UPDATE

He made it! On 9 March 2017, after three gruelling months at sea, Chris Bertish became the first person to SUP across the Atlantic Ocean, solo and unaided. Please click here to read more about this remarkable achievment.



Here’s a story of bravery, commitment and perseverance that can help all of us set a goal or two for 2017.

Two Oceans Aquarium ambassador Chris Bertish is nearly a month into his attempt to complete the first-ever solo stand-up paddleboard (SUP) trans-Atlantic crossing.

Chris left on 6 December, and before Christmas Day in 2016, had already set two new world records: On 13 December, he completed 193 miles, breaking the world record for a solo, unsupported, open ocean paddle, which was set by Bart De Swart in May 2014. Then, on 22 December, he became the first person to 
paddle unsupported and unassisted across 300 miles of open ocean.

Following loggerhead turtles' migration patterns 

Chris’s core mission is to raise funds for the Signature of Hope Trust, the Lunchbox Fund and Operation Smile. Along the way, he is also helping us, the Two Oceans Aquarium, raise awareness for turtles.

Photo by Jacques Marais

As our ambassador, Chris has helped spread the word about the life-saving turtle rehabilitation work that we do here at the Aquarium, with all species and sizes of turtles, but particularly with small, vulnerable loggerhead hatchlings that wash up on our shores around April every year.

Loggerhead turtles breed on the beaches of northern KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique, the Mediterranean, West Africa, Brazil and along the south-east coasts of the USA. Florida (Chris’s final destination) has the largest loggerhead population. Every year, loggerhead hatchlings travel from their nesting beaches in Florida, USA to the Mediterranean by way of the warm Gulf Stream. Then they spend four to six years along the Spanish coast and surrounds before heading back in the North Atlantic Current – the same route Chris is taking.

These turtles are clever! They make use of the current and can travel at about 1,4km per hour; when they actively swim they can travel up to 1,6km per hour. With an active swimming period of about two hours per day, they can travel about 36,8km per day. Large loggerheads can easily average 45km per day.

Unlike turtles, Chris will have to contend with the wind, which can push him back and off the route at any point. Turtles can just keep swimming despite heavy winds.

The Captain’s Log

Chris has told some amazing, harrowing, breathtaking stories about his epic journey over the last few weeks, which have to be read to be believed. Here, we share some of the highlights (and will update as and when Chris does), but we highly recommend that you follow his Facebook page for the mind-blowing updates.

You can track Chris's journey, live, on The Sup Crossing website

22 January 2017

Brief wild and woolly update.

Things out here on the big, bad, but beautiful Atlantic Ocean have been pretty intense for the last three days and I have another three days of hardcore conditions coming up.

Besides taking its toll on me physically and mentally, the autopilot goes down a lot, as it's not able to handle the load on the system for more than a couple hours, my water maker stops working as the seas are too rough and it takes air into the system, and the nights become very long and super-intense with waves battering and hitting me from all sides, which is petty scary and sketchy when you are on shift paddling. It’s almost as hectic when I'm in my little cabin and getting bashed around.

So basically, it's pretty tough in these kinds of conditions, but like always, weather the storms and like in life, it shall pass and isn't forever. 

As of yesterday, I am officially now, from a time perspective, past the halfway mark, which is a massive mental milestone.

21 January 2017

Finding the magic in the dark stormy night!

The night was ablaze with an flickering light from the star-studded night sky, and the dark black canvas that surrounds me was a light dance of phosphorescence and breaking waves, and yet I was not afraid, but basking in awe, gazing, transfixed, up at the magic of the night.Taking in every sound that filled my ears, absorbed in every sense that filled my mind, while breathing in the deep dark magic sea air that filled my lungs...

I am at last at peace again, at home, content, connected to the source and in this very moment, right here, right now I am truly free.

Sometimes you have to go through fire, to find the pot of gold, hidden in the most unlikely places, where many fear to tread.

“Fear not the path less travelled, even though it may be fraught with danger, obstacles and many challenges. Fear only taking the same road as before, knowing that it will take you to exactly the same place as you have been so many times before.”

There's no such thing as failure in life, only a failure to try. Do live each day with the courage to do exactly that.. Try.

20 January 2017

All about food and hydration.

As I move into the 44th day out at sea, alone on the ImpiFish, the conditions are improving all the time as I get further south and west. Many people have been wondering what I'm eating, how I store all my food and where and how do I get my water.

I've weighed 75kg for the lays 10 years but really had to bulk up and gain a minimum of 5kg before leaving, which proved difficult as I was training so much so I just burnt everything I ate. So a month before the journey, I stopped training completely and that helped me go up to 80kg.

“Anyone keen on the ChrisB Crabstick Adventure diet programme? Eat 6 000 to 8 000 kilocalories a day, exercise for between 11 to 13 hours per day, burn 10 000 kilocalories and drop half a Backstreet Boy in weight in two to three months!”

