swim, Kimberley and five team mates from the Night Train Swimmers finally broke the existing world record for the longest continuous open water swim. They swam non-stop for 5 days and 5 nights, swimming over 300 miles without wetsuits in the San Francisco Bay. All proceeds from this swim provided a young paraplegic Bay Area man, Arthur Renowitzky, with the gift of mobility. Shortly after the swim, Arthur was presented with a specialized exoskeleton RE WALK suit, enabling him to fulfill his dream of seeing the world "eye to eye."
In addition to being part of the Night Train Swimmers, the focus of Kimberley's solo swims is to raise awareness and funds for the following causes: Warrior Canine Connection, Team Theo and The Free Morgan Foundation. More details here.
Kimberley often says that her injury was the best thing to ever happen to her. She particularly loves the challenge of swimming in cold, shark-infested water, but drives a Volvo on land.
Safety first, folks.
Awards & Nominations
Pacific Masters Swimming Achievement Award
MSF Global Marathon Swimming Awards: Barra Award, Nominee
Most Inspirational Swimmers
Night Train Swimmers
Dolphin Club of San Francisco
Most Inspirational Swimmer
Dolphin Club of San Francisco
World Open Water Swimming Association: Woman of the Year 2014, Nominee, Kim Chambers
"From a near amputation to this year’s completion of the Oceans Seven, few swimmers in history have come back from such depths to stand atop the marathon swimming world. Kimberley Chambers, a former ballerina whose leg was minutes from being amputated, took to swimming for rehabilitation – not for marathon swimming glory. But she needed to prove to herself and her doctors that she could recover from a terrible leg injury by completing 7 difficult channels around the world including a jellyfish-strewn North Channel crossing where she went into toxic shock. After years of struggle and sacrifice, the Kiwi living in San Francisco has transformed mindsets on what is truly possible in the open water. Personable, humble and profoundly eloquent, she is a role model in her rehabilitation and monumental swimming achievements. For her goal-setting mentality, for her laughter and motivational spirit, for her genuine willingness to share everything she has experienced along the way, Kimberley Chambers is a worthy nominee for the 2014 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year."
Marathon Swimming Federation Global Marathon Swimming Awards: Barra Award, Nominee, Kim Chambers
World Open Water Swimming Association: Woman of the Year 2013, Nominee, Kim Chambers
"Kimberley Chambers was 30 minutes from having her leg amputated after a traumatic fall down a flight of stairs. Nearly all hope had evaporated in the hospital, but destiny ultimately intervened. After her leg was saved, she took up swimming in order to avoid being disabled and unable to walk. After a difficult two-year rehabilitation period, she learned to love swimming and those in the sport. This year, she has blossomed in ways she could not have imagined before. She completed the Strait of Gibraltar in May, the Catalina Channel in July, and the English Channel in September en route towards her goal of achieving the Oceans Seven. For her optimistic view of life, for her deep sense of appreciation of her teammates and supporters, for her utter joy in the discovery of her vast potential, Kimberley Chambers is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Swimming Woman of the Year."
World Open Water Swimming Association: Performance of the Year 2012, Nominee, Kim Chambers
"The Night Train Swimmers not only raised a mind-boggling US$1.2 million (and counting for Semper Fi) in its non-stop 339-mile (546 km) charity swim attempt down the California coast from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, but they also endured 6 days of non-stop swimming through endless blooms of venomous jellyfish and water than never got above 14°C. Hour after hour, day after day, the six swimmers – Phil Cutti, Patti Bauernfeind, Dave Holsher, Joseph Locke, Kim Chambers and Zack Jirkovsky – battled the elements under the watchful eye of Captain Vito Bialla. They followed channel swimming rules, always mindful that their temporary discomforts were helping injured soldiers whose lifetimes are filled with discomfort. Although Mother Nature won this skirmish when the hardened group of intrepid adventurers was stopped after 109 hours by endless blooms of venomous jellyfish, the victory was ultimately theirs. For the audacity of their vision, for their charitable efforts on behalf of men and women in uniform, for the US$1.2 million raised, the indomitable Night Train Swimmers are worthy nominees for the 2012 WOWSA Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year."