Seven Swims of a Lifetime

Kimberly Chambers

Kimberley Chambers has swum across some of the most challenging ocean channels to accomplish one goal – hear her story.

A certified ballet teacher, University of California, Berkeley rower, and Project Manager on Adobe’s Experience Design (XD) team, Kimberley Chambers has recently been focusing her energies on one goal: to complete the Oceans Seven challenge. Oceans Seven is open water swimming’s version of the Seven Summits (the highest mountains in each continent) and only four people have completed it so far. All of these swims across treacherous stretches of water follow traditional marathon swimming rules: the swimmer cannot wear a wetsuit and cannot rest on the boat at any time. Kim aims to be the first New Zealander to complete it and has already completed five of the seven swims! In the last two years, she has swum the Strait of Gibraltar, Cook Strait, Catalina Channel, Molokai Channel and most recently the English Channel. Read on to get a glimpse into how Kim got into the sport and how she stays motivated.

KimCatalina_6Adobe Life: Tell us a little about your background.
Kimberley: I’m originally from a sheep and cattle farm in New Zealand. I moved to United States at the age of 17 to study at the University of California at Berkeley. I studied History of Art and returned a few years later completing a Masters of Science in Information Management and Systems. My emphasis was on Human Computer Interaction, which ignited an interest in User Interface design. Following graduation, I worked at Oracle and SAP until I suffered a life-threatening leg injury in July of 2007.

Adobe Life: How did you find yourself at Adobe? What do you do now on the Experience Design (XD) team?
Kimberley: After taking two years off for multiple surgeries and rehabilitation of my leg, I was delighted to be awarded with a 1-month contract as a User Experience Architect Consultant, working on Adobe Labs. My contract was repeatedly renewed until I was hired as an Experience Designer on the XD team. While I greatly enjoyed working as a designer, over time I became more aware of my other strengths and I was eager to explore more customer-facing roles. I moved to recruiting KimCatalina_6and then to my current position as Social Media Manager. I am now responsible for crafting and maintaining XD’s social media narrative and strategy, in coordination with Adobe’s excellent PR team.

Adobe Life: How did you start swimming?
Kimberly: At the end of 2009 as part of continuing rehabilitation of my leg injury, I was still having difficulty walking and I began swimming lengths in a pool. The extent of my swimming growing up was compulsory school water safety education. My focus on sport as a child through graduation was on classical ballet for 15 years, culminating with a qualification to teach ballet, which had little to do with swimming. In November of 2009 some friends dared me to swim in the bay. It was 53 degrees and I was only wearing a cap, swimsuit and goggles and when I got out of the water I was grinning ear to ear – I was hooked.

Adobe Life: What’s the hardest part about your swims? What’s the most rewarding part?
Kimberley: The hardest part of my swims is believing in myself and the ability of my body to keep up with the goals and expectations of my mind. The training and the hard work is the easy part, even with the sacrifices. I enjoy waking up before most people and getting a work out and going to bed before most people. It is isolating but is also a process of continual surprise that when you put the work into something you can not only achieve but surpass your wildest dreams.

Adobe Life: How does Adobe support your swimming endeavors?
Kimberley: I have enjoyed especially strong support from XD. My previous managers along with my current manager Natalie B. could not have been more understanding and flexible regarding my personal goals. They have been cheerleaders and have touched my soul with their enthusiasm for my adventures. One of the many special attributes of XD that makes it unique is that it is a group of highly talented passionate individuals. Michael Gough has fostered this environment that has given me so much strength and inspiration. I also greatly appreciate all of my colleagues for not giving me too much of a hard time for coming into work every day with wet hair.

Adobe Life: Describe your latest accomplishment. What was it like swimming across the English Channel?
Kimberley: Oddly, it was thoroughly enjoyable. 12 hours and 12 minutes of non-stop swimming in cold water without a wetsuit does not sound like a relaxing way to spend half a day but for me it was the culmination of two years of dedicated training and effort. One of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, used by over 600 vessels daily was strangely less intimidating than swimming through jellyfish and shark infested waters, which I have recently crossed off my bucket list.

Adobe Life: What’s next for you? Are you already training for your next big swim?
Kimberley: Speaking of sharks and jellyfish, there is still more work to be done. I hope to schedule the last two swims of the Oceans Seven challenge for next year. These include the North Channel – a swim from Ireland to Scotland through some of the coldest waters in the Northern Hemisphere with especially nasty jellyfish called “Lion’s Mane.” My other swim is between the Northern-most islands of Japan, otherwise known as the Tsugaru Strait. Sharks and jellyfish frequent this route made even more treacherous with unpredictable and strong currents. I am hoping to connect with Adobe employees in Japan for my next adventure! Anyone interested in a little boat ride?

Adobe Life: Any words of wisdom on overcoming your fears and accomplishing your goals?
Kimberley: When you are scared of something and vulnerable, that is when you learn the most about yourself. Pushing through not only helps you achieve a specific goal, but creates the greatest opportunity for personal growth, which is the best reward of all. I look back at the swims I have accomplished in this short period of time and the maps and photos but I still have disbelief that when I set my mind to something that I was afraid of I was able to accomplish my goals despite the odds. What is interesting about these swims is that the person getting out of the water is not the same person that entered the water. These are not merely athletic events but personal odysseys of the self. I highly recommend them and the benefits of personal challenge. For more narrative about my swims, please visit my blog: www.kimswims.com and follow me on Twitter (@kimberleyswims).

Photo credit: Brett Hillyard.