Kimberley Chambers Swims With Sharks: The World’s Greatest Female Marathon Swimmer On Turning Adversity To Advantage

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“I love the feeling of anticipation that comes from having a huge, scary event on the horizon; in fact, that’s when I have a sense of living life to the fullest.”

Kimberley Chambers


Close your eyes and imagine yourself 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco, swimming in the freezing cold, shark-infested waters famously dubbed the Red Triangle. No wetsuit. In the middle of the night.

Most would call this lunacy.

Kimberley Chambers calls this home.

This week’s guest is one of the most accomplished record-setting marathon open water swimmers in the world. Her story is incredibly inspiring, but not for the reasons you might imagine. Her story is inspiring because just nine years ago, Kim was not a swimmer at all, suffering a life-threatening accident that nearly claimed her leg and her overall enthusiasm for life.

The morning started out like every other morning. The New Zealand born former ballerina and rower turned software executive left her San Francisco apartment and accidentally tripped, toppling down a treacherous flight of stairs.

We saved your leg. But it’s unlikely you will walk again.

The doctor’s verdict presented Kim with a choice: accept permanent disability. Or prove them wrong.

Needless to say, she chose the latter.

After countless surgeries and an excruciatingly prolonged rehabilitation, a friend encouraged her to try swimming. Although foreign to the water, she immediately took to it. A ticket to freedom. But the real turning point came the moment she first jumped into the frigid San Francisco Bay. In an instant, she had found sanctuary. To this day, it’s a love affair with cold water and the tight-knit community of like-minded souls who embrace it that changed everything about her life and how she lives it.

An inner fire ignited, Kim began to channel her newfound passion into a series of death-defying, envelope-pushing open-water marathon challenges that have redefined the limits of human potential and transformed her into the elite athlete she is today.

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Among Kim’s many accomplishments:

  • In 2014, she became the 6th person (and 3rd woman) in history to complete the Oceans Seven – the marathon swimming equivalent of the Seven Summits mountaineering challenge, with each of the 7 swims chosen for their treacherous water conditions and potential wildlife risks;
  • In 2015, she set a new world record becoming the first woman to swim 30 miles from the shark-infested Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco;
  • In September 2016, Kim attempted a non-stop 93 mile swim from Sacramento to Tiburon. However after swimming over 24 hours and 54 miles, sustained 30 knot winds rendered it unsafe for her to continue;
  • And just two months later, Kim led an international team of swimmers to complete an unprecedented historic swim across the Dead Sea to raise global awareness around the environmental deterioration of that critical body of water.

This is a conversation about the boundaries of human potential. It’s about the capacity to turn tremendous adversity into boundless opportunity. It’s about finding joy and adventure outside the comfort zone. It’s a conversation about reframing identity to step into and own — really own — our most authentic, fully actualized selves.

And I suppose it’s about how to not get eaten by a shark.

Delightfully engaging, ever humble, and beautifully human, Kim embodies everything you seek in a modern day female super hero.

It was a pleasure to spend time with her and it is my hope that our conversation will leave you deeply reconsidering the limits of your own potential.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.

Peace + Plants,

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Special thanks to Kate Webber for graciously allowing me use of her photography in today’s podcast. Check out her incredible work on the upcoming documentary Kim SwimsWebsite | Twitter | Facebook

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SHOW NOTES

Background, Context & Reference

Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast

  • Vito Bialla: founding member of Night Train Swimmers and is the organization’s President

Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy

Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, interstitial music and audio engineering; Chris Swan for production assistance & show notes; Shawn Patterson for graphics. Theme music by Ana Leimma.

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