Big, Bigger, Biggest

Sun, 2 May 2010

Chris Bertish describes his role in the biggest paddle-in contest ever held. He talks to Spike about his 3rd in the inaugural Big Wave World Tour event, and the momentous final at Mavs that propelled him into big wave's hall of fame.

The big wave tour is not spoken about much, why is that?

No one actually knows that I just placed 3rd in the world on the first ever "WCT" of big wave surfing the Big Wave World Tour ... thats huge ... imagine if Jordy or any SAFFA came third on the WCT ... People would be going mental ... and no one even knows, it's so funny.

What’s the plan for next year for the world tour. Is it going larger, longer (more events), bigger sponsorship?

More prizemoney, but five events, hopefully more sponsoship opportunities for the guys who are in the top 10.

The travel must be exhausting. How often have you flown across the Atlantic Ocean in the last 12 months?

Four times! Wow, never thought about it like that. No wonder I'm broke! Ha Ha

What is the strength of South African big wave riding compared to the foreign guys?

At the moment, it is phenomenally strong. This year we had a major presence in Northern California and were really a major noticeable force over there.

Twiggy has spoken about how the Saffas made a specific effort to retain respect and show good old fashioned South African manners when riding at other big wave spots. Are the locals cool to you?

Yes, they are all very cool, especially in California, Todos and Nelscott, as i've been going over there for the last 10 years, as the first South African to surf those spots.

Do you ever get the heavy treatment from dudes?

Never, like anywhere in the world, show respect and earn your place and the respect of others around you and this isn't something that is instant, like everything, it comes with time.

Give us an anecdote about how the classic SA karma sorts out any potential situations.

Andy Marr! The perfect recipee for classic SA karma- Smile, grin, laugh, be friendly and respectful of everyone and get a couple sneaky bombs while doing so!

So you surfed only a few, but the Mavs win was the big one that got you the result?

I surfed only three, Nellscott (3rd), Mavericks (1st) and Todos (16th). I did not get an invite to the first two, in Chile & Peru, but with my 3rd place ranking, I'm invited to all five this year. I will give it my best and see how I do. The points for the events work on a very good system - a sliding scale according to wave size. In Chile, the waves were 12-15 feet so the points for placings were not that high, but at Mavericks, the waves were 25ft+ so the top 5 placings were rewarded way more points. This is a unique system - after all we are all there to push the boundaries in big surf, and this is a reward for doing so.

In the Mavs event, what did you see when you looked over the edge of the monster double-up in the final – the one you backed out of. I held my breath when you paddled for it to see if I would be able to match the hold-down.

I think I saw the best decision take place I think I have ever made in my entire life, without even knowing it, as I couldn't see what everyone else could see. To me, I thought it was borderline do-able, just didn't want to take such a gamble so early in the heat! I think a lot of people held their breath? I think I might have had to hold my breath until I blacked out, if I had gone and not made that one, when I look back at the replay!

It didn’t seem the other guys were committing to the conditions. What was it like out there?

The biggest scarriest conditions I think I have ever seen. Similar to the 2001 Jan Swell, where most people were towing the next day. One of those days you know you were hoping to ride since you started to surf, but feared the really severe consequences if you made any bad decision or made any simple error. Every wave you paddled for you had to have 150% commitment, otherwise you never had a chance! We were sitting 200 yards further out than I have ever sat out there and I still got a 50 ft'er straight on the head!

So these were the heaviest paddle conditions you have faced?

Yes, that and the January 2001 Mavs swell. The difference was that on this day so many of the big ones were actually ridden. During the 2001 swell, very few of the big one's were even attempted. It was considered certain death!

Your first (main) wave of the final was a monster. You almost caught a rail on the way down. Describe how you caught that wave.

Carlos was on my outside and I knew he was going if I didn't, so I had to go. I was going no matter what! I swung round late on his inside, put my head down, committed and was going to make it, there was no such thing as maybe! I just wanted to hang on through the drop! I knew if I fell I was in serious trouble and if I could stick on the first drop on that bomb, I was in with a chance.

What new opportunities will open up, or have opened up after the Mavs and BWWT result?

As I finished in the top 6, I get an invite to the Chile and the Peru events, which I didn't get invited to last year! O'Neill are helping me out with some more sponsorship and so is Naish which is great, but I am still going to have to find additional sponsorship outside the Surf industry. ie. Energy drinks/ insurance/Cellphone companies etc to help cover all the expenses, as travelling around the worls to all these events at last minute is insanely expensive.

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