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[water splashing]
Shelby Stanger: Kim Chambers is a swimmer and that's putting it lightly. You won't find her at a local gym or community pool swimming laps. Instead, you'll find her in shark-infested, freezing cold waters off the coast of northern California. In less than 10 years, Kim has become one of the world's top marathon swimmers. She's a total badass, someone who's learned to face fear head-on.
I'm Shelby Stanger. This is Wild Ideas Worth Living.
Kim didn't just decide to become a swimmer one day. Growing up in New Zealand, she challenged herself finding an affinity for athletic endeavors like ballet and rowing, but her journey to the open water wasn't as simple as you might think. Tell me a little bit about growing up in New Zealand. You said he wanted to be a ballerina.
Kim: Yes. I was a ballerina for 15 years from the age of two to 17. I grew up on a sheep farm. I was this girl who was a tomboy who loved animals but also loved to express herself on stage. My mom facilitated that. I traveled around the country, New Zealand, performing. I set all these exams and I became qualified to teach. It consumed my life.
Shelby: How did you go from being a ballerina to then rowing crew at Berkeley?
Kim: I'm lucky that I have been naturally athletic. My older brother was accepted into Berkeley as a rower. They said, "Well, Kim you're tall, you're coordinated, why don't you go on the women's rowing team?" I was like, "Okay," and I did it. It wasn't pretty but I love pushing myself athletically and that allowed me an avenue to do that.
Shelby: Take us how you got into swimming because this story is incredible.
Kim: I rowed on the Berkeley rowing team. I was basically like a gym rat. I was living a life that, as I look back, it was pretty superficial. I was obsessed with being skinny. I was obsessed with being able to fit into designer outfits. In 2007, just shortly after my 30th birthday, I was going to a freelance job. I was wearing a pantsuit that was more expensive than I care to share and high heels and I slipped down that staircase.
Kim: Long story short, I woke up after I had surgery on my leg. I was 30 minutes from amputation. That wasn't how I saw my life, but that was it. I was devastated.
Shelby: 30 minutes from amputation and you just had fallen down the stairs wearing high heels, and you'd been an executive at Adobe.
Kim: Not at Adobe that time, but I was masters from Berkeley and I was like, "Yes, this is it. This is life. I am a superficial woman and I'm earning it."
Shelby: How does a fall like that cause you to possibly almost have your leg amputated?
Kim: I was diagnosed with acute compartment syndrome, blunt force trauma to my leg. People actually break their necks falling downstairs. I'm a little stubborn and I have my mother to blame for that. Thanks, Mom. When it happened, I thought that I was dealing with just a major bruise. I really did not comprehend the gravity of the situation. It was until I passed out from the pain that I was admitted into a hospital and then hours later, I'm literally waking up looking at my leg suspended with just disbelief that that had happened to me.
Shelby: For most of us as athletes, just being injured as an athlete sounds like one of the scariest thing ever because all of us love to be able to move as athletes. For not being able to walk again, how did you deal with the fear of not knowing if you would ever be able to walk again?
Kim: That's a great question Shelby because as I'm sharing this, I've kind of glossed over a lot of it because we all have coping mechanisms. I have to say that without any doubt, without any hesitation, when I was told that after the surgery that they had saved my leg and we don't know if you'll have any functionality, it was a pivotal moment in my life. I was like I'm very stubborn, I am goal oriented. I was just like no, I'm not going to accept that. I had no reason to, no reassurance to be able to say, yes, I'm going to be able make it through. But I can tell you when you are faced with a mountain ahead of you and you have no idea how you're going to do it, I can guarantee that all of us have within ourselves the ability to look at that mountain and not only be scared by it but to use it as fuel to take the first step. That's I guess the biggest measures that I want to share with everybody is that I'm not different. I'm not special. I'm like everybody else. But I was literally forced into a corner of saving my life.
Shelby: Was there a time when you were like pretty freaked out though that you might not be able to walk?
Kip: Yes, I spent two years learning to walk again those were the most traumatic two years of my life. I went down a very deep dark hole, I don't know how I made it through. I would argue that by them telling you, "Well we don't know if you'll ever make it through. Well, we don't know if you'll ever have any functionality in your leg," while they are being frank and honest which I appreciate and respect, it's actually not what we want to hear. The whole idea of a diagnosis of a medical condition is that you can be honest with somebody but arm them with that perspective to be like, here's your chance to show up and front up, you can tell somebody the truth that, this is what's going to happen. But for people like me, I love to be armed with a challenge, and I love to prove people wrong.
