He has been watching weather forecasts for weeks and he’s optimistic about new predictions. Hoping that the winds will blow steady and strong in his favour, South African Big Wave surfer and Mavericks hero Chris Bertish will take to the ocean on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 in an attempt to set a new non-stop, 12-hour Open Ocean Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) distance record.
Back in August Bertish set a new World Record for a SUP crossing of the English Channel; but he has never submitted for a Guinness World Record before.
“I’ve set many World firsts and World Records for Big Wave surfing and SUP but never any registered with Guinness,” he explains.
He’s aiming to beat an existing Guinness record in this discipline but he doesn’t have much information on when it was set, where and by whom.
“Guinness don’t send you that information. They just say ‘The Guinness Book of Records for 12-hour Open Ocean SUP was 120km set last year by an American’. That’s all the information I have.”
The distance between his planned launch point in Kommetjie and the finish in Langebaan is 120 kilometres. Bertish is aiming to make it to the end of the lagoon mouth lagoon to record 122 kilometres in the 12-hour period.
Out on the open water Bertish’s course could be affected by ocean currents and wind.
“There are a lot of currents but hopefully I’ll be going in the same direction as the wind. This will help to get to Langebaan a bit quicker.”
Choosing this stretch of water didn’t take Bertish weeks of analysis. He chose this section for one simple reason: “Because it is closest to home,” he laughs. He explains that it is too costly – in time and money – to try to find the most perfect body of water in the World for the record attempt.
“The West Coast does have great South Easters this time of year,” he says, considering the favourable elements of this location. “And, I can go from point-to-point across a huge body of ocean without having to round pinnacles.”
Wearing K-Way technical apparel, Bertish will paddle 20-30 kilometres off-shore. He’s expecting 20 to 40-knot winds and four- to five-metre seas.
To verify the distance covered Bertish will use a number of GPS units. “I’ve got a GPS on my watch and I’ll also have tracking on my phone plus another GPS unit on my board and another one on the support boat.”
The support boat is present both for safety and to document this record attempt.
Guinness Records often call for video footage to verify attempts – a tough ask for 12 non-stop hours out at sea.
“I’ve got a camera connected to a battery pack shooting at a five-second time delay. Each clip saves metatag data to record the time and date.”
If there’s one question that always comes up with speaking about the waters of the Western Cape it is, “What about sharks?”.
“They’re the least of my worries,” he laughs. “I’ll be trying to focus on managing fatigue and staying upright and dealing with the elements for 12-hours straight while trying not to pass out from heat exhaustion, sunstroke, dehydration and sheer fatigue.”
To prepare for this grueling physical undertaking Bertish has been training on and in the water.
“I’ve put in huge amounts of preparation – lots of paddling time, lots of swim training, lots of open ocean paddling into wind, with the wind, down wind and as much of everything that I can fit in around work,” he says.
Although his attention is on this SUP record attempt, he has one eye on Big Wave surfing conditions abroad. A few weeks ago Bertish received an invitation to compete at Mavericks, an invitation-only Big Wave event in Northern California, which he won in 2010. The event wasn’t held in 2011 or 2012; this year he made the semi-finals and finished 6th.
“Like all the Mavericks events, there’s a five-month weather window. It started in November and goes through to April so I’m on standby all the time. I’m hoping it will only happen next year because training for Big Wave surfing is incredibly specific. As soon as I have this record attempt out of the way I’ll hang up the paddleboard to focus totally on the Big Wave side of things.
For now, it’s all about going for this SUP record.
Bertish’s Guinness Book of Records attempt is made possible by Island Tribe Sunscreen and supported by Clif Bar, GoPro and Marine Scene and with thanks to co-sponsors SIC, Old Khaki, K-Way, Gul, Suunto and Mophie.
Follow this record attempt through Facebook (chris.bertish) and Twitter (@Chris_Bertish).
Date: Tuesday, 17 December 2013
Start time: 07h00 from Sunset Reef, Kommetjie
Finish time: 19h00, Langebaan
Duration: 12 hours
Record attempt: 12-hour Open Ocean Stand Up Paddle (SUP)
Current Guinness Record: 120 kilometres in 12 hours set by an American in 2012
Chris’ attempted record distance: > 120 kilometres in the 12 hour period