Kimi Werner

Name: Kimi Werner
Born and raised: Maui
Lives: Wahiawa, Oahu

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photo DJ Struntz

Kimi, First memories of spearfishing?

My first memories of spearfishing started from being towed on a boogie board at the age of four by my dad as he’d head out to catch dinner for our family.   From the surface, I’d watch in excitement as he’d go down and fetch my favorite catches.  One he realized that the boogie board wasn’t necessary, I’d swim along with him.  I remember always trying my hardest to keep up and not get left behind.  I’d be practically sprinting to follow the bubbles of his fins and I’d get to rest and recover when he’d take drops.  As I got more comfortable, I’d try to challenge myself to hold my breath on the surface as long as he held his breath underwater.  Eventually I started dropping down and trying to grab sand from the bottom.  I was so content as a tag along, that I for most of my upbringing, I never even attempted to spear a fish.  It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized that I wanted to complete that whole process and start hunting myself.  I was 25 years old and living away from my dad, so I sought out mentors to teach me the ropes.  I fell into the hands of some of Hawaii’s best divers and they taught me so much and saw a lot of potential in me.  Everything seemed to come rather naturally to me because of all of the years spent in the water learning from my dad.Kimi1

photo DJ Struntz

If you were allowed only one fish to hunt the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Right now off the top of my head I’d have to say Mu.  I find them delicious, fascinating and always challenging.  I like how you really need to be on the top of your game to efficiently hunt them.  You need to strain your eyes and look past your normal sight range to see them.  You need to drop much smoother and much more quietly.   You need to plan your hiding place/position in greater detail and come up with different plans depending on the situation.  You need more bottom time to even get close enough to think about shooting them and you need a better judge of range than usual, since they don’t really “swim” towards or away from you, -rather they seem to levitate.

Three prong, I think it explains Hawaiian spearfishing so well and represents the best of our sport.  In your eyes why is it so special and why should we all three prong more? I love three pronging.  To me it’s so special because it’s so simple.  Like I said, before touching a spear, I spent years as a bag girl.  When I decided to learn from my mentors, I made the decision to not touch a gun until one year of only three pronging.  I think teaches you the basics of diving.  It gets you to think less and react more, which helps develop your instinct and intuition when hunting.  It gets you to check every cave and crevice to see what’s in there, which will often times give you surprise opportunities of a lifetime.  t’s an extremely satisfying feeling to enter the water with something as simple and primitive as a three prong spear and come out with dinner.

What is your favorite story your dad tells about spearfishing, whether it be about you or one of his old stories?

I’d say it’s the story of him going on a dive and coming across a tako trying to eat a lobster and managing to grab them both and add them to his stringer.  On his way in, he felt a tug and looked back to see a huge Kagaimi ulua was trying to eat the tako.  My dad was able to swim up right to the huge fish and shoot in the head and bring home a feast.  The whole circle of life thing just seemed to go perfectly for him that day and he was the lucky winner – and my mom was stoked.

What fish or bit of the ocean inspires you the most to paint, and why?

I’d say the way the sunlight looks when it shines through the water when I’m below the surface.  That shimmering light always gives me such a sense of peace and appreciation.  I love shooting fish, but taking the drop has to be my favorite part of diving.  I love how I need to be completely relaxed to drop in the first place…that alone is calming.  I also love feeling the pressure squeeze me more and more as I descend.  I can’t truly explain what it is that I love about these feelings but they take me away and make me feel so calm and connected and at peace.  Then on my way up, seeing the beautiful sun flickering on the surface and seeing the silhouettes of my dive partners right there floating and waiting for me, brings me back and just makes me feel so complete.  Hard to explain without sounding like a total hippie.  But I love it.

Who never says no when you ask them to go diving?

My answer to this questions was alway Travis Kashiwa.  He’s hardcore like that.  But actually these days, the first person that comes to mind is Lauren Bartlett.  She’s an up and coming diver and a world champion canoe paddler who is so in love with diving.  Her passion and enthusiasm for the sport is absolutely nuts.  I can’t even imagine her saying “no”  ……ever.  She’s more likely to jump up and down, do a happy dance and shout “YES!!!” 100 times.

The coolest thing you’ve seen or experienced while diving?

I’d honestly have to say seeing really big tiger sharks.  Some encounters just left me in complete awe of their beauty and other encounters made me think my eyeballs were gonna pop out of my mask but at the end of days like that I felt so grateful… haha both to be alive and also to have seen such a magnificent creature.

What is your dream fish?

100+ yellowfin tuna, 70+ono, 50+mahi, 30+ uku 10+lb mu.  I could go on and on…but we’ll start with those.

What is the most painful wank or missed chance you have ever had on a fish?

My first ono.  Damn.  I cringe just thinking of it.  It was my first time ever seeing an ono in the water and everything seemed to line up perfectly.  I saw it out of the corner of my eye and very slowly turned away from it and dipped down.  The fish got curious and swam right up to and it was big.  Over 60lbs for sure.  I lined up and shot it and hit it right in the gills.  The fish took off at such an astonishing speed and my dive buddies and I all swam as fast as we could to chase it down.  It was burying my float and stretching my bungee beyond belief.  My dive partner dove down and I thought he was going to take a backup shot but instead he grabbed the float to swim it up and hand it to me.  Once he placed it in my hand I felt the fish release.  I looked down to see my big ono swimming away into the darkness.  It actually doesn’t sound as hearbreaking now that I’m writing it but as a rookie, you tend to think that “that was my only chance ever to land a fish like that ever!!!! and I blew it!!!” and I took it so personal.  haha  I tend to do that….but I guess I that’s also what gives me drive and keeps me coming back for more!

What is your favorite piece of art you’ve ever created and where can I see it?

I’d have to say it’s this untitled piece I did after my trip to Tahiti for the Interpacific Cup.  I had made the men’s team that year and we worked our butts off at training and competing and had pretty much exhausted our bodies beyond belief.  We competed on an island called Rurutu and when the days of competing came to an end we went back to the main island of Tahiti.  We figured we’d just cruise and play tourists but the very next morning when thinking of what we wanted to do, we chose to go diving for dinner.  It was such a different trip just to go out and shoot a few fish to eat and it reminded me of why I took up diving in the first place.  After catching some fish we went to the sandbar and cleaned them and had some beers.  I was floating on my back topless (tahitian style) and looking back at land.  I just felt so content and happy to be exactly where I was.  I knew I had to paint that moment as soon as I got home.  You can view that painting here.  It’s funny because after painting it, my friends pointed out that even the cloud looks like a swordfish.  I guess good times with good friends and great fish always equals happiness for me.

What is it about spearfishing that everyone in life can relate to? What is it that draws you to it in other words?

Quieting our noisy minds.  Being present in the moment.  Those are the two things that I think really draw me to spearfishing and I think are things that everyone can relate to.  My mind can be such a noisy place to live and when I get stuck there for too long I don’t feel like I am truly living.  Being in the ocean cures me of that.  I’m surrounded by beauty.  I’m in a place where no one is talking.  I’m not thinking about anything except what’s going on right in front of me.  I stay calm when things go wrong and I feel the most extreme sense of joy when things go absolutely right.  That alone makes it the best place in the world and I think everyone needs a happy place where they can feel the same way.