Completing the First-Ever Circumnavigation of Bermuda – Part 3

Photo courtesy of Plastic Tides.

This installment is continued from Part 1 and Part 2 of our Circumnavigating Bermuda series, the three-part story of the first nonstop SUP circumnavigation of Bermuda by Christian Shaw and Gordon Middleton of Plastic Tides. It was a brutal overnight attempt that resulted in lots of type II fun, a great campfire tale and Bermuda’s first SUP race – The Devil’s Isle Challenge.

Then something happened we’d thought might never come. The first signs of light crept out from under the horizon.

The sun was coming. If we could only stay awake a little longer, the sun would shine and we would be able to see. Standing wouldn’t be a focused task anymore, but a passive anticipation of the waves and chop around you.

When it crested the horizon, we were ecstatic. We sang into our camera “Here comes the sun! Doo doo doo doo!”.

The sun kissed the shore, illuminating Horseshoe Bay. We weren’t quite halfway, but we had still made very good time. Now with the sun up we felt our energy renewed. We chomped down on Clif Bars and enjoyed the sunrise for a moment before paddling on.

At around 7am we got a call from VIBE 103.3, a popular radio station on island, made famous by brothers Collie Buddz and Smokey Harper. DJ Chubb and Sherri Berri greeted us loud and clear. Speaking on the radio from the water was a first for us. Stoked, we sped off down south shore.

We rounded the corner towards Somerset, now paddling up the west shore to a favorite spot of ours, Daniel’s Head. A very good friend of ours has a board rental shop there called Surf SUP Bermuda and we thought we might see him. Coming past the point we were bummed to see his shop still closed, but not surprised for the phrase “island time” is well known for a reason. The water here is the most beautiful of anywhere on the island, so we took our time crossing Somerset Long Bay. A tourist boat drove close by us and we yelled in pirate accents at them. The tourist boat left. The pirate accents stayed. We were getting delirious.

Pushing on, we made our way to the tip of Ireland Island. We stayed close to shore for shelter from the wind, and as we rounded the fort we made a tough realization. At hour 17 we had a hell of a headwind to overcome.

From Dockyard across the opening to Great Sound and on to the North Shore; we had about four miles to go dead upwind and our muscles were giving out. We decided to paddle hard to make the painful journey shorter. Our heads down, we stroked towards the shore in the distance. No talking now. No talking until the end of the trip. We became zombie paddleboarders. Pain faded into the background, not because it wasn’t there, but because everything was in the background. I felt like both ears were pressed firmly against two conch shells. We remained transfixed on the shore ahead of us and pushed ourselves through the wind and waves.

About halfway across, Weldon Wade of Defenders of the Reef seemingly came out of nowhere in his boat. He asked how we were doing, snapped a few photos, and said he’d see us at the finish line. He drove off and we paddled on. It took us two hours to cover four miles. Not bad with a headwind and after 17 hours of paddling. Once in the lee of the island though, the wind conveniently shifted. Now another lesser but just as annoying headwind fought us along the north shore. We stayed mere meters away from the cliff, trying to get the most protection from the wind that we could. The next hour was as muted as the last two. No talking. Just paddling. We could barely form words to greet folks along the shore.

Arriving to our finish line at Flatt’s Inlet was surreal. We stepped off our boards onto solid ground for the first time in 20 hours. I immediately felt like I was rocking. I couldn’t stand still and kept having to shuffle around. Weldon was waiting and had brought prosecco to celebrate our success. We downed a bottle, did a nonsensical interview with Weldon, and then passed out in the grass. I woke up wondering if it had all been a wild dream, but the pain quickly reminded me that it wasn’t. I felt accomplished in a horribly, horribly sore, type II fun sort of way. Every expedition Plastic Tides has done so far has upped the ante from the last. So it begs the question, now what?

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Circumnavigating Bermuda Part 1

Circumnavigating Bermuda Part 2