Dinner with a legend: Chris Bertish – the next chapter

Chris Bertish Ke Nalu
Chris Bertish Limitless photo by: Kanoa Zimmerman
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Chris Bertish is no ordinary man.  Maverick, madman, waterman, legend, the guy inspires by his presence and his perspective.  He’s got a whole new way of looking at things, to see past the obstacles and a laser-like focus that drives him to feats hitherto unknown like paddling across the Atlantic, solo and unassisted. He’s grounded, funny and wickedly intelligent.

So, when I heard that Chris Bertish was in town for a NY minute and wanted to have dinner, I knew I was in for a rare and special treat.

Chris & I met over sushi at a local spot not far from NYC.  He had a flight out early the next morning and yet, true to form, he agreed to meet me half way between where he was staying and my digs in Montauk, NY.  We sat for 3 hours, sharing stories and philosophies over raw salmon and rainbow rolls, finding common ground and a shared stoke over all things water based, environmental efforts to preserve the oceans and, of course, stand up paddling.  As one sits across from him and begins to understand what he’s been through, it is easy to see that Chris Bertish has learned to defy the limits of human potential and uses hard work and mental acuity to chase after his dreams.  Here is his latest adventure:

Chris Bertish - sup crossing arrival antigua KeNalu Marco Bava
Chris Bertish arrives in Antigua after 93 days at sea, crossing the Atlantic Ocean solo via stand up paddleboard, in order to raise money for charities.  Photo by:  Marco Bava

Chris Bertish: What do you do after you’ve paddled across the ocean?

A maverick who is both grounded and deeply inspiring, Chris’ travel since his transatlantic sup crossing brings him to a place of increased productivity, monolithic goals and a need for quiet in order to close certain chapters and circles in his life – like finishing his film Stand Alone about the Sup Crossing due out in September 2018 – while getting ready to embark on his next great adventure.

His journey is just beginning.  As he puts it, the transatlantic crossing was just “a stepping stone towards a greater vision.”

Chris Bertish Project Blue
Ultra endurance athlete, big wave charger and eco-conscious entrepreneur, Chris Bertish sharing his experience of crossing the Atlantic ocean in order to inspire others to achieve their dreams. Photo by: David Altabev

Today, CB is juggling a lot of opportunity in his life.  His success in paddling across the ocean – a feat that most people told him he was crazy to attempt –  has brought him a lot of attention and he is focused on using his time wisely.

Physical Toll

Chris’ paddle across the Atlantic is not without impact.  He admits to still navigating the effects of PTSD from his 93 day oceanic crossing where he  literally put himself into a high-alert survival mode 24/7 in order to come out alive.  As he says, there were “multiple life threatening situations every day.” He needed to diagnose and fix damaged equipment, tend to his physical cuts/abrasions, survive heaving storms on the Atlantic at night and even, at one point, prepare to be broadsided by a 24 foot Great White shark.  His adrenaline levels may take years to recover.

In addition, he’s undergone surgery for a torn rotator cuff that flared up on the early days of his crossing, but he pushed through to complete it anyway. He says, that for every problem, he was focused on finding the solution.

‘There was no turning back.”  By the time he reached Antigua, the muscles in his shoulder had already knit themselves into a new pattern making his recovery more prolonged and complicated than usual.

Chris Bertish ImpiFish
Chris Bertish arrives in Antigua’s English Harbour 93 days after he launched from the coastline of Morocco. Photo by: Marco Bava

Inspiring Others

While Chris spent the last 12 months healing his body, having surgery – as he says, “getting his head & body back” to optimal function – he’s been anything but stationary.  Since he stepped off the water at English Harbour in Antigua, he’s been on an enormous wave of speaking tours, and is committed to closing all the loops from his last project.

Bertish has been traveling around the world, seemingly non-stop, inspiring audiences as a motivational speaker since his transatlantic sup crossing. His renowned talks – which range from public schools to corporate events –  include anecdotes and highlights from his sup crossing, big wave career and other life experiences as a platform to inspire others to overcome obstacles, challenges and fears to achieve impossible goals.

“Why would you ever give up on anything? You’ll never achieve it if you give up!” – CB

Chris’ talks touch on the value of grit, courage, passion, perseverance and purpose. He teaches the importance of an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ in order to keep a positive mindset and advocates for individuals to follow their own passions which can lead to finding their power and purpose.

Once we have a purpose, he says, anything is possible.

Chris Bertish protect blue Starboard Italy
Chris’ recent travels have been connecting with groups working towards conservation, preservation and celebration of our environment (like www.protect.blue featured here) especially the world’s oceans.  There is a LOT of inspiring work happening in and around the paddling world in this regard.  Stay tuned for ways that YOU can #StandupfortheEnvironment.

A Book & a Film about The Sup Crossing

His film ‘Stand Alone’ is due out in September 2018. Chris is currently seeking funding to complete the soundtrack for the film.  The trailer, which he invited me to view over dinner, is a stunner of cinematography, dramatic moments and incredible footage from the crossing. In it, he is real, raw and not looking to over dramatize anything but show how ridiculous it is for one man to take on the challenge of crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a craft 19 feet in length with a cabin only large enough for his cramped body and some satellite equipment.

Chris is also committed to finishing his next book on the Sup Crossing, entitled Limitless.

He looks forward to some downtime at home in South Africa over the next few weeks to get quiet and spend time writing.  The book is due out in May of 2019.  If it’s anything like his previous autobiographical tale, Stoked covering his life’s journey and the training that led to his win at the Maverick’s surf contest in 2010 – a story filled with deep wisdom, reflections and harrowing moments both in and out of the water – we are in for one great read!

