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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
A woman from New Zealand has joined a select group of swimmers who have successfully swum across the Kaiwi Channel, finishing the roughly 26-mile journey at just before 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Kimberley Chambers, who now lives in San Francisco, entered the water at Kaluako'i, Molokai, at about 8 p.m. Thursday. She pulled herself out of the ocean at the China Walls swimming spot at Portlock nearly 19 and-a-half hours later, crying tears of relief after finishing what she called the hardest thing she had ever done in her life.
"I'd been crying all the way around the corner, just overwhelmed knowing that I was close," Chambers said about swimming the final few yards.
"This was harrowing," said Chambers. "Just the waves were just massive, and I had to fight against the current most of the night to make landfall here on Oahu."
She actually swam farther than planned, when rough seas and strong currents caused her to overshoot her original destination at Sandy Beach. "She blew past Sandy Beach, just couldn't get in, so instead of trying to get her back up to Sandy Beach, we're bringing her in at China Walls," said Linda Kaiser of the Hawaii Channel Swimmers Association, who swam the Kaiwi Channel in 2007.
Matt Buckman, the captain of Chambers' escort boat, said via telephone that she spent a large portion of the swim battling choppy seas and winds that reached close to 20 miles per hour, making the swim increasingly harder.
The rough waters also made it tough on Chambers' escort crew. "It was a rough night," said Chamber's boyfriend Joe Locke. "It was one of the roughest conditions I've seen. And were all really really sick. Spent a lot of the night over the side of the boat."
Chambers' finish at China Walls had its own set of challenges. She had to climb out of the water without help for the effort to count. "Basically, the rules state you have to start on land and you have to finish on land," said Kaiser.
Only 25 other people have completed the Kaiwi Channel swim, and Chambers shouldn't be one of them. She has scars on her right leg, stemming from a freak accident when she fell down a staircase and was severely injured.
"I was 30 minutes away from amputation of this leg," she said. "I had a skin graft to patch it up, and I was given a one percent chance of ever walking again. That was just under five years ago."
Chambers started open water swimming as therapy and became addicted. Back in August, she became just the 26th person to swim across the length of Lake Tahoe, finishing in 15 hours, 30 minutes.
The Kaiwi Channel is part of the "Oceans 7" channels to swim around the world. "Starting with the English Channel, then they go to Catalina, here then the Kaiwi Channel, they go to New Zealand, doing the Cook Strait, which she (Chambers) has done earlier this year. And then the Tsugaru Strait in Japan, and then the Strait of Gibraltar," said Kaiser, who also said only one person has completed all seven channels.
"Next year I've got Catalina Channel and the English Channel on the calendar," said Chambers. The Kaiwi Channel is the second channel she has completed.
"You get to push yourself beyond your wildest dreams," said Chambers. "It's painful, but you come out the other side and it's just surreal."