Close Encounters Man vs. Nature

Freediver rides a great white shark off Mexico

Researcher Kimi Werner trusted instincts shark wouldn't harm her, grabbed dorsal fin

With so many shark attacks being reported these days, the last thing you’d expect to see is video of a freediver swimming with a great white shark. Yet that’s what we have in the above video entitled Variables, which features Kimi Werner grabbing the shark’s dorsal fin and taking a ride.

Werner, who is a longtime spearfisher, was on a research expedition to study great white sharks off Mexico when the encounter occurred.

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Photo of Kimi Werner riding great white shark is screen grab from YouTube video

On Tuesday, Hawaii News Now posted Werner’s story behind the great white shark encounter, as well as her video that has since gone viral.

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

Werner, who is from Hawaii, explains on the video how the encounter unfolded.

“I had my head out of the water and was fixing my mask as my buddy Morgan slipped in after me. He immediately started shaking me and warning me. I knew what I was going to see before I even looked. Three feet away from me was the head of the biggest great white I had ever seen.

“To my surprise, I let out a squeal and starting swimming toward her. All of my years spent hunting [spearfishing] taught me how to read a fish’s body language. The way that she was moving, the way that the fins were out, all of it just showed me that she wasn’t looking at me as prey.”

As the shark approached, Werner dropped down, reached out her hand, and connected with the dorsal fin.

“I think it’s healthy to have a bit of fear for the unknown,” Werner told Hawaii News Now. “But it’s also healthy to trust your instincts and to not panic, and that’s simply what I did.”

And, fortunately, lived to tell about it.