Record-breaking wing foil journey across Pacific reveals ocean pollution crisis
A man broke the world record for the longest distance traveled on a wing foil last week in Honolulu.
Chris Bertish traveled 2,465 miles from Santa Cruz, California over 48 days, 15 hours and 15 minutes to Hawaiʻi on a solo mission aboard his custom wing foil named ImpiFish.
The ImpiFish is 3.6 feet wide and 19 feet long. Bertish says it is the only long-distance wing foil in the world. The Impifish is a carbon net-zero vehicle running entirely on wind and solar energy and hydropower.
The high-tech wing foil is packed with satellite navigation and communication systems, a water desalination unit, freeze-dried foods, and different-sized wings.
All major systems had three backups because if something went wrong, Bertish could depend on no one but himself.
Bertish only slept for 45 minutes at a time because the journey required constant navigating and steering. He constantly attached himself to the wing foil using a system of ropes and harnesses.
“If I get separated from my craft for more than three seconds, my percentage ratio of survival is zero,” he said. “The craft drifts faster than I can swim.”
Bertish was thrown off the ImpiFish a handful of times, but he was always able to get back on using the ropes.
The last leg of the journey coincided with the recent record-breaking south swells. But Bertish says the amount of pollution he saw was more alarming than the 15-foot waves.
“The plastic and polystyrene ocean pollution crisis that I saw out there, which was even more terrifying, I think, you know. In the sort of 50 days that I was out there, I only saw six fish and I saw 67 pieces of polystyrene and plastic pollution,” he told HPR.
“I think we are in a way bigger challenge and crisis than people think and if I was seeing that much polystyrene and packaging and plastic pollution out there now, it terrifies me what we can see in 10 years' time.”
Raised in South Africa, Bertish participated in ocean sports his entire life. His familiarity with the ocean helped build a foundation to not only cross the Pacific Ocean in a solo wing foil journey, but also stand-up paddle board for 4,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
Although he had multiple sponsors, Bertish had to sell his house to fund the wing foil expedition from California to Honolulu.
“I’m very passionate about what I do and I also believe in raising awareness and making the change we want to see in this world,” Bertish said.