A first hand account from the finish line of Chris Bertish’s historic Atlantic SUP Crossing
It was actually happening.
In the early morning hours of March 9, Chris Bertish’s arrival at English Harbour in Antigua was imminent. He was only a few miles away from completing one of the most mind-boggling feats in recent memory--a solo, unsupported crossing of the Atlantic Ocean on a SUP.
Yet as I arrived at the Nelson’s Dockyard--the only functioning Georgian-era dock in the world--it was oddly quiet. The historical buildings, many of which have since been converted into restaurants, sat empty, and the decks of the beautiful sailing yachts that Antigua’s harbor is known to attract carried not a soul to be seen.
Was it really happening?
“It’s only seven in the morning, it takes a while for things to get moving on this island,” said Jason Pickering, the local photographer I was working with.
Consumed with excitement for the approaching historical moment, I had forgotten all about island time. I mused about for a while longer before Bertish’s team informed us that he was less than an hour away. For a man who had spent 93 days at sea, there was no such thing as island time. Only go time.
Jason and I scampered onto a 14-foot dingy and headed out to catch our first glimpse of the man who began his journey nearly 4,000 nautical miles away in Agadir, Morocco. We exited the harbor to meet winds gusting around 20 to 25 knots fueling large swells that made our boat feel vulnerable. But Bertish wasn’t even on a boat, he was on a standup paddleboard.
A lot of people thought crossing the ocean on a SUP simply could not be done. But as we saw him bobbing up and down in the large swells, we realized Bertish was only minutes away from proving those people wrong.
The final half-mile was a celebration lap 93 days in the making. Bertish set off celebratory red flares and howled like a wolf. The earlier abandoned dockyard had now come to life with fans cheering him on from both the dock and several yachts.
Appearance-wise, Chris looked like a chiseled version of Tom Hanks’ character in the film, Castaway. He was skinny, tan, and sporting a huge beard and wild hair. But what else could we expect; the dude did just spend the last three months in the Atlantic Ocean after all.
In a particularly touching moment, Bertish’s two brothers, Greg and Conn, hopped on the board with him to paddle the final length of the bay. After an emotional embrace, the trio triumphantly made their way to the dock while Chris, the youngest of the three brothers, made his way into the history books as the first man to successfully standup paddle across the Atlantic.
Despite paddling roughly 4,000 nautical miles, the 41-year-old South African addressed the crowd with incredible energy.
“We just proved to the world that nothing is impossible!” said Bertish. “Now, would it be possible to get a beer?”
He then spent the next hour telling stories from his journey, signing autographs, getting a few bites of a burger, and yes, he finally got to enjoy that well-deserved beer.
Exclusive photos from Chris Bertish’s landing in Antigua.
Watch the video of Bertish landing.
Learn more about the SUP Crossing on Chris Bertish’s website.