Chris Bertish has more than just the physical stamina to cross the Atlantic ocean on a paddleboard alone. He also has a mental strength and focus that makes him a fascinating guy. I couldn’t wait for a chance to ask Chris about his mental models and what training he does to keep a forward focus and positive mindset in some hairy and dangerous conditions. From big wave surfing to crossing the Atlantic, Chris is a mental mountain of strength, commitment and can-do attitude. Check out Part II of our convo here.
The Chris Bertish mindset: What it means to be ‘ALL in’
“Just getting to the start line was as insurmountably difficult as the actual trip.”
Chris Bertish put a lot on the line in order to make this transatlantic passage happen. As he tells it, he put it ALL on the line: his home, his marriage, his business. He worked on this project 15- 18 hours per day, 7 days a week for over 18 months. As he says, he was ‘all in’.
He claims the commitment he made gave him a greater sense of purpose. “When you sacrifice so much, when you finally leave it gives you a greater sense of purpose because you’ve put it all on the line: your house, your business, your marriage.” Chris also took a well-known hiatus from his primary passion, big wave surfing, for over a year in order to get ready for his transatlantic crossing on his paddlecraft, the IMPiFish.
“When you have all of that on the line, it is the defining definition for ‘ALL IN'”
He knew he’d have to succeed in his voyage because, as he says, if he didn’t he would come home to his life that was a disaster. Yet, if he came home victorious, there was a good chance it would all work out in the end. There was no turning back for Chris.
A Lifetime Waterman: Chris knew he’d be fine out on the ocean
“Once I got into my zone, my world … the ocean is my second home, I would be all right. “
Chris’ friends knew that once he got to that start line, the coast line of Morocco on Dec. 6th 2016, and pushed off from land, he’d be all right. They knew that, “once I got into my zone, my world … the ocean is my second home, I would be all right. They knew that once I left behind all of my stresses, the preparations and everything that came with it, I could manage whatever was out there.”
The ocean was not the point of concern for Chris. It was all of the stresses beforehand, building the IMPiFish, gathering a team, creating a self-perpetuating annuity that would keep giving to those children in Africa long after Chris’ crossing was complete.
Chris knew too, that once he was out on the ocean, he’d be fine.
“Everything I’ve done in my entire life since I was five years old, sailing, surfing giant waves, understanding currents, sailing across the Atlantic, racing yachts in Antigua…” prepared him for the greatest feat he’s accomplished yet, stand up paddling alone & unsupported across 4050 miles of open ocean to reach Antigua’s shore.
Chris knew the ocean coupled with his background in big wave surfing is what made this project so unique. It gave him the confidence to sacrifice so much because he believed in his inevitable success.
Creating a Powerful WHY was Critical to Chris’ Mindset
One of his mental models, or techniques, that kept him positive while working through difficulties was, as he’s written about in his Captain’s Log’s, the Power of his WHY. Chris continually reminded himself of all of the layers of why he wanted to be successful: the sacrifices he’d made, the children he wished to serve, the skills his life gave him to bring him to this opportunity. He says that adding all of the layers, stacking them one on top of the other is so powerful.
He knew he had the right skills, he had sacrificed everything that was dear to him to make this transatlantic crossing happen and he knew those children in Africa were depending on him to make a difference. Chris says he continually reminded himself of those stacked layers. It drove every moment out there on the IMPiFish. When he took a break from paddling and went to his cabin, it would be directly in alignment with his purpose. He said he had no time for excuses or wasted thinking. Every moment mattered. His economy of movement and thinking became a drum beat for Chris where no thought was allowed to get in the way of his purpose. Every movement drove him closer to his ultimate goal: finding the shoreline at English Harbour in Antigua.
Powerful focus and determination. When I asked Chris who inspired HIM in his life to become a larger than life character, he immediately responded:
“My brothers. As a little kid, trying to keep up my incredible brothers, watermen in their own rights, definitely has impacted my determination.”
He also attributes much of his success to his experience in big waves, the endurance paddles he’s undergone – 3, 5 and 7 days of paddling – as well as his navigational skills he’s learned from a lifetime of sailing. Whatever it was, Chris’ tactics clearly worked.
Stay driven. Be inspired.
You can learn more about Chris lifetime journey that brought him to the crossroads where he decided to paddle by himself across the Atlantic Ocean in his upcoming film, Ocean Driven and the book he’s written big wave surfing, STOKED.
In Part III of our series, Chatting with Chris Bertish we’ll see how Chris used his mental training, specifically ‘visualization on steroids’ to bring him to the completion of his journey. Stay tuned!