At the height of her competitive spearfishing career, Kimi Werner began battling with inner demons that turned the once-solace of the ocean into a cacophony of self-criticism. Kimi’s is a story about attaining dreams, losing love, wrestling with dissatisfaction and, ultimately, finding love again in the deep.
Our conversation dives into reckoning with fear, flipping your instincts in heavy water situations, and the beauty of knowing where your food comes from.
Kimi Werner is a former U.S. National Champion spearfisher, a freediver, and chef.
Kimi making friends with the big fish. Photo: Chris Wade
Our chat with Kimi Werner was unexpected. It happened at the last minute before we headed home to Australia from an extended winter stay on the North Shore of Oah’u. We expected stories of sharks and heavy water situations. We did get some of those. But true to the deeply authentic person we’d imagined Kimi to be, she spilled her heart, too.
We begin each episode by asking waterpeople about a time or experience after which they were never the same. Kimi recounted a story of attaining dreams, but losing a great love and how the ocean turned into a torturous place echoing with her inner demons. And how being in the water also ultimately set her free again.
Kimi Werner. Photo Perrin James
Kimi is a waterwoman of the highest calibre. She feels like an impenetrable fortress of calm and flow, gliding with great whites, hunting big fish and winning spearfishing contests around the world, freediving to great depths and sparking conversations about how and where we get our food.
We sat down to chat in Kimi’s living room, surrounded by sweet Hawaiian birdsong ( + roosters), Kimi’s paintings, and freshly fermenting vegetables. This is one of Kimi’s paintings.
The first 25 minutes or so of Kimi’s episode is her story about a period in her life that change her completely, and an experience in the water that allowed her to move forward from one of the most challenging years of her life.
Kimi describes battling inner turmoil that turned the solace of the ocean into a deafening cacophony of her inner demons. Dark internal dialogue that got out of control. It’s a story about attaining dreams, losing love and wrestling with dissatisfaction.
“I really got to a point where I just, I didn’t like myself, you know. I didn’t want to let myself connect or feel feelings because it just made a mess and, and that was just a really tough place to be. It was a super dark time for me. It got to a point where I could not look at myself in the mirror because just like the voices in my head were just too cruel. When you can’t even live with yourself, when just sitting with yourself is what makes you the most sick, that’s a really hard place to be.” — Kimi Werner, Waterpeople Podcast, Episode 1
Kimi Werner. Photo Perrin James
We transition into a conversation about the ocean as a place where many of us face our fears. Kimi provides insights about the subtle, but crucial difference between reacting to vs. responding to fear in heavy water situations. Kimi speaks from deep experience about the problem of panic and the ability to hone calm in dangerous situations with time and experience.
Kimi has dove, explored, and fished all five of our oceans. Photo @harborhouselife
We the speak at length about Kimi’s passion for food. She’s a (very talented !) chef and uses her culinary skill to make masterpieces of local ingredients wherever she travels. Her dinners are both an offering of humble gratitude for the places she visits and a delight for the senses. The dinner Kimi hosted for us amongst a small crew of friends in our home town, and the enthralling, enlightening, exciting conversation that ensued almost single handedly inspired us to start this podcast.
“Just because you don’t have to know where something comes from, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t know. You know? If people were to bottle up love and we saw that on the shelf , are we gonna forget how to use our hearts, too?” — Kimi Werner, Waterpeople Podcast, Episode 1
Hand caught, hand made. Tacos by Chef Kimi Werner photo Justin Turkowski
Learn more about Kimi’s food, art, heart, and activism www.kimiwerner.com
Kimi is a beacon of honesty and thoughtful reflection about ocean life and the ebbs and flows of being human.
Thanks to Kimi for sharing so much of yourself — and thanks to you for making the time to listen/ read with us,
Lauren & Dave