Chris Bertish

First-Ever Transatlantic SUP Crossing | The Preparation

South African waterman Chris Bertish is not one to be afraid of a good challenge. After all, this is a guy who won the Mavericks Invitational in 2009, and also holds a Guinness World Record for paddling nearly 80 miles in 12 hours. But as impressive as those feats are, his latest undertaking would dwarf most physical accomplishments known to man. That’s because, within the next few weeks Bertish will attempt to become the first person to complete a transatlantic SUP crossing–4,500 miles in 120 days. The journey will take him from Morocco to Florida, with stops in the Canary and Caribbean islands. SUP recently caught up with Chris to ask him about his ambitious plan. Our discussion will be released as a multi-part web series, with each installment focusing on a different aspect of the trip. In this first part, Bertish fills us in on his extensive four-year preparation.

SUP: What preparation have you been doing the past year to get ready for this trip?

CB: For the last 12 months, I've been working 16 hour days, seven days a week. Just with training alone, I was paddling between 50 and 80 miles every week and that's on top of surfing and training in both the gym and pool. I have to be very careful about making sure the nutrition, craft, logistics of craft, satellite communications systems, backup systems, emergency systems and the first aid stuff is all ready. Because once you leave, you leave. You’re not able to call for assistance or realize you don't have something you should have thought about six months ago. You're 2,000 miles from nowhere.

SUP: Tell us a little bit about the SUP you will be using to cross the Atlantic?

CB: This is an incredibly unique and technical craft. It took four months and cost just under a $100,000 to build. There's nothing like it that exists on the planet. It basically takes elements of my open ocean 17' SIC board and combines it with elements of open ocean rowboats that have done the transatlantic crossing on a regular basis. Looking at the fastest ones and taking the best elements out of all their systems to create something pretty unique. I have three different steering systems and an emergency rudder system in case the other fails. It has a self-sufficient cabin on the front which is water tight. I have all my electronics inside and I can change my course, my routing, communicate with outside world, be on the radio, check weather systems; it's pretty incredible.


SUP: What have you done to be ready for any scenario you may encounter? 

CB: I've put a lot of time and effort into doing version tests and making sure it rights itself properly. There are desalinating systems that are connected to solar that runs the whole craft. If the water maker fails, theres a backup hand-pump system and if that fails there's another backup system. I've got two different battery banks that run all the different systems and if those fail there's a backup system that runs all the basic equipment. These are all really expensive pieces of equipment. I look at all the stuff I have and half of it you may need and half of it is probably overkill. But if you need it when stuff goes wrong, it's definitely not overkill and I'll thank God I put in all the time and effort to make sure I had a backup plan.

SUP: Does all of this preparation give you confidence going into this crossing?

CB: It's the ocean so you can only be cautiously confident and can never do enough planning and preparation. There is always the element of chance and always the element of risk. All you can do is take the knowledge and experience you have from everything you've done and try to minimize the risk at all different avenues. Then try to be flexible to the changes and obstacles that come your way.

To learn more about Chris Bertish and the world’s first-ever solo, open ocean, SUP trans-atlantic crossing, visit

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More about Bertish’s upcoming transatlantic crossing.