In 2007, New Zealander Kim Chambers was diagnosed with acute compartment syndrome in her right leg and was told by doctors that it was unlikely she’d ever walk unassisted again. After considering amputation, the then-30-year-old opted instead for rehabilitation. Two years later, she began to swim in long-distance, open water events. Now, eight years after her diagnosis, Chambers has made history.
On Saturday, the one-time classical ballerina and UC Berkeley rower became the first woman in history to complete the 30-mile marathon swim from California's Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge—a notoriously challenging, cold, and shark-infested route. Chambers began her journey late Friday evening and arrived at the bridge just after 5 p.m. on Saturday, for a total swim time of 17 hours and 12 minutes.
In addition to being the first female to successfully complete the challenge, Chambers is only the fifth person in history to finish the swim. The first was Lieutenant Colonel Stu Evans in 1967, though his swim was only 18 nautical miles. The official start and finish line, according to the Farallon Islands Swimming Federation, began with swimmer Ted Erikson in 1967 (after an initial failed attempt in 1966 that left him hypothermic and reportedly "dead"). Craig Lenning finished the swim in April 2014; Joe Locke did the same three months later. Several swim teams have also been successful over the years, one of which included Chambers as a member.
After the swim, Chambers told reporters: “I’m completely overwhelmed. It's something I’ve wanted for so long, and I can’t believe I did it.”