10 Aug 2015

Kim Chambers breaks swimming record in shark-filled waters

12:07 pm on 10 August 2015

A New Zealander has made history by becoming the first woman to swim almost 50km of shark-filled waters off the coast of San Francisco.

Kim Chambers has powered her way across the dangerous stretch of water between the Farallon Islands and the Golden Gate Bridge in 17 hours and 12 minutes.

Kim Chambers is the first woman to swim between the Farallon Islands and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Kim Chambers is the first woman to swim between the Farallon Islands and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Photo: Kim Swims

"I feel like I did 10 rounds with Mike Tyson," Chambers said, speaking the day after she'd finished the swim.

"I know that I did it but I still can't believe I did it."

Chambers, who grew up in Te Kuiti but now lives in San Francisco, fell into long distance ocean swimming not just by accident, but after an accident.

In 2007, after a freak injury, medical experts told Chambers she was unlikely to be able to walk again. The former classical ballerina and rower decided she had to prove the doctors and surgeons wrong.

So, in order to help her learn to walk again, she took up swimming.

"I just discovered a whole new side of myself," she said. "That I love adventure. I train here in the Bay in San Francisco every day.

Since then she has completed many open water swims around the world including crossing the English Channel, the Cook Strait andthe sea between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

"With each one, I have pushed myself mentally and physically to a place I didn't know I had and it's tremendously rewarding. It's an amazing feeling."

All her swims follow traditional marathon swimming rules: wearing just a regular swimsuit, latex cap, earplugs and goggles.

Kim Chambers swimming in San Francisco.

Kim Chambers swimming in San Francisco. Photo: Kim Swims

And that can make it very demanding. She was hospitalised after one swim after being stung more than 200 times by jellyfish.

After her latest swim, she was back in hospital as a precaution because of dehydration.

"So you are pushing yourself mentally and physically to the very edge. for me, that's part of the draw, to see how far you can take yourself."

How does Chambers plan to top this swim?

She laughs. "I kind of promised Dad I would take up golf."

Kim Chambers website Kim Swims has more on her open water swims.