Shelby: How did you find swimming?
Kip: You know I'd spent two years basically rehabilitating my leg, and I just I felt drawn to the water, and I started swimming in a pool in San Francisco and really there were these guys at the pool, like, hey Kim have you thought about swinging the bales? Like, no, but I'll do it. They videoed it and that was really the beginning.
Shelby: Open water ocean swimming, I mean that's just totally different than swimming in the pool. What about it do you love so much? I mean I think I heard you say something about it being very nurturing.
Kip: For me you know coming off you know swimming in the pool, I had been on pain meds for two years Neurontin, Percocet, everything because I was in severe pain, and I chose to go off all of that because I didn't like how it made my head feel. Here I am in a pool pretty vulnerable, my have a skin graft on my thigh, it wasn't how I want to show up. Then these guys were like, hey, if you swim in the bay? And I was like, no but I'll do it for a deer. And I got in that water and it was November of 2009 and I will never forget that experience. They changed the course of my life because I got in that water, no wetsuit, it was 53-degree water, and I could not stop smiling. They gifted me with possibility, they gifted me with the light at the end of the tunnel of a two-year journey where I want to prove people wrong, but I wasn't sure how is going to do it. Getting in that water I knew I did it 100%.
Shelby: Oh that's so cool. I love that you're so ballsy because 53-degree water is so cold.
Kip: Well when two cute guys show up and they're like, dare you I think any one of us would do that.
Shelby: I do some dumb things for cute guys, I'm not going to lie. At first, you said your coach said, you could swim out of a paper bag, you sucked, you're a terrible swimmer.
Kip: He was accurate. Yes, he was accurate. But I was like this little like puppy that just kept following and I was just like, "I think I can, I think I can." You know it just takes one person to believe in you, one person. I was very fortunate to have more than that because when I joined the dolphin club and the south end rowing club here in San Francisco, I saw on the wall the achievements of ordinary people who swam on this news channel. I was like, "Wow, I could see when they did it, the time that they took across the channel," and I was like, "Wow, these are real-life heroes in my midst." You immediately start swimming these gnarly swims all the major channels, which is crazy because all I've ever swum is the boogie and back which is a mile max.
Shelby: Tell me about these. major channels and there's one you did in particular that I watched in your movie Kim Swims which is an incredible movie that made me cry. You swim the North Channel between Scotland and Ireland, talk to me about this swim, how long was it?
Kim: First of all, as I alluded to without really realizing when I joined the dolphin club and the south rowing club, I inserted myself into this world of adventurous, a secret society of adventurers who were doing these long distance swims. I would look at them like they were superheroes but they were just ordinary people. I love that sort of normalizing of great achievements so I just became intoxicated by achieving something, I didn't think was possible.
Shelby: How long ago is this after the injury?
Kim: This is six years post-surgery, four years since today.
Shelby: Tell me what it's like to swim these distances and there are marathons in the water.
Kim: It's a little false advertising when they say 30 miles you actually think you're swimming 21 miles but you get shafted because when you're out there in the water. They're like, "Oh, wow we're not done yet," but the currents are very strong. A straight line, it's 21 miles but the currents move so that you go North or you go South so it's about 33 miles for any of these swims.
Shelby: What happens to you, what does it take physically, mentally to swim a channel swim that's about 30 miles or 21 miles, what happens to your body?
Kim: It takes a lot of physical preparation because we don't wear a wetsuit, there's no shark cage, no wetsuit, you are the only swimmer in the water and you have a boat next to you. One of my fellow swimmers articulated that pretty succinctly he said, "You know what, you're in so much pain, you are cold because you're a ticking time bomb for hypothermia and the boat is next to you. All you have to do to make that pain go away is to touch the boat because then you'll be disqualified."
It's tantalizing and I love that challenge because you are a ticking time bomb for hypothermia, you have a team that feeds you so every 30 minutes I am given a rope with a drink bottle and my feed is Biscuits because you can't chew and swim at the same time.
Shelby: It's like a thick smoothie.
