Story by Catharine Lo
Photos by Dana Edmunds
At 29, Kimi Werner has mastered what it takes most people a lifetime to learn: how to relax. Each time the champion spearfisher plunges into the ocean, one deep breath becomes her lifeline. Relaxation, she emphasizes, is key.
“I tell myself, ‘Don’t even worry about the fish. We’re just going to cruise. We’re going to take a nap,’” says the soft-eyed blue-water hunter. “Once I start to drop down, my body feels completely supported. It’s just the most peaceful feeling you can imagine.”
Werner’s breath hold can take her to a depth of seventy feet. Passing through different atmospheres—surface level, thirty feet, sixty feet—she transcends the heavy layers of compression, and the oxygen in her lungs floods her system like a drug. When she reaches the bottom, she often remains there for two minutes or longer, absolutely still, waiting for her prey. Cloaked in camouflage-print neoprene, she conforms to the seascape, blending in with the shadowy contours of the coral reef. She becomes, as she puts it, “a creature of the ocean.”
“Underwater, everything’s different and everything’s new. I think only about what I’m doing, what I’m seeing, in that moment. It’s an element where I’m a hundred percent present,” Kimi offers. “Every second I’m on land, I’m thinking about something. My brain is such a noisy place to live. What I love about the ocean is that this doesn’t happen out there. It’s what drew me to diving from the beginning.”
A sweet serenity appears as she imagines descending into the deep blue. “When your body is so used to it,” she says wistfully, “it’s like, ‘Welcome home.’”