Four Seasons' deep dive with Kimi Werner

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Kimi Werner, who grew up in Hawaii and has won spearfishing championships, leads Four Seasons Resort Hualalai's new freediving experience.
Kimi Werner, who grew up in Hawaii and has won spearfishing championships, leads Four Seasons Resort Hualalai's new freediving experience. Photo Credit: Perrin James
Tovin Lapan
Tovin Lapan

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is offering a new exclusive experience that enables guests to learn freediving and gain a better understanding of ocean ecology from renowned water woman Kimi Werner. 

Maui-raised Werner is a previous U.S. national spearfishing champion and a member of Hawaii's Freediving Hall of Fame who can hold her breath underwater for 4 minutes, 45 seconds. Her work has expanded over time to include culinary endeavors, ocean conservation and art. Werner's Instagram feed, where her bio reads "Freediving underwater huntress. Mama bear. Love gathering food straight from the source," is peppered with pictures of her posing with beautiful, colorful plates of freshly-made food, floating underwater with a snorkel and fins on and smiling wide while holding up recently speared fish. 

The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, located on the Island of Hawaii, recently opened a new marine education center as part of a $100 million propertywide renovation and prides itself on offering one-of-a-kind experiences and on its ocean conservation efforts. When Hawaii footwear company OluKai, which works with both Four Seasons and Werner, suggested a collaboration, regional vice president and general manager Charlie Parker said the match made perfect sense. 

"We have a mission of connecting our guests to the people and place in a much more meaningful way than just a casual resort experience," Parker said. "We are always looking to collaborate with people with a similar mindset, people who connect with Hawaiian culture and are doing it in a responsible way. Kimi is a unique talent, a true storyteller and a true character."

For the Kimi Werner Ocean Experience, participants spend two half-days exploring the ocean and building their freediving skills. The program starts with an introduction to freediving in Hualalai's King's Pond, a 1.8-million-gallon pool carved into lava rock with a sand bottom that is home to more than 1,000 tropical fish.

Werner can work with both freediving novices and those experienced in the sport, and she says the mental aspect of the challenge can be one of the most important to master. 

"Mastering your own thoughts and how they relate to the performance of your breath-hold and body is one of the most helpful skills you could ever have in the ocean," Werner said. "Learning how to push past fear and enter the unknown, while having good, graceful form -- these are all the things I hope participants will take away. These elements all make up a foundation of fundamentals that are beyond valuable and will guide them any time they enter the ocean."

On Day 2, Werner takes the guests out on a boat to practice what they learned the day before in the open ocean. 

"Diving the Kona Coast is truly spectacular," Werner said. "The clarity of the water there is like nothing else -- there is a certain blue to it that stirs something in my soul every time."

First you dive, then you dine

The experience ends with a four-course dinner and wine tasting with a focus on locally sourced ingredients led by Four Seasons Resort Hualalai executive chef Richard Polhemus. Werner herself is a trained chef and is an advocate for sustainable food systems.

"I would love people to become closer to nature and closer to the food we eat," she said. "It's an intimate and confronting journey, but one that I believe will make us more thoughtful, each in our own ways. It is truly something special to immerse oneself into a wild ecosystem and allow it to teach you and feed you. It makes me think more about my own human footprint and my responsibility and appreciation of this earth and all living things. "

Additionally, Werner's husband, photographer Justin Turkowski, joins the experience and captures both land and underwater images for participants that are included in the package. The experience also includes a pair of OluKai footwear for each guest. 

A lesson in conservation

A key component of the program is to bolster ocean stewardship, and Werner has seen firsthand the changes to Hawaii's waters over time, including how human activity has dulled and damaged coral reefs. 

"I used to tag along with my father while he spearfished when I was 5 years old," she said. "The memories I have of vibrant colors of coral make me realize how much the ocean has changed since then. As I researched what makes reefs so desolate and brown, I learned all about water runoff and how modern-day development, industrial farming, invasive plant species and so much more destroy nature's watershed."

A portion of the experience fee will be donated to a local non-profit dedicated to ocean and coastal conservation in Hawaii.

Werner said if participants take one thing away from their time with her, she hopes it is a deeper connection to the sea and a stronger drive to be in it as much as possible.

"My time in the ocean taught me to slow down; it taught me to be present," she said. "It honed my instincts and taught me to trust them. It gave me a confidence I had never known and has filled me with an abundance of gratitude.

The Kimi Werner Ocean Experience is limited to guests of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and is subject to availability. It is recommended to inquire at least a month in advance to book the program. Cost is $18,000, exclusive of room, and participants should be comfortable swimming and diving in the open ocean.

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