Free diver Kimi Werner on finding peace underwater

If you’re a trained free diver like Kimi Werner your average hold could be around two minutes, or when pushed to extremes over four.

Hawaiian-born Werner is the former US spear fishing champion, a trained chef, and her clean-living lifestyle is followed by more than 120,000 on Instagram.

In 2013 a video showing her hitching a ride on the dorsal fin of a great white shark went viral.

Werner is a poster-girl for the free diving movement, the practice of holding your breath and diving as deep as you can underwater.

It’s a risky pursuit — one in 500 free divers die according to the book The Deep. In 2015 world champion free diver Natalia Molchanova never resurfaced from a dive of 35 metres near Ibiza.

Kimi Werner underwater

Those who practice freediving liken it to yoga and say there is no greater feeling of tranquillity.

“The most attractive part of freediving for me is taking that drop,” Werner said.

“The state of mind that I have to enter in order to be completely relaxed and make the most of that breath of air there’s something that’s so peaceful about it.”

Werner, aka @kimiswimmy, says idyllic images on social media have helped push the sport into the mainstream.

“I think the reason why there’s been such increase in popularity is because of social media,” she said.

“Before it was kind of this secret world that free divers had and you might have heard about free diving from a friend.

“But today there are so many images that give people a taste of what that world feels and looks like.”

Kimi Werner spear fishing

Werner started diving and fishing as a child with her father on Maui.

“What attracted me to free diving was that I felt like I could fly, I could go down and visit the fish but the minute I wanted to return to the surface I could take off and I loved that feeling,” she said.

The movement is growing in Australia and a number of free diving schools have been set up.

For Melbourne-based Marlon Quinn, the feeling of serenity under the water propelled him to turn away from a corporate IT career and start a free diving business.

“Life’s fast these days and getting that little bit of time out where time stops is what people are really drawn back to and magnetised by,” he said.

“I think people are just connecting with the fact that you can let go and discover the environment in your own way.”


Kimi Werner trains underwater

He says there are some basic rules to help free divers minimise risks.

“It’s definitely a risky sport and that’s where doing some training, working with a buddy, always diving with someone [is important],” he said.

For Werner, the 2013 shark dive still sends her heart racing.

“It was the biggest great white shark I had ever seen. About 17 feet and coming straight at me,” she said.

“I reacted before my mind could do anything about it and I swam towards her.

“When I did she veered off and the way that she swam away helped me realise she was not acting aggressive, or maybe me swimming towards her made her mellow out.”

Source: abc.net