Kim Swims

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Kim Swims Movie Poster Image
Showing grit, woman trains for tough swim; language.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 75 minutes

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Positive Messages

It's possible to overcome injuries and other obstacles in pursuit of difficult physical achievements. It's boring to stay in your comfort zone all the time. The journey is as important as arriving at the destination. If you're afraid of doing something, that's exactly what you should do.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kim overcame a debilitating injury to train for a grueling physical challenge. Kim expresses gratitude to her team for their support.


A devastating fall down a staircase is described. Sharks threaten swimmers. Jellyfish bite swimmers. A swimmer's neck bleeds from chafing. Boaters shoot at sharks in the water. A distance swimmer vomits as she swims.


"F--k," "s--t," "damn," "ass," "bitch," and "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Kim was on significant pain medication as she recovered from her accident.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Kim Swims is an inspirational documentary following Kim Chambers in her quest to be the first woman to swim the 30 miles from islands off the coast of San Francisco through shark-infested, high-wave, frigid waters. In the course of rigorous training and planning of many safety precautions, adults occasionally utter language that includes "f--k," "s--t," "damn," and "hell." A devastating fall down a staircase is described. Sharks threaten swimmers. Jellyfish bite swimmers. A swimmer's neck bleeds from chafing. Boaters shoot at sharks in the water. A distance swimmer vomits as she swims.

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What's the story?

Kim Chambers is a young New Zealand ballerina who suffered a freak accident that sidelined her physically but introduced her to swimming. In KIM SWIMS, friends describe her as a terrible swimmer who had lots of determination to become better. In short order she discovers that open-water swimming, a sport she would never have tried before her accident, is her passion. She starts training for more and more difficult swims and soon has completed the Oceans Seven, a series of difficult worldwide swims that subject participants to extreme cold, fatigue, jellyfish attacks, and sharks, the equivalent in the marathon swimming world to elite mountain climbers' Seven Summits quest. (Kim didn't take a warm shower for six months in preparation for swimming in cold waters.) While living in San Francisco, she decides to become the first woman to make the extremely difficult swim to the Farallon Islands, 30 miles off the coast, a feat that will take a good 17 hours of unbroken effort in the water. Only a few men have braved the cold 63-degree water, high waves, and shark threats to accomplish that goal. Waiting for proper conditions and with a crew of 12 and a friend, Simon Dominguez, attempting it a few days before her, Kim waits her turn. Learning from Simon's just falling short, the team decides to reverse the swim, start at the islands, and finish at the Golden Gate Bridge in the San Francisco harbor. To ward off sharks, she wears a device that emits shark-unfriendly sounds and swims between two accompanying boats. The film ends as she expresses gratitude to her supportive team and mother rather than taking credit for her own hard work.

Is it any good?

This film depicts a strong-willed woman whose determination is admirable, and whose sunny attitude sets an example for us all. At 75 minutes, Kim Swims is relatively short, but given the one-note subject and repetitive nature of the interviews extolling Kim's strength and reiterating the difficulty of her quest, the movie could have been even shorter. Nevertheless, Kim is an unforgettable and extraordinary character who is well worth getting to know. Her courage and fortitude, especially in light of the recovery she made after a terrible accident, makes her a great role model for kids of any age struggling to reach their own goals.


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Kim's determination not to be sidelined by a devastating injury in Kim Swims. Have you ever suffered an injury that sidelined you from a sport or activity you love? How did you cope with it?

  • Why do you think people like to challenge themselves in such punishing pursuits?

  • Kim knew that there was a good chance that she wouldn't be able to accomplish her goal, but she tried anyway. Have you wondered if you would be able to achieve a difficult goal? Does Kim's grit make you think it's important to keep trying?

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