The Alumna Merita assembly honours a Diocesan Old Girl who has excelled in her chosen field. This year’s recipient is a person who has achieved in the face of great adversity, Kimberley Chambers.
Kimberley was born in New Zealand and was raised on a sheep farm in Te Kuiti. She was a student at Diocesan from 1988 to 1992 and moved to San Francisco when she is 17 years old. In 2007 Kim suffered a severe fall while walking downstairs and almost had her leg amputated. She was warned that she may never walk unaided again. She spent two years in physical therapy and took up swimming to develop her strength and began challenging herself to swims all around the world.
Today and just 6 years on, she is an internationally recognized marathon open water swimmer. She has completed numerous open water swims around the world, including four world records, and several NZ records. Now, she is one of the world’s top marathon open water swimmers.
Kimberley is one of only a few people to complete the Oceans Seven swimming challenge, seven of the most challenging stretches of water across the globe, which included encounters with deadly jellyfish and sharks combined with strong currents and cold water. The Oceans Seven is the open water swimming equivalent to the Seven Summits of mountaineering.
Kim completed these swims wearing nothing but a swimsuit, cap and goggles. This makes her one of only 6 people in the world, and the first New Zealander to complete the Ocean 7 Challenge. She is a very proud Kiwi and says that nothing is impossible if you are brave enough to say yes.
For Kim, these are not merely athletic events. They are very personal transformational experiences of the self; learning and living life to the fullest while pushing herself through mental and physical barriers. Along the way, Kim has raised over $1.7 million for charity.
In 2015, she set a world record becoming the first woman to swim from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge – a distance of about 30 miles through the most shark-inhabited stretch of water in the world. No wetsuit. No shark cage.
Less than one month following her world record swim, Kimberley and 5 teammates from Night Train Swimmers, broke the current world record for the longest continuous swim in history, swimming 500kms non-stop over 5 days and nights for 91 hours in 2015. With her team, she has also achieved:
· The 1st team to swim from Jordan to Israel across the Dead Sea in 2016
· The 1st team to swim from USA to Mexico in 2017
In 2017 a documentary film, ‘Kim Swims’, was released by independent filmmaker Kate Webber following Kim’s journey from the Farallon Islands and into the record books. A member of the Explorers Club, in March of this year, Kim will be officially inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. She is the first New Zealand woman to achieve this honour.
Kim says that she didn’t grow up as a swimmer. Her passion was ballet and her dream was to dance. As a college student at Berkley, she says that her growth spurt to 5 foot 10 inches meant that her dancing dream was over so she landed a spot on the rowing team. Through rowing she developed some great life-long friends but she learned very early on that without passion, commitment and drive will only take you so far.
Kim is a fiercely independent feminist who thrives most when encouraging others to face their fears and push through their own barriers. She says “If you think you can’t do something, or if you’re afraid of doing something, that is exactly when you should do it.”
Kim also supports the efforts of the local pollution watchdog the San Francisco Baykeeper; she serves on the organization's Leadership Circle in order to raise awareness about their mission for Bay protection. Many of her swims are also fundraisers for charities, such as the Semper Fi Fund and the Colibri Centre for Human Rights.
Kim, we are delighted that you could be back in New Zealand so that we could say how proud we are of you as a Kiwi, as a woman, a conservationist, a philanthropist, and as a sportswoman who who has demonstrated resilience and sheer determination to overcome adversity. It is our pleasure to honour your incredibly inspiring achievements today with a Diocesan Alumna Merita Award. Ut Serviamus.