Kimi Werner: The Freediver and Champion Spear Fisher Opens Up About the Environment and Conquering Fear

Kimi Werner has made a career out of being able to hold her breath for a very long time – that is an astonishing four minutes and 45 seconds of time!

An icon in the world of freediving, she is kept busy enough with numerous sponsorships and projects, but on top of this all, Werner is also a spearfishing champion, a certified culinary chef, an award winning artist, ‘authentic’ explorer and a much sought-after public speaker. Given everything she has accomplished, it is no surprise that her daily schedule is often packed.

When she does find time to visit her native Hawaii, she is relaxed enough to allow the weather to dictate her routine. When the ocean is feeling playful and the surf is bounding like a sprightly pup, Werner will grab her board and catch some waves, and when the water slops and lolls in a more lethargic mood she’ll leave it to rest and head inland for a hike instead. Yet, no matter the tropical idyll, everyone has their basic needs and there will come a time to consider the groceries, so, taking a mental inventory of the fresh ingredients she already has in stock– instead of reaching for the car keys–Werner will simply grab her spear, swim out and go gather a meal.  

Despite initially making a living selling her paintings, nowadays art is more of a hobby and a creative outlet, but cooking is Werner’s therapy. With a degree in Culinary Arts and a background in the restaurant industry, Werner cooks several times a day, claiming that it helps her to reconnect with her roots in the midst of a chaotic schedule. Her family was poor but lived a very happy and simple life. The land and ocean provided their meals and Werner grew up outside, camping and gathering and preparing food as a family.

She says, “Food is one of our main survival needs. Every animal on this planet knows how to feed itself.  So I find it rather strange that our own species normalizes the mind-set of not being connected to the source of our food. It’s crazy to me that the process of what it takes to get food to our plates is so often censored from us and that we are encouraged to just turn off our brains and accept that. That feels very dangerous to me because it allows us to make decisions without examining and weighing the costs of them. We lose our appreciation for our resources since we have no true connection to them anymore. It’s insane that I’ll often get criticized for hunting and killing animals from people who eat and use animal products but somehow think that they aren’t killing on a daily basis or a mass scale. Gathering my own food whether through spearfishing, gardening or foraging, gives me a sense of satisfaction that feeds my very core.  It reminds me every day that I am indeed a part of this ecosystem and that I want to do a good job at my part and continue to be mindful, responsible and grateful.”

“I believe that our relationship with the environment around us should consist of balance and respect. I believe that this world wants to and can feed us and take care of all of us, but that we need to pay attention enough to decide how we can each help to take care of the earth and one another in return. It sounds simple but I truly believe that if every person were to make that a daily practice to the best of their own abilities, we could turn things around and back in favor of the natural environment.”

As you may have gathered, Werner is unafraid to call out society and challenge our apathy and hypocrisies, but she also refuses to allow herself to be compliant with the assumptions and expectations of others. As a traveler Werner is an authentic explorer, dedicated to opening up her mind to a new perspective or experience, to learn and grow as an individual. The reward is a freedom from seeking out experiences and opportunities that try to fit in or merely create a trendy or shallow façade of validation. Werner is choosing to explore all that genuinely feels right in her heart.

“I went to Antarctica with a talented group of freedivers, sailors and polar explorers,” she explains. “It was a trip to stretch our comfort zone and sail across the Drake Passage from Ushuaia to Antarctica so that we could freedive the icy waters and observe the wildlife. We watched leopard seals in their natural habitat and went freediving with the penguins. When I freedive, I feel light and at peace. I feel stimulated and present and joyful. I feel at home, both in the ocean and in my own body. There is something very thrilling to me about having to adapt and overcome. I had to really dig deep to conquer the cold temperatures as well as seasickness due to the treacherous passage we took to get there, but being able to do just that helped me to understand that we are all capable of so much more than we often think.”

So what advice does Kimi Werner have to help the rest of us break out of our comfort zones? “First,” she says, “find your edge. Examine all the choices, activities or projects that you have previously engaged in or even thought about. Decide which ones resonate with you the most, which ones make you feel the most intrigued and resolve to follow your curiosity wherever you would like it to take you. Then make a long list of whatever fears may be holding you back. Examine every fear and ask yourself what the consequences are that come with that fear. Determine which fears you simply need to face and overcome and also which fears you need to recognize and avoid. Try your best to leave your ego out of it. Study, practice, visualize whatever skills and knowledge are needed to take the first step over that edge, while giving yourself love and compassion for simply trying. Once you feel prepared – go do it!  Pat yourself on the back and recalculate where you new edge is. Repeat.”

Photos by Justin Turkowski and Perrin James

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