He did it.
Early this morning, Chris Bertish became the first person to standup paddle across the Atlantic Ocean.
His wife, brothers, friends, media and supporters were all on hand to celebrate the momentous achievement as he came in, hooting, hollering and lighting flares from the windy and wild sea in English Harbour on the island of Antigua.
The 42-year-old South African accomplished the journey all solo and unassisted — no support boat, carrying everything he needed on board. #TheSUPCrossing, as he called it, took 93 days, covered over 4,000 miles and raised millions of South African Rand for multiple charities in Africa.
“People talk about the challenges in life and how you get through it,” Bertish said seconds after he stepped on land for the first time in three months. “You just break everything down, by the minute, by the hour … You just have to believe in yourself.”
It’s a message that Bertish used throughout the media campaign surrounding the trip: that nothing is impossible unless you believe it to be.
The craft that Bertish used for the crossing — nicknamed ImpiFish — cost over $100,000 to build 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 (read about those experiences). The vessel was also self-righting—it flips over by itself right-side up if it capsizes—a feature that was used more than once, as Bertish documented in his captain’s logs. The craft also supported solar panels, GPS, radios and all his dehydrated food for the trip.
“I pretty much ate exactly the same thing every single day for 93 days,” he said to the people gathered to greet him on the dock, before he picked up a burger patty with his gloves still on – completely disregarded the bun and toppings – and took a massive bite.
While he’s not the first person to have crossed the Atlantic by paddle power, he’s now one of the very few. Alexander Doba, at 67 in 2014, crossed unsupported from Portugal to Florida, some 5,400 miles in a specially-designed kayak with many of the same features as Bertish’s.
Peter Bray crossed the opposite direction west to east, from Newfoundland to Ireland in 2001 with no sails or support (and has some harrowing survival tales from the North Atlantic during other expeditions). Bray held the longest open water, human-powered record before Doba broke it.
Bertish, now over 20 pounds lighter than when he started and sporting a Castaway-style bushy beard, still had plenty of energy to talk with the crowd and give a press conference a couple hours after landing. He’s in good shape and good spirits.
“It seems mind-boggling that I'm alive at all, to be honest,” Bertish said at the news conference. “I really had a lot of support and guiding hands from many different sources, both high and low.”
More coverage of Bertish's historic crossing from SUP.