Kim: Yes, you're like a pit seal and I keep my feedings 10 seconds or less and then I drink from the drink bottle and I throw in the water. They reel it back in and I keep moving because you don't want to stop moving.
Shelby: What else do you say to yourself in your head to get over your fear of touching the boat?
Kim: Everyone's different, some people sing songs, some people chant but it's a very spiritual journey for me and each of my swims I've been blessed to have the people in my boat who are very special to me. My mom included from New Zealand, my dad is behind the scenes with the logistics and flights but my mom she loves being on the boat. For me that's what gets me through is knowing that I have these people who believe in me because these swims are 90% mental.
Shelby: On this particular swim, the Channel swim, it sounds like I learned there was a part where you almost died and I don't know if it was from jellyfish or hypothermia?
Kim: Jellyfish, pulmonary edema. I was stung hundreds of times by jellyfish, I finished the swim, I looked like a gremlin when I finished. I don't remember it but I was put in a respiratory ward and I was flown back to San Francisco and I was put in a cardiac ward. Gnarly but I wouldn't change any of it, I love pushing myself to that edge and my only regret is that that was my last ocean's seven I don't remember finishing.
Shelby: You were in that much pain from all the jellyfish you don't even remember, how do you recover from something like that?
Kim: Well, I tell people I'm like a cockroach. For whatever reason, I keep bouncing back and that was traumatic. I have a habit of glossing over things using humor. Before I did my swim that we'll talk about, there was a thing on Facebook that said, "If someone came into my living room in the middle of the night, wearing just a Speedo, I'll probably kill him too." [laughs]
Shelby: You must say something to yourself to keep going, what is the mantra?
Kim: When I will get into the swim but in particular I was chanting my way through the labyrinth at a church here in San Francisco. It's a labyrinth on the ground and you just walk through until you find your way through. I found myself chanting, "Please, just give me permission to keep going. Please, just grant me permission to keep going. I'm not here for any harm, just grant me permission to move through your waters with grace." I take a very spiritual approach to all of my swims, it's not about conquering a mountain. It's all about conquering a stretch of water. I paid deference to that stretch of water and I've prayed it. When I swim-- in Japan, and I swam across, before I did the swim I prayed at a 2000-year-old shrine. When I've a swim at the Farallones I have been there many times, and for me, it's just like, give me the grace to pass through your stretch of water.
Shelby: Kim didn't let all those jellyfish stings stop her from pursuing more amazing feats. Nine months later, she made a decision to swim one of the most intense and dangerous marathon swims of all time. Listen to Kim talk about her decision after this message from our sponsors.
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In the recently released film about Kim's decision to swim the Farallon Islands, which is called Kim Swims and directed by the talented Kate Webber. Someone in her crew describes the Farallon Islands as like being in heaven and talking to the devil at the same time. With the swim there was a million factors at play, currents, winds, water temps, waves, darkness since she swam at night, not to mention a large population of great white sharks. Why the Farallon's?
Kim: Well, how much time do you have? I talked about people believing in you and that's been my key ingredient and Vito Biela who runs Knight transformers he saw my potential, but he normalized these experiences and we've got to the Farallon's on the weekends with my team, and we were just frolic and I would be in the water and these seals and sea lions with swirl around me, and they'd be a few feet from me. It was a wonderland and I felt like I had paid deference to these islands and I'd been on these relay swims.
Shelby: You did a few relay swims to the Farallon Islands before?
Kim: Yes and it's a scary stretch of water but it's off the charts. It's my spiritual home and I told him that I wanted to swim solo from the Farallon's and he said, "Tell me when I'll help you do it."
Shelby: Let's go back a little bit. On some of your other swims when you prepare you really prepare it. Like for the North Island swim, I read that you didn't shower in warm water for six months because you wanted to experience cold water because it was cold. For this one, how many hours a day were you in a pool or swimming in the open ocean?
Kim: The Farallon's I was probably in the water about three or four hours a day and then I would lift weights when I got home
Shelby: Just three or four hours a day?
Kim: I look back on that I'm like, who's that crazy woman because I got locked into a goal and I have to be honest with you that I have a really hard time connecting with that person but I now know from my experience is that we're all capable of far more than we're capable of.