I have dropped at least 7kg already, and will probably loose another 5 to 8kg over the next 45 days.

Food and hydration have been key to this project I have four freeze-dried meal options, and these are made up into 95 daily ration packs for 96 days, worst-car scenario  estimated time to the Caribbean. Each pack has three freeze-dried meals.

After the first 30 days, my body and mind were over it and started revolting, and I had to stop and catch myself as my mind started getting negative and that little voice started taking control.

Added to the above combos are mixed nuts, dried fruit, sometimes biltong, chocolate energy bars, and rehydration sachets. I have some mashed potato packs as an extra, which have proved invaluable to add to many of the meals just to make them more substantial too.

The freeze dried food is cooked on my mini little stove cooker called the Jetboiler, the camper and adventurer's best friend.

The water I have to make daily at the hottest time of the day when the sun is the strongest with the water maker that sucks in seawater and turns it into fresher via reverse osmosis! This uses huge power reserves from my solar battery banks, which I have to charge daily, so I have to be careful when I make water and how much I can make, as five litres take about 40 minutes. 

13 January 2017

Connecting with the creatures of the deep.

Over the last month, I have seen pretty much most of the sea creatures people ask me about all the time, and much, much more... Besides the daily challenges, which are many, this is the one gift I get, almost daily, that keeps me going, keeps me smiling, grounded and connected at a very deep and primal level to my true self, my animal instincts and the very raw, pure and special connection I have with the deep blue out here. It's pretty incredible and to be perfectly honest, almost indescribable.

But it's wasn't like this at the beginning of the journey at all. It's been quite an ocean paradox actually, to watch it all change, because leaving Morroco the water was dirty and polluted - plastic and general rubbish all over the place in the water - and the further I paddled away from mankind and effects of the modern world, the cleaner and the deeper the blue of the water became with less and less pollution, even though the plastic issue  is a worrying and ongoing problem, still, even almost 800km from land.

I have been very fortunate being an Ambassador for the Two Oceans Aquarium to have had the chance to freedive with the ragged-tooth sharks without a cage and it was one of the most awesome and incredible experiences I've had in years. Send out the right energy and calm your body and mind and let them know you see them, understand you are in there space, there environment and there home and as long as you don't act like prey, then you won't get treated like prey.

I find myself constantly whipping out my GoPros to get some amazing footage of my little dolphin friends which keep me company at night, but most of the time it's too dark, as they have become regular visitors to my regular moonlike night shifts, over the last week, between 8:30pm and midnight. They normally stay with me for about three to 10 minuntes and then carry on into the night, just reminding me that they are there and that I still have company and I'm never alone.

I got to swim with a loggerhead turtle, which made my day, super-stoked, even if he wasn’t that keen to hang around and swim with me for very long, I think I was too excited and scared him a little. My excitement for turtles does sometimes get the better of me, as they're my favourite.

Ode to the Creatures of the Deep

I believe in the sea & its creatures within, it's who I am, I am the sea and it is me.
I feel you near, I breathe your energy and hear you speaking in your squeaky language, though the walls of my little craft...
I feel your presence deep within, sometimes I hear you, even if often I don't see you, but just the knowing comforts me, it guides me, it softens my worries and lightens the load.
Thank you for your love, your guiding light, your positive presence, your constant support and friendship, it's helped me more than you will ever know.

8 January 2017

See the opportunity in the obstacle and celebrate your small victories!

I've now paddled just over 880 miles or 1 360km in 33 days, averaging around 30miles/ 52km a day, which includes the days and nights I'm drifting backwards in storms on the sea anchor.

So far, I've been knocked flat in my craft probably 15 to 18 times by waves in the night and day, been semi-inverted twice, full inverted once… I've been knocked overboard by waves once and dragged by my safety harness underwater in all my gear. I almost had my finger ripped off once, I'm still nursing the two big lacerationsto my finger daily, as it's wet all the time, so it battles to heal. My autopilot failed which I had to re-calibrate twice and the water maker stopped working, which I got working after bleeding the system a couple of times. My main steering system snapped and I have had to jury rig two of my own systems before I figured out a new system that actually works pretty good.

I have been dealing with a major power management issue on the craft which means the solar units don't run all the systems and replenish themselves effectively at all, so I had to work out just the bare essentials to run on a daily basis and get a cloud cover report built into my daily weather forecast in order to deal with managing the power issue to the best of my ability.

I have managed to find the source of my very concerning three leak points; I’m not able to eliminate it, but now it's very manageable and I know where the issue is and can constantly check on it and manage it, instead of thinking I may actually sink on a daily basis, which is a very different scenario.

It's like this constantly, just managing challenges and relentlessly finding solutions to obstacles on an hourly basis. Its like figuring out a puzzle daily, and I really enjoy the problem solving side of things, it gives me a chance to be creative and think out the box and figure out solutions to things. It's inspiring and motivating when you can figure out new solutions by just being flexible, innovative and creative. It's really rewarding.

