SAN FRANCISCO—New Zealand native, Kimberley Chambers, 38, made history as she became the first woman to successfully swim from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday, August 8.
Chambers swam the 30-mile stretch in 17 hours and 12 minutes. Prior to her feat, only four men had successfully completed the swim. Chambers had been training every morning in the Bay, including four to eight hour swims on weekends.
Chambers began her swim at 11:30 p.m. on Friday, August 7, wearing only a swimsuit. She was boated over to the Farallones and swam through the Pacific Ocean into the morning. She arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge at 4:42 p.m., only 42 minutes over her goal time.
Chambers was accompanied by her mother and 16 other crew members, who rode along in a boat following her. According to Chambers, crew members watch for dangers and ensure that swimmers are not getting a “free ride.”
The Farallones-San Francisco passage is one of the world’s most dangerous, shark-infested crossings, due to the population of elephant seals that attract some of the world’s largest great white sharks. Chambers stated, “I think this is the toughest swim, bar none. The weather is less predictable, and there are great white sharks. There aren’t any sharks in the Channel.” Chambers planned her swim during a season where the seasonal shark population would be away, and only year-round sharks would be present.
Chambers began swimming in 2007 after sustaining a leg injury that nearly led to an amputation. According to Chambers’ biography, medical experts informed her that she had a 1 percent chance of walking unassisted. She was diagnosed with Acute Compartment Syndrome in her right leg. Being a former classical ballerina and rower, Chambers found a way to stay fit and rehabilitate her leg through swimming. Within a few years, Chambers began to swim marathons.
Chambers’ first time swimming the Farallons-Golden Gate Bridge passage was in 2011 when she participated in a relay swim. According to Chambers, she has also completed several other ultra-marathons, including: “the English Channel (21 miles), 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), and a solo swim across Tsugaru Strait in Japan.”