It took 17 hours and 12 minutes, about a dozen crew members, and untold amounts of grit and determination, but marathon swimmer Kimberley Chambers became the first woman to make the approximately 30-mile, notoriously difficult route from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Chambers, 38, originally from New Zealand but now living in San Francisco, quietly slipped into the water at 11:10 pm Friday at the Farallones, the rugged islands due west of the city that have one of the largest populations of great white sharks in the world. She swam through the night, battling nausea and fighting against the current for a large portion of the swim, and arrived at the bridge at 4:22 pm on Saturday.
"I'm completely overwhelmed," an emotional Chambers said following her historic feat, according to various media outlets. "It's something I’ve wanted for so long."
Chambers' mother came from New Zealand to join her support crew, which included about a dozen people, including a film crew that's documenting her journey, and her mentor, Vito Bialla, founding member of the nonprofit group Night Train Swimmers , which organized the swim. Two boats accompanied Chambers throughout her swim, and about every half hour, she was tossed a bottle of energy drink tethered to the boat. She also had several friends join her in the water at different points during her swim, based on the rules that govern open water swims.
"It really is a team event," Chambers told RootsRated before the swim. "I’m the one that’s in the water, but there’s nothing solo about it. These experiences really exemplify the human spirit of giving and receiving."
Chambers’ accomplishment comes after her training partner, 49-year-old Simon Dominguez, had to abandon his own recent attempt to become the first person to swim from the bridge to the Farallones when a great white shark was spotted in the water near him about two miles before he reached the islands.
“After her swim, I told her, ‘I was disappointed I couldn’t finish my swim, but your success has taken away that disappointment,’” Dominguez, who was part of the support crew, told RootsRated. “We’re a team, we train together, and we’re great friends. I took her success as my success.”
Following Dominguez's swim, Chambers decided to adjust her route to swim from the islands to the bridge in order to get the shark-heavy stretch finished first. She also opted to wear a device on her ankle that sends an electronic signal that repels sharks.
Chambers was taken to the hospital for treatment for dehydration following her swim, but she was soon released. She was still feeling "a bit wiped out and overwhelmed" while recovering from her swim, but otherwise fine.
Dominguez, meanwhile, admitted that his training partner's accomplishment "sort of does" want to make him go for the swim again. But, because of the fall breeding season for seals that attracts sharks, he has some time to decide.
"The nice thing is that I don’t have to make this call until next year," he says. "But there's a little bit of unfinished business on this swim for me."