Chris Bertish

Big Wave Surfer

Heard of a little somebody called Charlize
Theron? Yes? Well then, pay attention
because that means you should have heard of
Chris Bertish. Because the surfi ng contest he
recently aced is the Oscars of the sport.
Mavericks, in Northern California, is the stuff
of legend. Pro surfers have died in its massive
waves, which routinely top out at over 15m.
Bertish won the invitation-only contest this year,
earning himself the biggest prize in the history
of surfi ng. He's not the fi rst South African to
win it, but he did it in the biggest waves ever
recorded in a big-wave paddle event.
Bertish is one of an elite group of deathdefying
surfers who tackle Big Waves. The
phrase is capitalised for a reason. Think
minimum of 6m walls of violent force that
can slam you several metres underwater and
you get the picture.
"I was born into a family of three brothers
and a father that got me involved in every water
sport known to man from a very early age,� says
Bertish. Starting at age 10 meant that by 17
"surfi ng bigger waves became like an addiction,
an obsession�.
Winning Mavericks was a lifelong goal for
him, which, he says, has exacted huge personal
sacrifi ce and fi nancial drain over the past
10 years.
Indeed, Bertish's CV reads like the diary of
a man willing to do whatever it takes for the
cause (read: surfi ng) with very little support. He
studied marketing and desktop publishing and
worked in branding for a number of surfer labels
� the most recent being O'Neill.
"unless you are a rugby, cricket or soccer
player in this country it's so diffi cult to get
the necessary backing and support to go and
compete around the world and represent your
country,� says Bertish. "Which is such a waste,
as there's so much wasted talent in this country
which never gets a chance to shine.�
But perhaps the biggest waste of all is not
acknowledging a South African who has worked
damned hard and gotten immensely far at such
a young age. Bertish, from the M&G, thanks for
doing us proud. � Verashni Pillay

Lunch spot: Codfather, Camps Bay, and Jamaican Me Crazy, Kenilworth, Cape Town