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News

Mar 01, 2017

To Cross An Ocean: Chris Bertish Almost Finishes SUP Atlantic Expedition

Chris Bertish has spent nearly three months attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean on a stand-up paddleboard, alone and unsupported.

WRITTEN BY

Michael Levy

He has endured injury and raging storms, but has exuded optimism the whole while. And now, less than 750 nautical miles away from the coast of Antigua, he’s almost done.

Chris Bertish is a consummate big wave surfer, and has ridden some of the biggest swell on the planet. In 2010, at the Mavericks Big Wave International competition, he rode the largest waves in the event’s history to victory.

But over the past three months, Bertish has been piloting not a surfboard, but a Stand-Up Paddleboard; he has been surfing not single massive waves, but gliding across a seemingly endless sea. And now, approximately 80 days since he last set foot on land, he is on the verge of completing a seemingly impossible feat: SUPing, solo and unsupported, across the expanse of the entire Atlantic Ocean.

Bertish, 42, embarked on his expedition, The SUP Crossing, on December 6, 2016. According to his website, it would involve “Paddling the equivalent of a marathon every day for 120 days,” and take him some 7,500 kilometers from Agadir, Morocco, his port of departure, to Antigua, his final destination.

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Chris’ journey across the Atlantic may seem crazy to some…but the views make it all worth it.

On February 21, Standup Journal reported that Bertish was only 750 nautical miles (just under 900 miles) away from Antigua. If — or rather when — he finishes, he will add one more first to an already impressive list of records he has racked up along the way. At present, his estimated date of arrival in Antigua is March 9.

In addition to very soon being the first person to have completed a solo, unsupported SUP crossing of the Atlantic, a mere 16 days into his journey Bertish set the record for longest continuous distance ever paddled on an SUP in open water, at 300 miles. He also set the world record for the greatest distance paddled in 24 hours– twice, for that matter. On February 15, Bertish set a new record by paddling 50.03 nautical miles (57.57 miles) in a single day, only to break it the very next day by paddling 62.54 nautical miles (71.96 miles).

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Chris in the ImpiFish’s tiny front cabin. In this water-right space, Bertish sleeps and rides out bad weather.

In a press release about his 24-hour record, Chris was quoted as saying: “I’m very happy with the new record. I’ve been searching for those perfect conditions, that perfect 24-hour weather window for the last 72 days, but I knew once I found it I could crack the mile mark. […] It just goes to show, if at first you don’t succeed, try try and try, persevere, never give up. I’m looking forward to taking a couple hours break, before getting back out there and paddling again. I still have 750 nautical miles to go and millions of lives to change, that’s why I’m here.”

“But how does he sleep on an SUP?” you might be asking yourself. For those scratching their heads as they picture Chris lying down pencil-like trying to catch some Z’s on a traditional SUP as water splashes over his face, rest assured this is not the case. Bertish is in a custom-built craft, the ImpiFish, which looks more like a jetski on steroids than an SUP to the layman. But a stand-up paddleboard it is. The craft is nearly six meters long and weighs in at 600 kilograms when fully loaded with all of Bertish’s provisions and supplies. It has a cabin for storage and sleeping, and is solar-powered so that Chris can remain in contact with his land-based team, to transmit updates and receive weather forecasts, for example.

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When you’re at sea by yourself for three months, there’s plenty of time to sit and think.

Recounting Bertish’s world records and the highlights of his Crossing is essentially like listening to a Greatest Hits album, though: it glosses over all of the bombs and filler tracks, or in his case the day-to-day goings-on, near-misses and other savory details. Sifting through the semi-regular “Captain’s Log” posts that Bertish has shared on social media through the duration of his trip illuminates these other aspects.

In his December 22, 2016 Captain’s Log, Bertish writes: “Been a pretty intense & scary past 7 days dealing with some system issues on the craft, broke my main foot steering systems and Autopilot went down, amongst others, bad cut to the finger after being trapped in a line, around my rudder, while underwater doing repairs, a major storm with 5.5 meter waves & 35 knts of breeze for 2 days/nights just off the rocky coastline of the Canaries, but I’m now finally through the worst of it..& 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.”

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Chris show’s off one of his battewounds from life at sea.

Injuries in his nearly three months at sea have not been limited to nicks and cuts on his fingers. In a more recent Captain’s Log from February 10, Chris notes that his litany of ailments include a “torn shoulder muscle,” a “strained finger tendon,” a “damaged rotator cuff — now needing surgery when I finish,” and plenty of issues with his hands and legs. Such are the costs of paddling upwards of 12 hours per day for months on end.

The challenges he has faced (and continues to face) include powerful storms and rough seas (at times capsizing his SUP when rogue waves sideswipe the vessel); dangerously low stores of food (“I am short on rations for the last 23 days as I am presently becalmed and only able to paddle 25NM [nautical miles] a day,” he wrote on February 14); and sea life bent on his destruction (his “ship” was stove not by a white whale as in Moby Dick but by a 15-foot Great White Shark!).

