Recently we featured endurance athlete Chris Bertish as he undertakes a world-record breaking adventure.
In December 2016, the South African left Agadir, Morocco, on a stand-up paddle (SUP) board. With sights set on Florida, his mission is to become the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean alone and unassisted on an SUP that has been built to meet the rigours of this unique challenge.
The journey demands putting in around 37.5 miles of paddling each day for four months. The weather, mental and physical exhaustion and any number of sea-dwelling creatures are among the other dangers he’ll have to negotiate as he bids to cross the pond and paddle into the record books.
In an interview conducted three days ago, Bertish describes his situation as “pretty positive”, although it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Strong trade winds of around 25-30 knots have brought “relentless stormy conditions” that have battered Chris’ boat with big waves as he takes cover during the night.
“After two weeks of relentless torture, I’m trying to take the positives out of the negatives and I’m still getting some really good mileage,” he says.
“The craft’s been taking in water and listing to one side. I haven’t been able to open the hatches because the deck of my craft has pretty much been under water 90% of the time, so it’s been pretty scary. I also needed to get into one of the hatches today to get some food out because I had run out,” he added.
Beasties in the deep
As if anyone could forget, Chris is not the hungry one out there, a fact he was reminded of when he had a run in with one of nature’s most fearsome creatures.
“I went for a quick swim, jumped out of the water, and out of the corner of my eye I saw something really big and dark coming. I just managed to brace myself and to turn around in time to see a very, very large great white shark coming in – I think it was coming in for a surprise attack,” he says.
“I think just at the last second he realised that I wasn’t what he thought I was and he took an alternative direction just as he was about to hit me and the craft.
“As he turned around to maybe take another go at me, I think he realised that I wasn’t something very tasty or edible and he sort of swam off very aggressively,” he adds.
“It left me a little shaken, a little stirred and I grabbed my deck knife out of its sheath very quickly and was standing ready, but was holding onto my craft for dear life. The fish wasn’t the biggest of great white sharks, he was probably more mid-size in the 15-foot range. When you’re in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a 19-foot craft, [the shark’s] only four feet smaller than you are and almost as wide; it’s big enough to take a very large chunk out of the craft and could possibly sink it if it got the better of you.
“It was a rather positive encounter, but it took me about half an hour before I put my knife back in its sheath. When he swished underneath the craft he was so close to me I could have touched him.
“He was so massive and beautiful and majestic. As he swam away it was just beautiful to see him glide off into the distance even though I was a little shaken.”
Despite his alarming encounter, friendlier visitors have allowed Chris to relax and reflect on an environment that can be every bit as beautiful as it is dangerous.
“I was swimming with some dolphins yesterday evening just before sunset. There was a full moon last night and I paddled last night and there was a beautiful sunrise this morning,” he recalls.
Chris is now over half way to Antigua, but he still has a long way to go. Click here to check out his precise location via the live tracker.
You can find out more about the challenge and the fantastic causes Chris is helping through his endeavours, by clicking here.