The last time we checked in on South African adventurer Chris Bertish, he was busy crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a stand-up paddle board. He completed that amazing journey back in 2017, but he hasn’t exactly been resting on his laurels. Since then, he’s set several records for open-ocean SUP paddles and even surfed at Mavericks. But now, he’s just finished his biggest adventure yet, taking on another ocean. This time, he paddled from California to Hawaii, where he reached the finish line a few days back.
A Wing-Foil Record
Following his Atlantic crossing in 2017, Bertish has upgraded his ocean-going SUP, adding hydrofoils, a windsurfing kite, and a host of satellite equipment. This allows him utilize the wind to travel at a faster pace and cover longer distance each day. This watercraft—aptly named the “Flying Fish”—is now even more well equipped for taking on long-distance open water crossing, something that was put to the test in the summer of 2021.
Originally, Bertish had hoped to complete his Pacific crossing last year, setting off from Half Moon Bay in California in June of 2021. But after covering 212 miles, he ran into some issues with the electronics aboard the Flying Fish. This forced him to return to shore to make repairs, but as we all know supply chain issues and chip shortages haven’t made it easy to obtain certain tech devices.
The repairs took longer than expected to complete, and by the time they were done, Bertish had missed his window for safely traveling from California to Hawaii. June and July are the best time of year for those kinds of open ocean journeys, as the weather is more dangerous and unpredictable during the other months. This forced him to pull the plug on that attempt and reschedule for this year instead. That journey may not have reached the conclusion he had hoped for, but it did prove that his SUP could perform on the Pacific and set a record for the longest distance traveled by a wing-foil watercraft.
Relaunching the TransPacific Wing Project
On May 31, 2022, Chris returned to the water, relaunching his attempt to cross the Pacific Ocean. This time, he set out from Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz, California, with the goal of reaching Oahu, Hawaii, by the end of July. His course was expected to cover 2550 miles (4104 km) and take 60 days to complete as he spends 12 hours a day manning the wing-foil.
Bertish calls this undertaking the TransPacific Wing Project, with goals that go beyond just crossing the Pacific. The South African has become a staunch advocate for protecting our planet’s oceans, which are increasingly under threat from climate change, warming temperatures, and pollution. To help raise awareness of these challenges, Chris is sharing weekly video-logs from the Flying Fish and is conducting floating classroom sessions with scientists and climatologists providing insights into how the Pacific and other bodies of water are transforming.
The project is also being used as a fundraiser for Sea Shepherd, Conservation International, and The Chris Bertish Foundation. Each of those organizations focuses on protecting the oceans and making the world a better place for future generations—something that seems increasingly difficult to do at the moment.
Arriving in Hawaii
Chris wrapped up his journey on July 19, completing the 2550-mile crossing in roughly 48 days. That’s faster than expected, as he had originally expected closer to the end of July or even early August. Steady winds and good weather helped him achieve his goal, using the wing on his SUP to ride along at a great pace.
By reaching the finish line, Bertish becomes the first to use a wing-foil to travel from California to Hawaii. He also smashed the record that he set last year for the longest distance traveled on such a craft.
Congrats to Chris Bertish on finishing this amazing adventure and for his continued advocacy for the ocean.
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