Chris Bertish recovery sup crossing
Chris recovers from rotator cuff surgery in the months following his transatlantic sup crossing.

Chris Bertish:  Ambassador for the Planet

In addition to working on his film and his book, Chris’ newfound celebrity has also led him to become a staunch advocate for the environment.

“I used to eat tuna, but then I fell in love with an albacore.”
– Chris Bertish

This past year’s travels have taken him to many different countries all spearheading environmental preservation efforts and Chris dove in with his characteristic full throttle commitment and focus.

To date, Chris’ passion has led him to become:
Ambassador for Conservation/Education with the Two Oceans Aquarium
Ambassador for the Thor Heyerdahl Climate Change Parks:  planting mangroves to offset global Carbon emissions.
Ambassador for Lykke Blue, a Crypto currency Wallet:  Lykke Blue just launched TREE, the first Crypto Currency backed by an asset. Each tree Coin is a Mangrove Tree planted in the Thor Heyerdahl Climate Change park so you are trading in good and positive change.

He is also Ambassador for 1% back for the Planet and is working hard toward achieving his own goal of becoming B Corp Certified in his business.  He is proud to have that business (his speaking, coaching, and traveling arrangements) certified as Carbon Net Positive and has already planted over 2000 mangrove trees this year in 2018.

chris bertish mavericks titan 2016

Maverick’s Champion, Transatlantic Sup Crossing – Now What?

Chris’ next chapter promises to be an interesting one.  As he puts it, every move he’s made in the last 7-8 years is leading him to his biggest goal, a project he plans to launch in 2020-2021.  His environmental focus, his commitment to educating and inspiring others and, of course, Chris’ wild love of ocean sports are are part of the mix for his project in 2021.

This project, which he explained to me, made my head spin. His goal?  To inspire and positively impact 300 million people while highlighting and raising money and awareness for education, conservation and sustainability. He wants to do this through an inspiring journey around the world, across 12 different open ocean sports. It is an incredible endeavor showcasing extreme athleticism, environmental advocacy and education.

When I first heard Bertish wanted to make a crossing  of the Atlantic on a stand up paddle board, my initial reaction was, “What?!!  Yeah, right.”  I’ve since learned to keep my mind open and judgement shut when Chris comes up with a plan that sounds … outlandish?

Chris Bertish sup crossing
Chris’s ordeal from crossing the ocean on the ImpiFish (his stand up paddle craft seen here) took a physical and mental toll that he has spent the last 12 months recovering from. Photo by: Marco Bava

Power, Passion & Purpose:  the journey is just beginning

Chris’ journey is an inspiring one.  He has more dreams and visions than anyone I’ve ever met and he’s set out to create those visions into reality through sheer grit and determination. Chris is a tireless worker, a madcap lover of all water based sports on an extreme level and a philanthropist at heart.

His commitment to sharing his experiences though his books, narratives and films hold great value for Chris.  He is using his own life perspective as a way to educate others about training their minds to see past the obstacles that stand in the way of achieving one’s goals.

Over sushi in NY, he quoted a great thinker who opined, “the obstacle is the way” and then described for me how obstacles on our journey are merely stepping stones to help us realign our efforts and our passions to pursue the goal from a new perspective.  One must use the obstacle as an opportunity, for growth or for advancement.

“If we’re not growing, then we’ve stopped living.” – Chris Bertish

Chris Bertish foil Kaloa Zimmerman
Chris’ newest passion is the art of foiling. He says this activity is the closest a human can get to riding the actual energy of the ocean. Photo by: Kanoa Zimmerman

Chris’ ultimate mission is to inspire others. Every move he makes is a commitment to his greater goal to serve humanity through his experience, his stories, his passion and his purpose.  From the Maverick’s surf contest (where he got held under and almost drowned but still managed to pull off one more wave to win) to the setting of his multiple World Records for open ocean sup crossings, to his most recent crossing of the Atlantic, solo and unassisted, via stand up paddle board, Chris Bertish is legit.

If this guy says you can do it, he’s right.  It’s a mental game.  May we all learn how.

Chris Bertish Evelyn O'Doherty Standup Journal
Chris Bertish and Online Editor Evelyn O’Doherty : Sushi with CB is more of an adventure of the mind than a casual dinner. We laughed, I cried (at seeing the trailer of Stand Alone) and left a better person.

Look forward to seeing the film Stand Alone this September and reading the book Limitless in May 2019!  Also stay tuned to hear MORE about Chris Bertish’s 2020 fantastic project showcasing ocean sports, conservation,sustainability and education in the year ahead here at Standup Journal Online.  To prepare for this project, Chris is spending his free time mastering the art(s) of foiling through prone surf, sup, kite and windsurf.

As he says, “Foiling is like tapping into the source.  You’re riding the energy {of the water} in its purest sense.”  The look in his eye when he made that statement was intense.  It made me a believer.

Chris Bertish, you’re one in a million.  Thanks for dinner!  Looking forward to the next chapter.


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Evelyn O'Doherty, editor & publisher of the new Standup Journal 2.0 is a former school teacher gone rogue. She left her career as a teacher in order to spend more time near or on the water after learning to surf turned her life around (upsidedown?). She is a year-round surfer and paddler living on the eastern tip of Long Island in NY who is a certified SUP instructor, seasoned SUP racer and avid longboard surfer. Evelyn was hired as Online Editor to Standup Journal in 2016. Her passion for the project quickly led to her success and eventually taking over the mag herself in Oct. 2018. Today, as editor, publisher and chief bottle washer at Standup Journal, Evelyn keeps her toes wet writing, traveling, paddling, surfing, and learning to foil. You can find her most days paddling out on Gardiner's Bay or surfing Ditch Plains in Montauk, NY.