Kim Chambers, Experience Design (XD) communications manager at Adobe, recently realized her dream of swimming across all seven major ocean channels.
Oceans Seven is open water swimming’s version of the Seven Summits (climbing the highest mountains in each continent) and only six people have completed the Oceans Seven thus far: Kim is the sixth person to achieve this feat.
“You’re just this little thing on this huge expansive body of water. You feel like an explorer,” gushes Kim. It’s this feeling of smallness that propels Kim onwards, her love of the ocean increasing as its hidden treasures continue to amaze her.
Kim’s final 13-hour and 6-minute swim occurred on September 2 across the North Channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland. It was the most challenging, hands-down: from enduring the stings of hundreds of Lion’s Mane jellyfish to bearing the frigid 55-degree water, wearing nothing but a regular swimsuit, cap and goggles, she knew she had to train harder than ever before.
“The body is an amazing machine. If you fuel it right, it can do amazing things,” said Kim. “I gained all this weight and it saved my life. It served a purpose.” Her training regimen included bulking up 30 pounds, swimming in the San Francisco Bay regularly, and sitting in pools of ice water for hours at a time (no warm showers either!).
When Kim finally completed her swim, she recalls she was hypothermic and vomiting uncontrollably due to the toxicity from all those jellyfish stings. Back on land, she was admitted to a specialized respiratory ward in Northern Ireland and then flown back to US where she was admitted to a cardiac ward at a San Francisco hospital. “I nearly died. It really brought a sense of perspective to everything I do…and I’m even more inspired to do my best and be present, in the moment.”
While open water swimming is a very independent sport, Kim emphasizes that the support she received is what allowed her to achieve her goals.
“This whole experience has been a journey shared with so many people, who have always believed in me and encouraged me,” shared Kim. Her mother, along with a few close friends, followed Kim on a boat during her last swim, cheering her on, providing food and water, and making sure she was safe. Kim also emphasizes that her team at Adobe has shown amazing compassion. While in the hospital and on medical leave, Kim said members of XD frequently visited her and made sure she was welcomed back. “And last but not least, my manager Dan Cooney has been a tremendous supporter and Michael Gough as well. To have them believe in you…it counts, and it matters.”
During her sixth swim across the Tsugaru Strait in Japan earlier this year, Kim fondly remembers her supporters at the Adobe Tokyo site. The team in Tokyo heard about Kim’s endeavor and quickly put together a banner for her safe travels. “I shared a vulnerability and many emotions with the team in Tokyo. They were so kind and generous—it was truly a heartwarming experience. It made me feel even more proud to be at Adobe.”
Kim frequently gets asked how she could do anything so physically demanding, and, frankly, dangerous.
“When something terrifies you, that’s when you know you should do it—the opportunity for personal growth is huge.”
In terms of what’s next for Kim, she shares that she is finally taking a break. That’s not to say she isn’t already hitting the water again—she also plans to write a book about her experience. In addition, for the second year in a row, Kim was recently nominated for the World Open Water Swimming Association Woman of the Year award.