South African watersport pro Chris Bertish has just nailed a world first: he’s crossed the Atlantic solo, unassisted and unsupported, on a stand-up paddle board.
Yes, that’s one of those surfboard-like contraptions you’ve probably fallen off on vacation. And yes, we mean the real, genuinely-ferocious ocean that’s claimed sailors’ lives since man first decided to strap wooden planks together and take to the seas.
The big-wave surfer and Guinness World Record holder crossed 4,500 nautical miles, setting off from Agadir, Morocco, on December 6 and arriving at English Harbour, Antigua, on the morning of March 9, local time.
Bertish’s stand-up paddleboard (SUP) may not be an off-the shelf job – it’s a custom-made,1,360-pound, 20-foot-long vessel fitted with a tiny cabin and solar panels – but that doesn’t mean the journey was any less daunting.
For 93 days Bertish has paddled the equivalent of a marathon a day, skirting the Canary Islands before heading into the open ocean and aiming for the Caribbean. Along the way he also set the record for the furthest distance traveled solo, unsupported and unassisted over open ocean in a day (71.96 miles).
He celebrated Christmas aboard and rang in the New Year with a dram of scotch. Keeping a captain’s log on Facebook, Bertish has posted his encounters with puffer fish and turtles, cargo ships and yachts – the latter dropping off a bag of treats for the paddler and money for Bertish’s charitable causes.
Working with charities Signature of Hope Trust, the Lunchbox Foundation and Operation Smile, Bertish aims to raise enough money to build at least five schools in South Africa, provide monthly dividends to feed and educate thousands of children and pay for surgeons to carry out life-changing cleft lip and palate operations. As of today, Bertish has raised R5,460,030 ($412,000).
The trans-Atlantic crossing is only the latest feat in the South African’s career. Previously he’s surfed some of the biggest waves ever recorded (he won the Maverick Big Wave Invitational, California 2010, on borrowed equipment, no less), set the world record for open ocean 12-hour nonstop SUP in South Africa, 2013, and set the fastest time crossing the English Channel on an SUP in 2013 (5 hours, 26 minutes).
Writing on Facebook, the South African’s inspirational attitude suggests there will be plenty more record-breaking escapades to come:
“The more time I can spend in the ocean, in any shape or form, the better. I’m a waterman and the ocean is my inspiration. It’s where I truly feel alive, comfortable, content, happy and free,” he says.
“Nothing is impossible, unless you believe it to be.”