Shelby: Three or four hours is no joke to commit while you're a software executive at a [crosstalk] company in San Francisco. Would you get up at 5:00 AM and swim?
Kim: At 4:45 AM to be exact. [laughs]
Shelby: You girls are amazing. The Farallon's. Let's go to that moment. You have this goal to swim the Farallon Islands just a couple days before or maybe not even that many days before. One of your friends something happens to him trying to swim the Farallon Island?
Kim: Yes. I'm a Kiwi and my training partner was an Australian. We get along but he had been attempting to do that swim and he had his wife and one of his daughters on the boat and he was circled by a great white shark and he had been in that water for 18 hours so no wetsuit but as you move your neck you chase and the shark picked up on the scent and- he was hold onto the boat and that was the end of his swim. That was two weeks before my swim. I say in the film, until this day, I'm struck by the fact that there was really no hesitation in my mind, it didn't scare me. I was so locked into achieving this for myself, that I was not listening to people who had very rational opinions. I think for all of us that's the lesson that I want to share with people is we get locked into a goal, but at what cost? I'm aware of that, I'm just doing some soul searching.
Shelby: That's a really good question, at what cost we do these crazy things? You took some calculated risks with the sharks. You wear shark shield, which supposedly has an electromagnetic field to deter sharks. What else did you do? You went at night which is that better?
Kim: Yes, they don't work Monday through Friday, then only work Saturdays and Sundays.
Shelby: You went on a weekday? I'm kidding.
Kim: No, you have to have fun with it because it was just, but I really had felt like I'd pay deference to those almonds because it's a very spiritual place for me and remains as such. People might think I'm crazy, but I've never seen a shark in those waters never.
Shelby: Wow, I love how you talk about spirituality, especially when it comes to the animals you see. There's a scene where you're swimming with dolphins, one of the channel crossings.
Kim: Yes.
Shelby: What was that like?
Kim: I think you're referring to the Cook Strait, which is between the North and South Island of New Zealand.
Shelby: Your home country?
Kim: Yes, that was my first successful solo. I had actually tried to complete a solo swim, but fail because I got ahead of myself, but I was very proud to be in that stretch of water as my maternal grandfather was approaching the sunset of his life if you will. It's a shaky stretch of water and when those dolphins showed up, it was a slight wow the cavalry has arrived and I could hear them squeaking on the water and so I'll squeak back and it just seemed like that was the right thing to do, so they was zipping underneath me, beside me. For all the swims I've done, I've had these interactions with nature. The fact that they know that I'm not there to harm them, it's just, I can't even explain it in words.
The fact that they knew I was a friend is everything. The fact that they knew, I'm sure they were making fun of me and they're like, "George, she can't even swim, did you see that woman? What is she doing this world? Shall we helper her?" I except that they had a dialogue, but regardless it was just when they showed up I was just like, "Wow, we're in this together." They didn't think for one moment that I was going to harm them and that's the biggest gift of all of this rather than having said that, I've achieved that swim.
Shelby: Kim, your attitude and approach to life is so beautiful. I so appreciate this, so the Farallon Islands, your mom comes out, everybody comes out, you'd start at 11:15 at night and you swim for?
Kim: 17 hours and 12 minutes who's counting, but-- I don't do anything for 17 hours and 12.
Shelby: What did it feel like when you crossed the Golden Gate Bridge doing in the Farallon Islands?
Kim: I have a habit of crying during my swims and I tell people the person getting out of the water at the end of the swim for me at least is a completely different person from the woman who jumped in the water in the middle of the night. It is the surrender and when I was about to jump on the water at the Farallon Islands, it was 11:50 at night and my mom was there for museum and she'd been on my other swims and I'm at the stern of the boat on the platform and the water is lapping invitingly at my body.
I didn't want to put my toes in the water and my mom poked her head over and she's like, "Well hurry up then" I'm like, "Mom, I'm having a moment here, I'm just trying to click my thoughts." That was just a special moment and the whole journey was very special, but when I saw that bridge I started crying. When you see something for distance, it's a blues of a tent and then you get closer and closer, and then you can see the colors come into view and-- It was very spiritual. It was just-- I knew I was about to achieve a goal that meant everything to me as a human being.
