EXCLUSIVE: Local freediver describes Great White Shark encounter

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When local freediver and spearfisher Kimi Werner received permission to dive into the water during a research expedition to study Great White Sharks in Mexico, she never imagined an immediate encounter with one of nature's most majestic and dangerous animals.

"I had my head out of the water and was fixing my mask as my buddy Morgan slipped in after me," Werner says in a video entitled Variables. "He immediately started shaking me and warning me. I knew what I was gonna see before I even looked… 3 feet away from me was the head of the biggest Great White I had ever seen."

Having come face to face with the shark, what Werner did next may sound surprising to some.

"My instincts responded before my thoughts did and I swam towards the shark," Werner told Hawaii News Now on Monday. "By the time my brain caught up, I realized that this shark was being mellow. Curious, but mellow."

Video of the encounter has gone viral online, having been posted on The Huffington Post website and garnering more than half a million views on YouTube, and the diver says the media response so far has been overwhelming.

"Thank goodness I'm far away and practically off the grid!" said Werner, adding that she was grateful her video was being well received but "happy to be far away from the media circus and interviews."

Despite that sentiment, Werner, who lives in Hawaii and filmed a portion of the Variables film in local waters, didn't mind telling Hawaii News Now more about the experience.

"I was afraid, and I always have a certain amount of fear in me with most things I do," said Werner. "I think it's healthy to have a bit of fear for the unknown. But it's also healthy to trust your instincts and to not panic, and that's simply what I did."

So what's next for Werner?

"I really enjoyed making that video. Not because I wanted to sensationalize the shark ride, but because I wanted to tell a special story and try to send out a positive message," she said. "I'd like to tell more stories, through art, writing and video because there are so many beautiful things in the world that deserve to be shared."

The diver says she plans to take place in a talk-story event at Turtle Bay on June 23, and hopes that the will be able to connect with the public in a way that allows her to share her experiences but also stress that the dive was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"I'm not out to chase this experience or encourage others to do so," said Werner. "I am, nonetheless, extremely grateful for it."

To watch Kimi Werner freediving with a Great White in her film Variables, click here.

Mobile users click here: http://youtu.be/XCN2LC_nBYQ

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