SA Rower Becomes 1st Man To Cross Atlantic in Paddle Boat

Mark Babatunde March 14, 2017

South African big wave surfer Chris Bertish has become the first man to embark and finish a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a paddle boat.

Alone in his vessel, Bertish and his 20-foot stand-up paddle board set off from Agadir, Morocco, on December 6th and arrived in Antigua on the English Harbour on Thursday morning, after crossing a distance of 4,500 nautical miles.

Chris Bertish

It is estimated that Chris Bertish made about two million paddle strokes in the course of his three-month journey. Photo credit: New York Times

According to the New York Times, Bertish averaged 44 miles a day — mostly at night to avoid exposure to the sun — and alternated between resting and paddling every two or three hours.

Bertish, 42, a motivational speaker and outdoor enthusiast, said his record-making journey was meant to prove that “impossible is nothing” and raise money for a selection of charities, including the Lunchbox Fund, Operation Smile, and Signature of Hope.

More than $6 million in aid money is expected to be raised by the epic journey.

No newcomer to accomplishing daring feats, Bertish is a winner of the 2010 Mavericks Surf Contest in northern California. It is estimated that he made two million paddle strokes during the journey.

The first-of-its-kind journey pushed Bertish to his limits, and he admits that in the middle of his journey “everything that could possibly have gone wrong, went wrong,” adding, “it’s been constant stress.”

An earlier attempt in 2016 to cross the Atlantic in a paddleboard was made by Frenchman Nicolas Jarossay, but it almost ended in a tragedy just one night in to the journey after his craft capsized and rescuers had to pull him out of the water.

Photo Credit: SUP magazine

Photo credit: SUP magazine

In an interview, Bertish recounts encountering sharks, puffer fish, and turtles. He also battled strong waves that reportedly bashed his vessel.

“The sky was really fierce and ominous,” Bertish, told reporters after arriving. “But then the sun peeked its way through with this incredible gold and black beaming through the clouds. It was just beautiful, and it was just me in the middle of it.”

On how he felt while on the ocean, Bertish says, “You can feel very inconsequential at sea. When that happens, you have to tune in and get in sync with what’s around you and go with the flow.

“It’s the only thing that’s going to help you survive out there for that amount of time. That said, there were definitely times when I was hanging on by a thread, just trying to keep it together.”

Bertish believes his groundbreaking journey can serve to inspire lots of people in Africa and around the world. In a Facebook post, the Guinness Record holder wrote:

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.

Nothing is impossible, unless you believe it to be.



Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: June 19, 2018


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