Famed waterman recounts his ‘really crazy’ solo journey across the Pacific in a wing-foil vessel

With no support boat in tow, the trip featured only him and the world’s largest ocean.
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 5:43 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Explorer and conservationist Chris Bertish is back on land fter completing the expedition of a lifetime, becoming the first person to travel solo from California to Hawaii via wing-foil vessel.

In late May, Bertish left Santa Cruz, California to embark on the one-of-a-kind journey: 2,550-miles across the Pacific Ocean on a wing-foil completely powered by solar and wind energy.

With no support boat in tow, the trip featured only him and the world’s largest ocean.

“Most people think the things that I do are really crazy and extreme and this guy must be completely nuts, but everything that I do is so meticulous and there’s so much safety involved in what I do,” Bertish explained.

“With my ocean knowledge and my experience, I’m going out into my second home.”

And that second home featured a variety of obstacles, including freezing weather, high surf, and vessels much larger than his.

But Bertish launched this trip to bring awareness to ocean pollution and climate change and the middle of the Pacific offered some harrowing insights.

“People make the statements about, ‘Well if we don’t do something now, by 2050, there’ll be more plastic pollution than fish,’” Bertish said. “Well, I only saw seven fish on my entire journey and I counted over 79 pieces of polystyrene and plastic on my journey.”

Bertish’s diet consisted of freeze-dried food and water filtered through a de-salination device.

He’d sleep about one to three hours a night in a cramped pod just under 5 feet long.

In total, the expedition lasted 48 days, a week ahead of his projected schedule

But those final 36 hours were some of the most intense.

He neared Hawaii just as Tropical Storm Darby hovered near the islands.

“I’m inside my tiny little cabin and I can feel the craft like taking off and going down this massive wave,” Bertish said. “When I looked up, I think the last thing I saw before the craft broached and then rolled with me inside it, I was going almost 18 mph ... which is quite terrifying when the craft is not meant to do that and surf at all.”

But he survived the storm and completed an odyssey filled with memories and a lasting message.

“We got to achieve something that no one’s ever done and raise a hell of a lot of awareness for some of the ocean pollution problems and hopefully, it’ll make people stop and think,” Bertish said.

“Make better decisions and maybe make some changes and be the change that we want to all see in the world. Not only for now, but for future generations to come.”

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