Man with Bay Area ties first to cross Atlantic on stand-up paddle board

A man from South Africa with Bay Area ties became the first person to make a 4,000 mile journey that took over three months to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and he did it in a stand-up paddle board. 

Friends celebrated Chris Bertish's accomplishment at Old Princeton Landing Friday night in Half Moon Bay. Bertish said having a powerful purpose is his driving force. 

He regards the Peninsula town as his second home when he's not in his native South Africa. 

"My whole message is about everything that I do is about believing in yourself and testing your limits , borders and boundaries and shifting from your comfort zone; testing what's possible," Bertish said. 

He said that's why he decided to cross the Atlantic Ocean on a paddle craft. When at sea, he's in his element. 

He began his journey in Morocco December 6. From the start, he says the conditions were harrowing and that he faced up to 45 mile an hour winds, 40-foot waves and that these conditions persisted on an almost daily basis. 

"Between giant great white sharks that were trying to attack me, to giant squids trying to pull me down in my craft underneath in 20-30 foot seas, to my steering system failing, to my power system not charging up my battery banks properly..."

Bertish said just about everything that could go wrong, did. Despite setbacks, he says what powered him through was the purpose of his journey and another goal, which was to raise money for children in Africa with medical needs, food and education. 

"You have to be so passionate and driven and so focused on the layers of why you want to get to the other side and be so passionate about your purpose and that's why will help you and inspire you and drive you through those difficult times," Bertish said.  

The seasoned sailor and big-wave surfer said he drew on his past experience to accomplish his feat.

In 2010, Bertish said he nearly lost his life a half hour into the Mavericks competition, before he went on to win. He says he approaches challenges the same way he lives life: taking one step at a time. 

"I was paddling one stroke at a time. Just focus on what's in front of you. Don't think of the insurmountable goal at the end because it'll become too overwhelming. I did 2 and a half million strokes over 93 days. That's the equivalent of doing an ironman every single day for 93 days straight," said Bertish.

He says he never slept for more than an hour and a half at a time.

It was mission accomplished on March 9 when Bertish arrived in Antigua an island in the West Indies having traveled 4,000 nautical miles.
"Once I got to the other side, it was like this massive weight that came off my shoulders," says Bertish," I've fulfilled my purpose and my legacy. Suddenly I felt further lightened and completely content and free," says Bertish.

Bertish returns home to South Africa Saturday.

For the next two years, he says he will be working on a documentary and a book about his journey.

In 2020, Bertish plans to travel around the world to do other projects to continue to raise money for children in Africa.