Stand-Up Paddler Attempts Historic Transatlantic Journey on Solar-Powered Board
The 120-day, 4,600-mile feat will take Chris Bertish from Morocco to Florida.
On Dec. 6, Chris Bertish and his solar-powered stand-up paddle (SUP) board took off from the Agadir Marina in Morocco for an adventure of a lifetime. Approximately 120 days later, the South African sailor and big-wave surfer will have paddled 4,500-miles to Miami, Florida, making him the first person on the planet to SUP across the Atlantic Ocean.
That is, if everything goes to plan.
"I've been hearing that I'm nuts all my life, and I wouldn't want it any other way," Bertish, 42, told the New York Times before setting off on his journey, which took him and his team four years to plan. "I've been proving people wrong all of my life. But I've always wanted to push the boundaries because that's where the magic happens."
Bertish's SUP, of course, isn't your typical board. The $120,000, Phil Morrison-designed craft is more like a stand-up boat that has a watertight compartment that allows him to completely sit upright and stretch out for sleep and rest. The vessel also contains weather forecasting equipment, locater and GPS systems, water storage bladders and anchors. Two sets of solar panels will juice on-board batteries and the electronics.
The design is meant to protect Bertish from capsizing, an unfortunate incident which happened to Frenchman Nicolas Jarossay, who was the previous person who tried to SUP across the Atlantic earlier this year. Jarossay's attempt ended only hours after taking off.
"A key reason for placing the main cabin forward is the that it helps the craft self-right faster, more effectively than any other production boat on the market. The natural shape of the craft on the waterline lends itself to being wider in the forward section of the hull," Bertish's team said about the craft. "As a result, this is where most of the volume exists and by placing a cabin here, it enhances buoyancy to produce a more effective self-righting moment. Moreover, forward placement protects you from headwinds with a superior aerodynamic profile as well as providing easier control downwind. A center plate to aid straight line tracking improves capability even further."
The designers say that the board has a zero percent carbon footprint, to boot.
Bertish is highly aware that the journey will be long, treacherous and a true test of mental and physical endurance. As the Times describes:
"The first five days, as he becomes accustomed to the paddleboard and fights to avoid being blown back to land, will be the hardest, he said—90 percent of the challenge, in fact, by his estimate.
"Once at sea, Bertish can expect to battle rough seas, sun exposure and tricky tides and currents, as well as unforeseen obstacles. He had been waiting weeks in Morocco for the perfect window of weather conditions to begin, and on Tuesday, he concluded that it had arrived.
"Hoping to use the tides and weather conditions to his benefit, Bertish plans to paddle about 30 miles a day—mostly at night, to avoid exposure to the sun—for more than 120 days. On a typical day, Bertish said, he will alternate between resting and paddling every two or three hours. He will continuously hydrate and will nourish himself with protein shakes, freeze-dried meals with endurance additives, and salty jerky to replenish the electrolytes he will lose through sweating."
For entertainment, Bertish has his guitar and an onboard music player to play favorites like Eddie Vedder, Creed, INXS and Johnny Clegg. He also has eight recordings from his mental coach when he needs the encouragement. And in case you're wondering, to relieve himself, "the ocean is a terrific sustainable toilet," he told the Times.
Bertish is already besting his predecessor. Forty-eight hours after taking off, he posted onto Facebook that he was already 60 miles in open waters.
"It was a pretty tough 36-48 hours and now I am out into the big blue," he wrote. "Not exactly the right weather conditions to get me down to the Canaries. We wanted to build enough sea room and a buffer from land so that getting shipwrecked on land was not an option. Last night I had to jump in the water to get my para-anchor off my rudder and it looks like it's doing the same right now. I was taking a break to check systems and there were a couple of glitches along the way that I needed to sort out, but we are doing it!"
Bertish's current whereabouts can be tracked live on his website and on social media. The journey will also raise funds for his selected charities—Signature of Hope Trust, The Lunchbox Fund and Operation Smile.
"This has been a 4-year project in the making and lifetime of preparation and I'm ready," he said in a release. "My specialized SUP craft is incredible, I have an amazing team behind me, supporting me from land and an unbelievable support from friends and people all around the world for this incredible journey, which is going to change the lives of millions of children in Africa, which is what will keep driving and inspiring me right till the end."
Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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