On 1 December 2015, the Two Oceans Aquarium’s turtle rehab-and-release team along with an incredible group of ocean enthusiasts, photographers, filmmakers and ocean ambassadors travelled from Hout Bay, over 30 nautical miles due south, to release 57 turtles, big and small, into the warmer ocean currents off Cape Point.

Among this group was Chris Bertish, who, we are proud to announce, is a brand new, official Two Oceans Aquarium ambassador.

Also with us that day were Otto Whitehead, Steven Benjamin and Jean Tresfon, and together they created this stunning short film, depicting the journey of a little loggerhead turtle, with captivating open ocean and underwater scenes. This is Chris’s world, and he is making a difference.

A message from our curator, Maryke Musson

“We are absolutely 'stoked' to have Chris on board as a Two Oceans Aquarium ambassador. His energy is astonishing. From rescuing turtles to diving with sharks, from inspiring kids to live their dreams and work hard, to inspiring the world to have courage and passion.

“The ultimate waterman: one who works or lives on water and has attained a particular level of knowledge or skill.

“Our mission at the Two Oceans Aquarium is to inspire action for the wellbeing of our oceans, and we could not have been joined by a more passionate, ocean driven ambassador than the ultimate waterman, big wave surfer and SUP world-record holder Chris Bertish.

Chris and Two Oceans Aquarium Aquarist Pinda Dlodlo. Photo by Jacques Marais

“Chris inspires through his actions. He has achieved extraordinary goals through believing in himself, taking action and never giving up. To us it sounded very much like the journey sea turtles undergo, crossing various oceans, facing various fears, being determined but also content and free in their beautiful blue world.

“A blue world that Chris wants to conserve, not just for amazing creatures such as sea turtles, but also for our future generations. Through his involvement in ocean awareness and education programmes, he will actively assist in promoting caring for our planet, inspiring action, respect and passion."

A few minutes with Chris Bertish

Two Oceans Aquarium Aquarists and turtle rehab-and-release programme members Nicholas Nicolle and Kevin Spiby. Photo by Jacques Marais

Why become an ambassador for the Aquarium?

Why wouldn’t I become an ambassador of the Two Oceans Aquarium? The Aquarium is a necessity for the youth and for the public, because it inspires kids to understand the ocean, to not be fearful of it. To be educated and engaged with it. And hopefully be inspired by it.

I think those are the cornerstones of what the Aquarium stands for, and it’s what I stand for as well.

A lot of people look up to you. Who do you look up to?

I look up to anybody who’s following their passions and their dreams. Kids in their youth are full of optimism and ambition and big dreams, and as they grow up they lose those dreams. We as a society have told them to settle down and get a real job and forget all those cool things. I believe that as adults we should continue to be inspired to follow our passions and our dreams. You’ve just got to find your passion and follow it. I think the ocean helps you do that.

It keeps me grounded, keeps me humble, keeps me inspired and keeps me dreaming, and that’s what following your dreams is all about.

Photo by Jacques Marais

What drives you?

I’m inspired by the ocean in a lot of ways. It’s been my vehicle for being able to follow my passions and live all my dreams, and I’m inspired by proving to myself what’s possible, and hopefully inspiring others to believe in what’s possible within themselves. The ocean is a place that needs to be protected and respected, but it’s also the most amazing playground.

You have a long list of records broken and awards won. What haven’t you achieved yet that you want to do?

The first-ever solo trans-Atlantic stand-up paddleboard crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, from Morocco to the Canary Islands, Canary Islands to the Caribbean, Caribbean to Miami. I’ve been planning it for about four years.

You spend so much time in the water for a living … How do you relax?

Anything ocean- or water-based. I’ve been immersed in the ocean from a super-early age with my family and it’s made me more comfortable in the ocean than I am on land, which is great. It’s the one place that makes me content. I think it’s all about the connection with nature, and whether that means being in the ocean or whether that would be getting away from all people … When you’re out in the ocean and by yourself, you’re free and you’re away from any peripheral noise.

If you only had one piece of life advice to give, what would it be?

Life is short, follow your passions, do what you love, love what you do, have belief in yourself and never ever give up. Persevere no matter what odds are thrown against you.

Photo by Jacques Marais

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