Shelby: Kim's journey isn't just about herself though. She was the first woman to complete the swim between the Farallon Islands in San Fransisco. She uses her platform to talk to girls of all ages about both body image issues as well as perseverance, realizing your own potential and facing our fears. What's your message to little girls and old girls like me?
Kim: I love that. I love speaking to little girls because I came from a background as a ballerina. Going into the sport where I had to gain weight because it is life or death. I love telling little girls is that my body is this vessel and it has to be as seaworthy as possible and as such this body got me from England to France. It's not about saying I swim the English Channel. It's about really realizing the potential of our bodies. I love showing little girls what's possible. What I love about open water swimming is there is no separate category for men and women. There's no separate division from women's swimming in this channel. I love that.
I love that you can show up as a feminine woman and still be counted on even playing field as a man. That's very powerful.
Shelby: Your body didn't just take you from England to France, but it took you across seven major channels across the Farallon Islands. Your body can move, Kim. It's incredible.
Kim: I'm the first to say I didn't do it alone. I share that achievement with everyone who has helped me along the way.
Shelby: But you're the only one in the water. [chuckles]
Kim: Yes, I'm just the sacrificial lamb. I guess, my feedback is that if you want to do something that changes your life, it can be as small or as big as you want it to be. The secret ingredient is surrounding yourself with people who believe in you.
Shelby: That's a good approach to fear. If you have fear surround yourself with people who support you.
Kim: You should have fear. Like my-- Without realizing it until I've got to this point is if you are fearful of something that's really the allure that is telling you you should do it. I've had naysayers, I've had people who have thought that I was stupid for doing this, but if you can create this cocoon of positivity, you can achieve anything.
Shelby: Then you believed in yourself at some point.
Kim: It took me some time to get to that, but I have to say I wouldn't have done it without the people in my life.
Shelby: Let's go there because one of the things that I think holds so much of us back from facing fear or at least me and I'll speak from personal advice, is fear of failure.
Kim: Yes.
Shelby: How do we get over this?
Kim: The Farallon Islands are 30 miles off the coast of Northern California. It takes about two and a half hours to get to there to those islands by boat. I'd made my swim very public because I love to raise money for charities. As I was taking it two and a half hour boat ride out to the Farallons I can put my hand on my heart and say the thing that I was worried about the most was failure. I was worried that if I get to the Farallons, what if I get there and I can't even get in the water? Because it was so scary. I have learned through my journey of swimming and I have had failures is that you actually learn the most.
I know that sounds very cliche, but as my Aussie training partner, Simon Domingo says, "Go hard and then go home. Give it everything." We're only on this lifetime for once. That's it. That's it. That's it. What do you have to lose?
Shelby: That's such good advice. You said you failed once. One of the first swims you did.
Kim: I've failed many times.
Shelby: What do you do when you fail?
Kim: It motivates me even more because I get annoyed at myself because I'm a perfectionist, but a failure-- I have to say that I don't know if I'm articulating it right, but when you hear about people achieving these great feats of swimming the English Channel or climbing Everest or whatever it is, how many times have you heard about their failures? You don't-
Shelby: Not much.
Kim: We live in a society where the success is the primary source of adulation of success. I'm putting that in air quotes. I have to say from my experience it's through the failures that you actually grow and you learn the most. I'm the first to say, "I'm afraid of that," just like everybody else. I'm afraid of embarrassing myself. I'm afraid of embarrassing myself and saying, "You know what? I'm going to do that. I'm going to do that," and then I fail. Failure is actually a very loaded term, and I would say that as I look back on it, that it's not a failure it's actually a gift.
Shelby: You look at a lot of things like gift, adversity, failure, which is so opposite of what so many of us learn and I think that's really interesting. Just a few months ago, you said you were diagnosed again with a debilitating disease that left you almost paralyzed.
Kim: Guillain-Barré.
Shelby: Guillain-Barré?
Kim: Yes, I was paralyzed from the waist down.
Shelby: So, it's an auto-immune?
Kim: Yes, my body started attacking itself. I was actually in the best shape of my life, and I woke up on May 6th and I couldn't feel my left foot, and then I couldn't feel my calf muscle and then within hours it moved up to my right leg and I was 60 minutes from it paralyzing my waist prism. I have to say, as horrific as that has been, I don't think I would have made it through had I not been armed with the maturity of having gone through other experiences and I think if I can tell people who are listening, is that life is not a linear trajectory. It's not one that will go through and be scot-free.
