These Roots Run Deep
Spearfishing is a solitary endeavor. Imagine swimming 20-feet below the ocean’s surface, nestling your body into a crevice in the reef, then lying in wait for minutes at a time, breathless and motionless, for an unsuspecting reef fish to swim past. With a quick pull of the trigger, Kimi Werner, professional freediver, spearfisher, and environmental activist, pierces a fish and ascends to the surface with her catch. After a few hours in the water, Kimi has caught enough fish to feed her family and a few friends and neighbors. On the other side of this solo sport, nearly everything else that Kimi does is focused on giving back to her community, her new family, and sharing aloha at every opportunity along the way.
Kimi has spent her life surrounded by people who share her diverse passions. She grew up spearfishing with her father along shallow Maui reefs. After culinary school and a stint as a professional artist, Kimi returned to the sea for inspiration. This time, she was training with the world’s best freedivers and spearfishers.
“I started working with these elite divers, these past national champions who heard about this enthusiastic girl, and they trained me,” explains Kimi. “I dove with them for about three years. I learned so much and am so grateful. They taught me how to take the skills and go into the unknown and do so much more with them. In 2008, I realized I wanted to try my hand at competing to see how I hold up next to the best in the nation, and I wanted to win and then turn around and thank the guys who taught me.”
She put her hard work to the test and won the United States National Spearfishing Championships in 2008. This achievement changed her life course. Kimi set off traveling, diving, and fishing all around the world to learn about other cultures, how other places manage their natural resources and practice sustainable hunting.
In between international jaunts, when Kimi found herself at home back in Hawai‘i, she turned her attention to building a new community of passionate foodies promoting food security in the Aloha State. Kimi led by example, sharing her catch with no expectation for anything in return, yet fruits and vegetables kept showing up at her doorstep. Soon, Kimi was partnering with local farms and like-minded chefs to help engender Hawai‘i’s farm-to-table movement and localized food-sharing networks across the Islands.
At the heart of her journey, ‘ohana has always been Kimi’s most prized source of joy and aloha. Recently married and celebrating the birth of her son, Buddy, Kimi has transitioned to putting down roots and celebrating her newest community, her immediate family.
“Buddy loves the ocean and I can’t wait to share with him the joy it’s given me,” Kimi says. “That’s what my parents gave me when I was young. I want him to know the source of things like the food we eat, watching a garden grow or swimming in the ocean. I want to guide him into being a kind-hearted, respectful human who appreciates, knows, and loves where he came from and what it provides.”
With the responsibilities of motherhood, Kimi doesn’t have the time to get in the water for hours each day to hunt for fish, yet because of the community and food-sharing network she’s created, Kimi is still able to get most of their food from someone that grew, caught, or foraged for it. Through aloha, she’s tapped into a harmonious cycle of sustainability, one that blurs the line between individual and community.
At a time when much attention is placed on developing the “whole child,” Kimi is testament to the positivity and joy that comes from living as a “whole adult.”
“I spent so many years expanding my reach horizontally—I had so many different passions and communities that I felt a strong connection to. If it was good thing, I wanted to do it,” Kimi says. “I swam with orcas and studied reef habitats, but I started to feel a pull towards home, to expand vertically, inwardly, and grow roots. Home started being the thing that I wanted to connect with. I used to have to travel the whole world to find what I was looking for, and now, with my baby boy, I feel like I have the whole world in my arms and it’s all that I need.”