Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's all relative

In the last five years I have swum, the last four of them year-round in a lovely lake, patiently pushing the distance until I now average three miles a swim.

I am thankful, amazed and a bit proud, as my persistent bleating here attests.

In those same five years, a woman named Kimberley Chambers not only took up swimming to invigorate her severely injured leg, but conquered the world's seven toughest ocean swims.

Kimberley became only the sixth person to complete the Ocean's Seven. The seventh swim, a cold brawl last month across the 22-mile North Channel between Ireland and Scotland, nearly killed her.

One of her friends crewing her North Channel attempt reported on facebook®™ that doctors had never known someone to survive so much jellyfish toxin.

Kimberley was hospitalized in Ireland and again in the Bay Area, where the native New Zealander lives and works, for fluid buildup around internal organs, the result of near constant lion's mane jellyfish stings.

Kimberley has recovered, returning to work and swimming. Read an account of her remarkable triumph from debilitating injury to phenomenal achievement here.

More important, read her own words, especially the account of her July Ocean's Seven swim, the Tsugaru Strait between the main island of Japan and its northernmost island, Hokkaido.

Gratitude exudes her graceful lean writing, most pronounced for the Tsugaru swim. Her regard for the spiritual weight of that swim, her appreciation for all the people and all the factors that enabled it, are delightful to read.

I have swum with Kimberley, though I didn't know it. The 24-Hour Swim Relay in February was a sensory deprivation test; though I met some of the dozens of swimmers, I didn't meet Kimberley and I did not know at the time that many I met had completed the world's most treacherous swims. They introduced themselves simply as Craig or Jackie or Greg or Kate.

Since then I have enjoyed Kimberley's blog and several videos she has made of her training swims in San Francisco Bay. Every video — even of the acclimatization swims in Northern Ireland to ready for the North Channel swim — begins with the same greeting, in her New Zealand accent, "Here we ahhhh!" 

Kimberley's accomplishments enthrall me and her words embolden me — maybe not for the epic swims, but for the lessons of inspiration they impart to dreams just beyond reach, mine and yours. Reach farther, and thank those who helped.

Although now, on a rare chance to look out at the Channel Islands, on an ideal day when they lay just a shade bluer than the bleached sky, I wonder.


  1. Cease and desist! You stole my copy line. As I write this, a small army of drooling lawyers are marching in lockstep toward your house. As punitive recourse, prepare to relinquish your butt bouy, bathing cap and rubber ducky. That'll show ya.

  2. "The lawyers we hope you'll never need because we don't like money"