World’s first transatlantic crossing on a SUP board
Here are some things we know about Chris Bertish. He is 42 years old. He’s South African. And after 93 days at sea, paddling across the Atlantic on a custom-built SUP board, he cruised into English Harbour, Antigua, yesterday. (To put that in perspective – it’s the equivalent of paddling from Cape Town to Lilongwe, Malawi and back again.)
When you hear about someone swimming a long distance and then (more often than not) find out they’ve been followed by a boat-hotel the entire time, it feels a bit like cheating. That’s not Chris’ style. It is literally just him alone in the ocean – one man, one highly-modified SUP board, and some incredibly advanced technology. (A water-maker, VHS radio, broadband global area network for internet access, and two sets of solar-panel units are just some of the gadgets he’s got on board.)
Check out the Chris Bertish Facebook page where there’s video of his arrival.
Some important questions:
How do we keep track of him?
Thousands of people have been tracking his movements on the website, TheSUPcrossing, where there’s a helpful note saying ‘do not be alarmed if periodically Chris is going backwards. This may happen during periods of rest or inclement weather conditions.’
Why on earth would somebody do that?
Apart from the fact that Chris feels most at home in the ocean, he’s also raising money to set up long-term funding annuities to feed children, pay for life-changing surgeries and build schools. (Want to help? SMS StandUp to 42146 to donate R30.)
But what about storms?
Oh boy. Chris’s Captain’s Log has kept us pretty well informed about the terrors of the storms out there. There have been some that have lasted weeks. WEEKS of being tossed about, unable to paddle, just hoping that it will eventually clear. The kind of mental energy that this must take is insane. (Read this awesome interview with Andy Davis of ZigZag, for some more insights into the mental strength this kind of undertaking requires.)
Isn’t he afraid of sharks?
Nope. Sharks are mostly inquisitive, rather than aggressive, and that SUP board is really very sturdy. The worst thing that could happen is that a great white will try to investigate the board with its teeth – but even then, it’ll most likely discover that it’s not very tasty, and leave it alone. Still, the motto is ‘be prepared’ – so Chris did take a ‘hand-grenade-like shark shield device’, in case of an emergency.
How does a person’s body deal with that kind of stress?
For the last three months, he’s been paddling the equivalent of a marathon every single day. Last week he broke a world record for the furthest paddled on a SUP board in one day. He promptly broke that record the next day. Apart from a nasty gouge to the finger, he’s had a shoulder injury that will probably need surgery. For now, it’s just mental grit and anti-inflammatories until he gets back on dry land.
But at least he can fish!
Um, not really. Most of the fish out there are massive – and it’s just not worth the risk of getting injured. No tuna sashimi tastes as good as having hands that actually work.