FILE: Chris Bertish arrives in Antigua after hisunsupported, 93-day transatlantic crossing from Morocco. Photo: Brian Overfelt/The SUP Crossing
CAPE TOWN – After 93 days alone paddling 4000 miles across the Atlantic, Chris Bertish ate a hamburger and chips.
It must have tasted good. Imagine how a bed would feel on terra firma after that? It would probably take a few days to stop moving, though. Imagine that first fresh water shower, or the first ice-cold beer?
Bertish, whose face had all but disappeared beneath a salt-encrusted beard, looked slightly scrawny but otherwise fit as he disembarked off his pimped up stand-up paddle board (SUP), the IMPiFish, in Nelson’s Dockyard on Antigua. He received a cacophonous reception by family and friends.
He is officially the first person to pull off a solo, unsupported Atlantic Ocean SUP crossing. His journey began in Agidir, Morocco three weeks before Christmas. On Thursday, he reached the town of English Harbour. Unbelievable.
The last few miles of his trip were deeply emotional. Check out the Facebook video posted by his brother Conn Bertish. It will give you goosebumps.
Conn and other brother Greg, as well as close friend and Mavericks big wave legend Jeff Clark, are on a motorboat cutting through a buckled sea at first light searching for the first glimpse of Chris.
The sun stabs through holes in the dark cloud as their boat pitches and yaws eastward. Then you hear Conn screaming, and then the others – they’re babbling almost incoherently with excitement. A green light flickers – the starboard night light of the IMPiFish, which hoves into view. The motorboat closes in but its hard to make Chris out in the gloom.
The boys are screaming until they’re hoarse. Distant cries from Chris are muffled as he and his craft disappear behind large ragged swells.
The video has gone viral, as have many photos and posts depicting his arrival. “OMG this made me cry! So awesome!” That’s the gist of the upwelling of teary-eyed pride his feat has evoked across the world, and especially for the proudly South African.
Several hours later, and we see him via a live feed on Facebook near some cliffs (to escape the worst of the swell and wind). Now a flotilla of craft are flooding the area to cheer him on.
We see him lighting a flare, raising his hands in the air: shouting. A vuvuzela is hauled out on the other Bertish boat. All around, people are screaming.
When he steps off his boat in the harbour, there is a wall of noise that peaks in a crescendo of emotion. His energy is incredible. He’s bouncing around like a Duracell bunny. He’s hugging people and lifting them up, pumped full of adrenaline and elation.
He has ended his mighty voyage in Nelson’s Dockyard – a fitting place. It is of course named after one Admiral Horatio Nelson, the British navy legend who lived there from 1784 until 1787.
As Wikipedia notes, Admiral Nelson was a tenacious fighter known “for his inspirational leadership, superb grasp of strategy, and unconventional tactics”.
And of course, the bravery of the Admiral is the stuff of lore, after several brushes with death and many injuries in combat, including “losing most of one arm in the unsuccessful attempt to conquer Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the sight in one eye in Corsica”.
Like the admiral, Chris Bertish is a do-or-die character who epitomises the “do”.
“Been there, done that” will not be an idle boast.
The Weekend Argus/Independent Online