Trauma is inevitable. It won't be packaged the way you think it will be packaged, but I think being armed with the expectation that I expect something to happen and to be able to know that you will find your way through it. That's what got me through.
Shelby: That means it's such an anomaly. Was this related at all to your other injury? No.
Kim: No. They're not. They're studying me right now, which is I guess that's something to be proud of, but I've had amazing medical care but it is a little bit perplexing because my paralysis was aggressive, equally so, was my recovery. I couldn't be happier. Sure, it was traumatic but I've learned along the way that I know what gets me through these experiences and it's having a close group of friends who literally shepherd me through these experiences, and I hope that for everybody, really.
Shelby: I think it's so cool you have so many good friends and you're so honest about telling these stories. I have an auto-immune thing and it's so weird, no one knows what causes it.
Kim: It's scary. It's really scary.
Shelby: I've tried all sorts of cures. Yes, it's really scary. Did Guillain-Barré-- You said it had affected you mentally too.
Kim: Yes.
Shelby: How did it affect you mentally?
Kim: It started off with my legs and then I was in the ICU, and then I was in a rehab hospital. Then two weeks later I lost functionality of my arms and then I couldn't speak certain words, especially starting with an 'R' or an 'M' I don't know why. I was recently in the hospital just before Thanksgiving. Strangely enough, I wasn't traumatized. I wasn't upset. I was just-- You can call me peace love and patchouli oil, but I really fairly believe that we are on a path that's predetermined and anything that happens, happens because it's supposed to happen.
Shelby: Wow. How did you physically overcome that? Did you take medicine? Did you do physical therapy?
Kim: I did 135 physical therapy sessions. I was given antibodies in the hospital but I wasn't in any pain. Honestly, if I could speak completely openly, I would not have made it through this summer had I not gone through what I went through 10 years ago with my leg injury.
Shelby: Kim, thank you so much for sharing all these. A lot of people who're listening are going something that they can't control. What's your advice to people like me?
Kim: This is my favorite topic. This is my favorite topic because I'm a control freak but when the rug was pulled out from underneath me, I learned real quick what was the magic of life. I hope that I can have some validity in saying that life is not straight-forward. We'll all go through experiences that are traumatic but I know that from my experiences, is that you surrounding yourself with people who believe you, will get you through.
I've been traumatized. This summer really tested my resolve. To watch my body become paralyzed before my very eyes, to not cooperate as I had instructed it to, was maddening, it was depressing. It was destructive. I think we live a life each of us, of not really appreciating what we have, and taking it for granted. I have lived a life where I'm like, "You know what? If you if this happens, I can fix it." I didn't know how I was going to fix it. It was very, very traumatic. I've been armed with maturity from my past experiences to know that this will probably happen again. You learn so much about yourself in these moments.
Shelby: One thing that really struck me while I was talking to Kim, was her sense of humor. I've hung out with quite a few Kiwis, and I've noticed it's a trade a lot of them share. What I thought was most impressive is Kim maintains this attitude, despite everything that's happened to her. The fact that she was paralyzed weeks before I spoke with her, or that she nearly lost a leg, none of that stopped her from cracking jokes about some really heavy parts of her journey. What role does comedy play in your life?
Kim: Well, and thank you for bringing up. I've mentioned it a few times, I've glossed over some traumatic events because I've used humor. I guarantee we'll all go through traumatic events. If you can accept it, and have some humor associated with it, it'll make it a lot easier. Why not just take life by the cajones or whatever it is, Habla Espanol, you know what I'm talking about. You know what? This is it. This is it, because you really have one chance.
Shelby: What do you do for fun other than swim? I know you like dogs.
Kim: I love dogs. I think I'm on a watchlist in my community for harassing dogs, you know how they hit the next door it, I think I'm on a watchlist. I love working with nonprofits with dogs, I love making people laugh, I love writing, I'm working on my own book right now. I've been very lucky that I have a film about my story. Kate Webber, who was a first time female director, she captured my story more eloquently than I could ever imagine, and it's called Kim Swims. The film is available on Amazon and iTunes.