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The ImpiFish is outfitted with various electronics that allow Chris to communicate with the outside world.

When he’s not setting records, troubleshooting, or just trying to stay alive, Chris is paddling, paddling, paddling and focusing on being in the moment. On February 20, Bertish wrote in a Captain’s Log, “Live in the moment, live in the now, take nothing for granted. Stop and enjoy the journey, before it’s over and gone, as it can all change in a heartbeat, as we all know… And that applies to everything in life my friends.” Clearly meant as a reminder to himself as much as to those he inspires, this also underpins one of Chris’ overarching philosophies in life: re-envisioning the word “impossible” as “I’m Possible.”

In his toughest moments, Bertish no doubt also reminds himself of the greater good he hopes to achieve through his expedition. He is using the visibility of his project to raise money for three charities whose missions he strongly believes in: Signature of Hope Trust, The Lunchbox Fund, and Operation Smile. The goal is to raise enough money to “build at least five school in some of the poorest regions of (South) Africa through Signature of Hope;” to” establish an annuity that will provide a monthly dividend to feed and educate thousands of children in conjunction with The Lunchbox Fund;” and to “establish an annuity that will provide a monthly dividend to pay for life-changing cleft lip and palate surgeries for children born with this facial defect through Operation Smile.”

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Chris Bertish’s attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean on an SUP, solo and unsupported, would a world first.

With under 750 nautical miles to go, Chris’ journey on the water is in its final exciting stages. Check back at outdoorjournal.com for further updates. To contribute to the charities Chris is supporting through his Atlantic campaign, visit http://www.thesupcrossing.com/donate/.

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Events

Jul 10, 2018

The 2018 Whitewater Awards: Nouria Newman and Benny Marr take the spoils.

The Whitewater Awards is a gathering of the world’s best kayakers to show off the biggest and best things that have happened in the sport over the past year.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

 To be considered for an award, athletes, photographers, and filmmakers submit media taken over the past year that they believe showcases the best progression in the sport.  

There are sixteen different categories for submission, including separate male and female categories within the “Best of” kayaking categories. Categories include Photographer of the Year, Film of the Year, Expedition of the Year, Best Trick, Best Line, River Stewardship, Grom of the Year, Rider of the Year, along with several others.  Awards are decided upon by a voting process done by the Association of Whitewater Professionals.

This year’s Whitewater Awards was held in the Egyptian Theater in downtown Boise, Idaho. It was hosted on June 14th, the same weekend as the North Fork Championships, which takes place on the North Fork of the Payette River just outside of Boise.  The North Fork Championship is regarded as one of the hardest kayaking races in the world.

The race takes place on Jacob’s Ladder rapid, which is a rapid so difficult and consequential that most kayakers feel accomplished simply by surviving the rapid, much less racing the rapid. Nouria Newman, a 3-time NFC racer and winner of this year’s Whitewater Awards Female Rider of the Year describes it well,

“The NFC is the hardest race in whitewater kayaking. [Jacob’s Ladder] is a scary, consequential rapid. Running it is challenging, and it only gets harder to race it and make the gates.”

In order to minimize the risk involved in the race, event organizers have developed a strict qualification process for racers. 30 racers will qualify to race Jacob’s Ladder. Ten of them are pre-qualified from placing top ten at the event the year before. Those ten then read numerous athlete applications and vote on the next ten racers who will join them.  The last ten racers are decided through a qualification race on S-Turn rapid, another one of the North Fork’s infamous class V rapids.

Every year on this same weekend in June, kayakers, photographers, and filmmakers from around the world flock to Idaho to celebrate quality whitewater, progression of the sport, and the community that surrounds it. Both the North Fork Championship and the Whitewater Awards had great turnouts of athletes and spectators this year.

John Webster

The finalists of each category in the Whitewater Awards were presented in film format at the Egyptian Theater for the entire audience to view, with the winner being announced live. Winners were presented with an award and expected to give a short speech at the event. The big winners of the night were Nouria Newman and Benny Marr, who were awarded with Line of the Year and Rider of the Year in the female and male categories. Nouria says that voting for the “best” in each category is a challenging process, “…voting is always tricky, (look at both French and U.S. presidents, not too sure if they are really the best available option). And it is also very hard to compare lines and rapids. What’s bigger? What’s harder? I got voted Best Line of the Year with a good line down Parque Jurassic, a long technical rapid, but Rata’s line down Graceland, which is a huge slide, was equally as good, if not better.”

No matter how tricky the voting process can be, Nouria agrees that the Whitewater Awards plays a large role in the progression of the sport, “I think it’s super cool to see what people can do in their kayak, how they push the limit of the sport and how they open new possibilities.”

For more information about the Whitewater Awards, you can visit whitewaterawards.com, you can also follow them on Facebook and on Instagram.

You can follow Nouria on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You can follow Benny on Facebook and Instagram.

Cover photo courtesy of Ari Walker

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