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News Archive > General > Surfer paddles across Atlantic

Surfer paddles across Atlantic

By Warren Wilkins 15th March 2017

Surfer paddles across Atlantic
Chris Bertish on his epic paddle.

A famous Newquay surfer has become the first man to successfully stand-up paddle across the Atlantic Ocean.

Chris Bertish took 93 days to paddle from Agadir in Morocco to Antigua, crossing 4,500 nautical miles – more than a marathon distance a day.

The 42-year-old, who formerly lived in Porth and worked at Gul before returning to his homeland in South Africa, accomplished the epic journey on a custom-built 20ft-long board fitted with a tiny cabin and solar panels.

Chris paddled an average of 43 miles a day, beating his plan for 30 miles daily, and kept well nourished with protein shakes, freeze-dried meals and salty jerky. He mostly travelled at night to avoid sun exposure and managed a gruelling 60 miles on the penultimate day to make the final push into English Harbour in Antigua where he was greeted by family and friends.

The solo, unassisted crossing was not without its challenges, which included shark encounters, equipment failures, unfavourable trade winds, loneliness and huge swells that Chris has had to overcome.

The big wave rider, who received national acclaim surfing what is thought to be the biggest waves ever ridden at The Cribbar in Newquay in 2004, managed to keep the world updated throughout the voyage with Captain’s Logs, which provided a first-hand look into his hardships, successes and state of mind.

Chris set the record along the way for the furthest distance travelled solo, unsupported and unassisted over open ocean in a day after covering 71.96 miles.

The 1,360-pound stand-up paddle board, nicknamed ImpiFish, cost £99,000 to build. The vessel was designed by a British boat creator and naval architect Phil Morrison and
featured a watertight main cabin in which he could sleep, house all of his electronics and hunker down during the heat of the day or during the most violent weather. The vessel was also self-righting if it capsized, which is a feature that was used more than once. The front of the craft was fitted with satellite weather forecasting equipment, GPS systems, VHF radios, an autopilot system, satellite phone and solar panels.

Chris took on the epic challenge to raise money for Signature of Hope Trust, the Lunchbox Foundation and Operation Smile, which has so far amassed £339,000. He 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.

Chris said, shortly after stepping on dry land in Antigua for the first time in three months: “People talk about the challenges in life and how you get through it. You just break everything down, by the minute, by the hour. You just have to believe in yourself.”

The trans-Atlantic crossing is only the latest feat in Chris’s career. He has surfed some of the biggest waves ever recorded and won the Maverick Big Wave Invitational in California in 2010 on borrowed equipment. He set the world record for an open ocean 12-hour nonstop stand- up paddle in South Africa in 2013 and set the fastest time crossing the English Channel on a stand-up paddle board in 2013 in a time of five hours and 26 minutes.

Chris chose Newquay for the British launch of his new book titled Stoked at Watershed in Bank Street in September, which tells his story of courage, determination and the power of dreams. His inspirational attitude suggests there will be plenty more record-breaking
escapades to come after writing on Facebook: “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 feel alive, comfortable, content, happy and free. Nothing is impossible, unless you believe it to be.”

By Warren Wilkins 15th March 2017

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