On Thursday, South African surfer and motivational speaker Chris Bertish became the first person to paddleboard across the Atlantic without assistance.
Bertish is no stranger to challenging feats on the water: he holds the 12-hour and 24-hour distance record for open ocean stand-up paddleboard; the 12-hour downwind distance record; and the biggest wave in recorded surfing competition. His arrival in Antigua marked the end of a three month, 4,000 nm, two million-paddlestroke journey, the culmination of years of planning and training.
He departed Agadir, Morocco on December 6 on a route that would take him around the Canary Islands and across the Atlantic to Florida. However, due to an unfavorable weather forecast, he changed his destination to Antigua's Leeward Islands. He described the emotional moment of his arrival in a final logbook post: "As I approach the the outer limit of the bay at English Harbour and turn the corner . . . still surging with inspired energy and adrenalin surges, the pain in my shoulder, hands and body, disappear and is replaced by pure sense of renewed energy, upliftment and joy," he wrote.
"The last few days were super intense," he told the Times. "It's just so nice to be on dry land and not to have to worry about all the billions of things that could [go] wrong."
Bertish's "board" for the crossing was a custom 20-foot boat designed by Phil Morrison, a noted naval architect and sailboat racer. It has a watertight compartment forward for shelter and navigational equipment, and it was designed to be self-righting in the event of a capsize. He told the Times that it suffered multiple leaks and equipment failures, but he was able to keep it moving forward despite storms, high winds, exhaustion and injury (a torn rotator cuff).