Salty Girl of the Month: Kimi Werner, professional freediving spearfisherwoman

Since we launched Salty Girl Seafood, one of the first things that people say is how much they love the name. Often we are asked, what does it mean to be a Salty Girl?  

salty: of the sea, sailing or life at sea.

This is a series of blogs honoring our kindred Salty Girls--women whose lives and livelihoods revolve around all things ocean.

Kimi Werner // Photo by Justin Turkowski

Kimi Werner // Photo by Justin Turkowski

From champion freediver, to ambassador for ocean conservation, and certified chef, we can’t help but be inspired by Kimi Werner. Her connection to the ocean stems from her family’s deep-rooted ties to harvesting their sustenance from the sea. Growing up off the grid in Maui, Kimi would tag along with her dad as he dove for their dinners. The ability to see first hand the process of harvesting food from the sea and preparing it to feed family led to a lifelong passion for cooking. Kimi’s passion to hunt to feed those she loves is still a major part of her relationship with the ocean.

You might assume that an ocean huntress who swims with great whites and has national titles in freediving could be pretty intimidating. But Kimi is approachable and humble--she shares openly her fears about her time underwater and how that fear is what makes her feel alive. As one of two women featured in Keith Malloy’s new documentary, FISHPEOPLE, we learn about Kimi’s ability to use her talents as a diver (including holding her breath for as long as 5 minutes!) to be as connected as possible to the ecosystem that sustains her.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

Check out the tour schedule to find a FISHPEOPLE premier near you!

Kimi Werner // Photo by Sarah Wilcox

Kimi Werner // Photo by Sarah Wilcox

SG: Who first got you hooked on the sea?
KW: My dad first got me hooked on the sea.  He started taking me fishing and spearfishing when I was five years old.

SG: When you’re not in the ocean, what are you doing?
KW: When I’m not in the ocean, I’m often preparing food.  I love to cook and have a degree in culinary arts.  I grow a garden and am constantly preparing my harvest whether, vegetables or fish into a meal to share with others.

SG: When you close your eyes and think about your favorite time in the water, what do you see?
KW: So many favorite moments get blurred into one.  I basically just see a thriving beautiful ecosystem, I see baitfish and reef fish and all of the predators at the top of the food chain.  I can feel the thrill of seeing giant trevally, yellowfin tuna and all sorts of sharks and whales.

Kimi Werner // Photo by Ryan McInnis

Kimi Werner // Photo by Ryan McInnis

SG: What does a healthy ocean look like to you?
KW: A healthy ocean in my mind starts with a healthy reef.  It’s full of color and has a variety of healthy coral species and seaweeds.  It has a variety of fish from the baitfish to the big predators and it’s action packed.

SG: What’s your favorite seafood recipe?
KW: Ceviche is always delicious, healthy and refreshing.  I just cut fresh boneless, skinless fish meat into small cubes and season with sea salt.  I add cilantro and lime and orange juice, which cooks the fish with it’s citric acids.  I add chopped onion, chopped and seeded tomatoes and cucumbers and celery.  Add hot sauce if you want it spicy or add coconut milk to make it into the Tahitian dish, poison cru.

SG: What do you never leave home without?
KW: I’m almost always carrying small soft yeti cooler with me.  It really means a lot to me to be able to share my catch with those who will appreciate it and to keep it as fresh as possible, so I rarely leave home without a cooler.  I also try to always bring a reusable bottle for water, and a utensil kit in my purse to avoid single use plastics.

Kimi Werner // Photo by Perrin James

Kimi Werner // Photo by Perrin James

SG: What fish do you get most excited about catching?
KW: It really depends on what I want to eat.  I love hunting dogtooth tuna and yellowfin tuna but when it comes to reef fish, I get excited about mu and uku (jobfish).  But really, for me hunting is about eating.  So if I’m craving small fry fish, I get really excited to swim out and poke a few for dinner.  Harvesting from the source gets me excited, period.

SG: What does being a Salty Girl mean to you?
KW: It means that salt feels good on our skins, even when we’re crackled and weathered and in need of a good shower.  It feels good because while we were getting salty, we washed away the facades that can lead us astray.  We know who we are and what makes us happy and we chose to honor that every time we get in the ocean.

Is there a Salty Girl in your life? Email us to share her story with us and nominate her as a monthly Salty Girl!