Just trying to get online to send one post, which I have already written, can take sometimes up to two hours to connect and send the update. 

Believe me, these challenges give you an immense appreciation for many of the simple things in life we all take for granted daily, which is really great to get a reminder of in life regularly.

6 January 2017

Never forget where you came from and who inspired you to get there. Remind yourself constantly of this, walk your own path, take nothing for granted, relive their wisdoms and lessons, celebrate how it helps you achieve every goal with an attitude of gratitude and inspire others whereever possible and give back, make a difference and pass it on.

I have spent the last three days fixing holes, overcoming challenges with the craft to get it ready for the next low-pressure system. So I have been crazy busy trying to sort out all the obstacles and challenges and get the ImpiFish storm-ready, move all the weight around to make her more nimble, now that she's getting a little lighter, after eating a full month’s worth of food, as I have officially been out here on the Atlantic, alone, for exactly one month on the ImpiFish.

I'm starting to feel comfortable and confident with my little craft and after enduring the last month, I feel I can get through pretty much anything, but we have a long way to go, so it's just day by day right now, stroke by stroke.

3 January 2017

“Sometimes you have to go backwards in life, in order to move forward. That's pretty much what the last couple of days have been about out here on the Atlantic on the ImpiFish.”

On New Years Eve, Chris found out that one of his watertight compartments, the one with all his food rations, was under 10 litres of water.

“I instantly go into shock and stress mode, grab a sponge, a bucket, and the water pump and start rapidly pulling out my food from the water, praying they weren't all damaged and destroyed as I need it all to get me to the other side, safely and alive.”

Then, the next morning, what should have been a light northerly breeze turned into a strong southerly breeze – exactly the opposite of what he was planning and hoping for. That left Chris at a crossroads: does he sit and wait it out, or does he battle on?

“I remind myself that there's nothing constant in the ocean, as the only constant, like in life, is change. Except in the ocean it's happening all the time, hourly, 24/7, so the conditions you have now won't be like the next.”

Chris had to do some soul searching at this point – reaffirming his reasons for taking on this journey, who he was doing it for, and what he was capable of.

“This is what I had been training for. Over the last 10 months I have been doing upwind training, preparing for exactly this. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and know no matter how bad it gets, this too shall pass.”

29 December 2016

Christmas was not so merry for Chris. He is definitely the most hardcore Santa of 2016.

“Seven days in all of my foul-weather gear, no break in the weather, winds in the 20 to 30 knot range and four metre seas. Surfing waves in my Santa hat, on Christmas morning, about 150km out in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Canary Islands, alone, on the ImpiFish. Harnessed in, locked and loaded, paddling eight hours on Christmas Day, only one hour that night as it was too dangerous to paddle with the rouge waves that I couldn't see coming.”

“It was hard to get out there this morning, it was cold, stormy and scary-looking, but you've gotta just suck it up, remind yourself why you are out there, what you are doing it for, then focus only on that.”

“Shut up, get up, stand up, take action, make the change, be the change, make a difference!”

“It's pretty tough out here alone, trying to manage everything, survive, film, the craft, weather, all the systems, make food and water, all through solar power when there is little sun, paddling a lot and try to just stay afloat and alive - literally - but we're doing it.”

22 December 2016

“Been a pretty intense and scary seven days, dealing with some system issues on the craft: broke my main foot steering systems and autopilot went down, amongst others, got a bad cut to the finger after being trapped in a line around my rudder while I was underwater doing repairs.”

“There was a major storm with 5,5m waves and 35 knots of breeze for two days and nights just off the rocky coastline of the Canaries.”

“But I'm now finally through the worst of it and have managed to manage the many crazy and life threatening challenges and find many new solutions, stay calm, focus to help me get through all of the issues to now finally hit the next huge milestone.”

On 22 December, Chris Bertish became the first person to 
paddle unsupported and unassisted across 300 miles of open ocean.

“Many thanks for all the support everyone. It's been super challenging, but I will not give up or give in, until I get across the Atlantic.”

13 December 2016

“Just a quick sunset update from 190-plus miles west of Morocco. Getting closer to the Canaries, and just passed over the Conception Banks and into history...”

On 13 December, Chris finished 193 miles, breaking the world record for a solo, unsupported, open ocean paddle, which was set by Bart De Swart in May 2014.

“Paddling 10 to 14 hours a day takes a bit of getting used to. The first three days your body really takes strain, and then sort of adjusts to it. Amazing.”

10 December 2016

“I've been doing 10- to 16-hour paddles each day for the last two days against a 1 knot current directly from the west, which was super difficult and frustrating.”

“I've had some magic moments already and swam with a turtle and have had dolphins swimming with me every night... Epic!”

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