San Francisco Woman Makes History With 30-Mile Swim from Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge - NBC Bay Area
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San Francisco Woman Makes History With 30-Mile Swim from Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge

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    Kimberley Chambers burst into tears as soon as she laid a hand on her crew's boat. (Published Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015)

    Kimberley Chambers burst into tears as soon as she laid a hand on her crew's boat.

    The physical contact signaled the end of a record-breaking 30-mile swim from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge. Chambers, a New Zealander who calls San Francisco home, made history Saturday as the first woman to complete the swim. Four men have accomplished the difficult feat. 

     

    Chambers, 38, spent 17 hours and 12 minutes in a stretch of water notorious for its great white shark population -- but didn't encounter any.

    "I guess they don't like Kiwis," she quipped, adding that she "slipped off the boat" instead of jumping into the water so as not to "wake the locals."

    According to her website, Chambers began swimming at 11:16 p.m. Friday. She made it past the Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary by Saturday morning and arrived at her destination just before 5 p.m.

    Chambers, who wasn't aware of exactly how long she spent in the water, felt as if it took a long time for the Golden Gate Bridge "to come into view."

    Within 12 minutes of being out of the water, a shaky and sore Chambers disembarked from a boat at Tiburon, intermittently covering her face as she broke down. 

    Although the event is titled a "solo" swim, Chambers stressed that she was only as strong as her crew.

    "I couldn't have done this without my crew," she said. "I didn't do it alone ... Everybody just stuck with me the whole time."

    Chambers, who almost looked dazed as supporters and spectators alike cheered for her, admitted to being completely "overwhelmed."

    "This is something I've wanted since so long and I can't believe I did it," she said.

    Chambers was tracked in the water and followed by a boat carrying her mother and about 16 crew members who watched for danger, according to her website. An observer was also onboard to make sure she swam the entire stretch and didn't get a free ride.

    Speaking to reporters, Chambers offered insight into what she deemed the "toughest swim in the world."

    It's "very, very scary" to swim through the "living room of great white sharks," hoping they won't be "offended," she said.

    The swimmer also described getting sick in the middle of the night and being unable to digest or "keep any food down." Since she needed sustenance every 30 minutes, Chambers recalled thinking that her swim was over. But her crew members and their high levels of enthusiasm helped distract her and keep her going.

    The swim's unpredictability lends to its level of difficulty, Chambers said. "Whatever you think will go wrong, won't. It'll be something you didn't anticipate."

    She also said deemed it a "strange sport" in that swimmers are forbidden from having any physical contact with their boat or crew members. Members were only allowed to throw her a bottle, attached to a rope, filled with food or medicines.

    Reflecting on seeing the bridge — her finish line — Chambers said, "Then you know you have to finish it. I definitely had to dig really, really deep. ... But I was also not getting in and doing this swim all over again. It's tough. It's tough."

    Chambers said that she is "tremendously honored" to be the first woman to make it through the swim but acknowledged combatting her desire to "get out" midway with fantasies of touching the crew's boat and knowing she'd achieved her goal.

    There were a "lot of tears" and a "lot of pain," said Chambers who couldn't move her arms. "But this is what we do. There's something pretty rewarding in seeing how far you can push yourself mentally and physically."

    Meanwhile, Chambers' mother Jocelyn Chambers who was aboard the boat, deemed her daughter an "inspiration."

    It was "really hard not to reach out" to her child, she said, but it was equally amazing to witness Chambers win over the "freezing cold" and "aches and pains" with sheer "mental fortitude and physical determination."

    For her part, Chambers, after avoiding "warmth" for roughly three months to get used to being in cold water for an extended period of time, said was most excited about taking a "hot shower."

    The swimmer, who belongs to Night Train Swimmers, a nonprofit that, according to its website, "raises money for charities through difficult long distance swims," said she wants to "inspire" young women to pursue their dreams.

    "This is what happens when you're scared of big dreams — you just do [them]," she said.

    The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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