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It’s official. Chris Bertish is officially made of something else. Yesterday, with one of the biggest southerly swells to hit Hawaii in years, Bertish completed his Trans-Pacific Wing Project, where he used his custom-built craft and a handheld wing to traverse the Pacific from Santa Cruz, Calif. to Hawaii. The journey took Bertish 48 days where he apparently averaged 12 hours a day holding the wing to capture the wind power needed to propel himself across the Pacific.

“The first part of the trip was super intense due to extreme weather and coming into the Hawaiian Island with Tropical storm-Darby on my heels, making for some of the most extreme and scary ocean conditions I have ever experienced,” he wrote on Instagram. “But I don’t think it was as frightening as the amount of ocean pollution I saw out in the Pacific along the journey.

A wing is a handheld device that falls between a kite and a windsurfing setup. It’s easy to power up and power down and comes in different sizes based on how much wind there is. The higher the wind, the smaller the wing needed (more here). Bertish’s vessel, the Flying Impifish, which he also used to paddle across the Atlantic, was originally supposed to be outfitted with a foil but it isn’t clear if the foils were used during the crossing (we’ll find out more). The 14-foot Impifish is outfitted with a cabin and small sleeping space where Bertish could rest and refuel during the course of the 48-day journey.

This was Bertish’s second attempt at the crossing. His first attempt was cut short last year after the Impifish experienced electronic malfunction and he had to pull out at Morro Bay after launching from Half Moon Bay, Calif. By the time the repairs were complete, he’d missed his weather window to make the crossing with the correct winds.

The Pacific voyage from California to Hawaii solo is a perilous one. Many have tried kayaking and several have been turned back (including one who almost died in 2018 after being found unresponsive near Pebble Beach). Ironically, Frenchman Cyril Derreumaux is in the middle of the same journey right now. Ed Gillett, who left Monterey Bay in June of 1987 and arrived on Maui 63 days later, eating toothpaste for nourishment after his relatives feared he’d been lost at sea, is the only paddler to have completed it.

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The perilous crossing is of the Everest-ilk, with gnarly currents, days alone at sea, wildlife and all the perils that come with open-ocean travel. And Bertish has just knocked off his second gigantic expedition. And as with his Atlantic journey, it was done for charity, this time for ocean awareness. Proceeds from the journey will go to Conservation International, Sea Shepherd, Parley, and the SeaTrees Initiative. At one point during the expedition, Bertish posted an emotional message on his Instagram page, floored by the amount of garbage in the sea he was encountering during the journey: “I just wanted people to see how bad it is out here.” 

Bertish put a cap on the mission yesterday, with friends like Jamie Mitchell and Barton Lynch meeting him to escort him into the Hawaii Yacht Club. A solo mission inherently requires a lot of soul searching. It’s an unbelievable amount of time with one’s own head. Many might ask why you’d want to do a solo trip like that, alone for days on end. Bertish explained that to us in a lengthy interview last year.

“I don’t want to be relying on someone else when there are so many other elements that could possibly go wrong that are out of my control,” he said. “With all the things that I’ve done in the past, the only person who’s never let me down is myself. If I take all the knowledge I have — the surfing, the sailing, the heavy weather, all the ocean stuff that I’ve learned — and if I’ve built-in redundancies and backups and backups for every one of my major systems, there’s no reason why the project should fail… unless I give up, and I’ve never given up on anything in my entire life. I’ve never let myself down.”

Editor’s Note: This story will be updated as more information becomes available. 

 

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