There was definitely a very vulnerable moment of gifting my story to someone else, and she nailed it. This film really speaks to her grace and her elegance as a filmmaker. That's what's going on with me right now.
Shelby: I bawled my eyes out during that. We'll definitely link to it in the show. Kate, you did a great job. If you're listening. We ask all of our guest this, any advice you can give to all the listeners on how to live more wildly, and how to say yes to fear?
Kim: I love that question, how to live more wildly, and how to say yes to fear. For what it's worth, I know from my experience, if I'm afraid of something, it means I have to do it. I have to approach that goal, because I know from my own personal experience, that any time I have faced a fear or something that I'm afraid of something I think I'm not capable of, we all have fears, we all are judgmental of ourselves. We're like, "I'm not capable. I'm not worthy."
If you switch that in your mind and you say, "You know what? I'm worthy, and I can approach that goal." I guarantee when you break through that goal, you'll realize a new sense of self, and it's a beautiful, beautiful gift and no gold medal, no standing on a podium would do it justice.
Shelby: As I set goals for myself in 2019, Kim's words are having a huge impact on me, and I hope they do for you too. She doesn't let the fear of failure or things that could go wrong, get too deep into her head. She's a true believer in doing things that scare you and pushing yourself to live a more colorful and exciting life. After our interview, she told me she's already planning her next endeavor. She said her parents were a little concerned, so you know it's going to be a big one. You can follow along on her website, That's, K-I-M S-W-I-M-S dot com. You can check out her movie If you like the show please leave us a review thanks again to Kim chambers. Kim, we definitely need to go surfing thank you to hide street studios. This is where the grateful dead recorded in work Kim and I recorded this podcast. This podcast is produced and edited by Henry Vosler. It's co-produced by Chelsea Davis. It's supported by REI a brand helps us get out there explore on more adventures. To all of you listening, I hope today you go out and take advantage of the world around us indeed push yourself a little harder to reach that next goal, and I also hope you remember some of the best adventures often happened when you fall your wildest ideas. Tune in week after next.
[00:40:56] [END OF AUDIO]

Here’s the Wild Idea

Kim Chambers was 30 years old, an athlete and a powerful executive, when she slipped and fell down a set of stairs. The injuries she sustained changed the course of her life. Not only did she prove doctors wrong about being able to be an athlete again, but she became one of the most accomplished marathon swimmers in the world, after never swimming competitively in her life before the injury.

In 2014, she became the sixth person (and third woman) to complete the Oceans Seven, which is the marathon swimming equivalent of climbing the Seven Summits, with each swim chosen for its treacherous conditions. Then, in 2015, Kim set a new world record when she became the first woman to swim thirty miles from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, a swim that’s incredibly dangerous. It’s full of strong currents, extremely cold water temperatures, big waves, and a large population of great white sharks. But Kim didn’t let fear stop her.

Today, the accomplished swimmer uses her platform to inspire women (and men) of all ages to appreciate their bodies and to pursue their dreams even if they seem unrealistic. While she continues to set new records and battle more challenges herself, she remains a master at teaching people to face fear, even to say yes to it, and push through to achieve their goals.

Presented by REI

Listen to this Episode if

  • You are trying to get over your fears.
  • You are a swimmer.
  • You’ve ever battled, or are battling something that seems impossible at the moment to get through.
  • You love stories of people defying the odds.

Key Takeaways

  • 1:00 – Kim was raised in New Zealand and dreamed of being a ballerina.
  • 2:55 – How Kim’s life changed when she fell down some stairs. 
  • 7:00 – How Kim found swimming.
  • 11:00 – What it’s like to do a marathon swim.
  • 14:40 – The mantra that goes through Kim’s head during her swim.
  • 17:15 – Why Kim wanted to swim from the Farallon Islands to San Francisco.
  • 21:35 – The impact of swimming with dolphins.
  • 25:30 – Kim’s message for women, young and old.
  • 28:05 – How Kim got over fear during her Farallon Islands to Golden Gate swim.
  • 30:45 – Kim was recently diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome.
  • 34:30 – Her advice for people going through a challenging time.
  • 36:40 – How Kim uses comedy.
  • 37:20 – Where to watch the film Kim Swims.


Kim Swims film by Kate Webber

Connect with Kim




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