2005 Big Wave Event

June & July 2005:  Bertish back at BWA awaiting the green light

I have been surfing Bigger waves since I was in my teens. The one thing in life, that really gives you a rush… I don’t do drugs,smoke or drink a lot…but I do…crave big nasty waves.

Started Surfing at the age of about 11 years old, I think.

My brothers and I were always super competitive, so I guess that’s what always pushed me…

After finishing studying at University in South Africa, all I wanted to do was go travelling and surf the biggest nastiest waves the planet had to offer…Which is exactly what I did! And as they say…the rest is history.

Before any of my big trips or events, I start training and preparing for the event, a minimum, of 5 months beforehand…. Like everything in life, “What you reap is what you sow!”

The training I do to prep for surfing really large surf consists of 5 components:

Stamina-Running Breath holding-Underwater training

Swim training-Basic lengths training (Sea & pool)

Surfing- as much as you can fit in, work & surf permitting

Flexibility & Strength-Basic stretches & basic exercises. I.e. Push up’s /sit up’s

This training starts a long way ahead of the event, so by the last 3 months I am training twice a day 5 days a week, alternating between the 5 different disciplines not to create too much routine and give the body time to rest and recover. The last 2 months, I start training 5-6 days a week and 2-3 times a day. I pretty much stop drinking 100% and the major focus is solely training!

Good performance and confidence in Big Surf comes from good physical fitness and knowing you are confident within one’s self – physically & mentally.

Everybody gets scared in big surf, it’s how you use and channel that fear, which is important!

You have to use it to your advantage. Never hesitate, as hesitation will make your worst nightmares become a reality!

So, come along for the ride and I will update you weekly, from the Red Bull Africa, International, Invitational only event. The second longest running Big Wave event in the world. Home to one of the nastiest, heaviest, ugliest & scariest waves on the planet. Dungeon’s, Cape Town, South Africa…. & the only wave in the world, I won’t surf, without water safety!

Picture a deep dark, kelp infested, cold-water spot…3 miles from anywhere. No roads, you can only get there by boat…. 2 miles out in the ocean, off a huge seal colony and home to some of the largest Great White’s on the globe. Now that’s before you even start talking about the Wave! Dungeons is definitely one of the scariest, thickest, most unpredictable & powerful waves on the planet… Keep logging on over the next 4 weeks and I’ll show you why!  So sit back and enjoy the journey and I’ll show you why… only the brave or very stupid get invited to surf Dungeon’s each year for the inaugural Red Bull, Big Wave Africa.

I don’t really surf contests, and the contest or prize money really isn’t what it’s about to me… It’s being able to go out and surf one of the worlds heaviest waves, pull into the biggest possible barrels and if you don’t pop back up, there is the best Rescue Team (Shaun Alladio) on the planet, on standby, to pull you out! So, that’s what it’s all about…. Getting the biggest, heaviest, heaving, ice cold barrels, the shark & kelp infested ocean has to offer!

Chris Bertish Out!

ZIG ZAG FEATURE – Surfing Dungeons


The update starts…

Flew into C.T. Friday…The most magical day….27 degrees c…Headed straight to my shapers factory for a meeting with all my other big wave guns, to shape one more magic stick for the Contest.

Spent half the day with Anton Butler, shaping up an 8,10ft

Left directly for Jeffreys Bay, to get some waves…8 hour solo drive with a stop at Vic Bay, to score, 3ft glassy, warm water beachbreak surf to myself! Move perfected for the day…Zero, just a fine appreciation for the incredibly stunning surroundings, warm water paradise….Welcome home, Mr. Chris Bertish!

Got to JBay at 11pm, slept and woke up to glassy 2-3ft little grinding warm water waves at the  point….myself & 2 other people out…..Move perfected for the day..the long section floater. 

Surfed fun waves all morning, got some stuff sorted out and headed out of Jbay that night at 10pm….Heading back to Cape Town till I started falling asleep at close on 2am..

Crashed at some sketchy Backpackers for a couple hours until 6am, and then on the road again to make the opening function and water safety meeting at 1pm! Stopped for a quick surf at a spot called Betty’s Bay….

Warm, super hollow beach break…3 – 4ft and grinding…..Move perfected for the day…”The closeout Barrel”

Arrive back for the water-safety meeting 7 mins early, from a 750km journey…not shabby!

Water-safety meeting is directed by Shaun Alladio, PWC and big wave rescue expert….

Running through safety procedure and rescue scenario’s and protocol for days when the waves are above 12 – 15ft…..

This is backed by safety seminar from the secondary rescue team that aid as backup for the 2 pwc rescue  teams, the rib rescue team, who also make up the full compliment, at the event to keep it safe, for all the 14 competitors and spectators.

These are also assisted by a full paramedic team and 2 doctors on one of the floating flotilla’s which have all the necessary resuscitation facilities to hopefully jump-start you if all goes horribly wrong on the day!

Let’s pray it doesn’t, but it’s good to know that professional backup is there if it’s needed.

Then it was straight to the event opening ceremony and event function…Press & media and glam, wine dine evening and event opening, hosted by Contest Director:

Gary Linden Lots of good food and drinks and re-uniting of some of the biggest names in Big Wave surfing….As seen in the pictures…with the like of Flea’, Greg Long, Ross Clark Jones, Beau Emmerton, Jamie Sterling & Anthony Tashnik, just to name a few…

Next day Monday 23rd, was spent training at the gym in the morning, getting boards and all equipment together, sorted out and fine tuned, so I am ready & organized at a moments notice, if the call is made and the waves are on!

Most of the competitors stay at the Red Bull sponsored House, very Plush and up-market..The pimping palace, for sure…will send pics in my next update…Impressive to say the least….

This morning Tuesday, 24th, swell in the 5 – 6ft range…. Early gym & swim training and then straight to a spot on the Atlantic coast called the DUNE’…it is one of the best beach breaks in the world when it is on, with out a doubt! This is where the last Cornish surfer was eaten by a great white Shark! Ended

The walk to the spot, makes it a mission, but always worth it if you know the conditions… 2 mile walk, or in my case, if you are as happy to be back in Cape Town and the waves are firing…..it’s a 2mile run…Surfed Perfect warm water 6ft solid spitting barrels solo, for 40 mins up, before anyone joined me…Perfection in paradise what can I say…3 hour session, getting barreled on every single wave I took off on..Yip, waves have to be pretty good to be able to say that…..Sorry, boys and girls…Tough to be in paradise….

Swell prediction looks the same for tomorrow wed 25th..so hopefully the same perfect waves at the same magical spot….

The big waves are definitely coming….I can feel it! The 110 hour predictions are looking like producing 10ft plus surf with bug swell period.(This to people who don’t surf much means…The bigger the swell interval, which is the distance between one wave and the next, the bigger & more powerful the waves will be… The bigger the intervals, the deeper ocean swell it is and the higher the likely hood that we will be surfing the infamous Dungeons!  Pray for surf…Don’t worry about in Cape Town, it’s already here….and it’s only going to be getting bigger…The question is…Just how big!  Stay tuned for the next update on Monday….

We ended the last update with perfect glassy 4-6ft barrels at Dunes and the following day was no different..

The swell in the 6 ft range and not big enough for the big wave spots, but perfect for a little secret spot in the Cape Point Nature reserve.

So, an hour later myself and one friend were walking down a little path, with baboons on one side, and a zebra on the other, down to a big open secluded beach, with perfect 4-6ft grinding empty right handed barrels (Similar to a heavier, right hander version of Porthleven)

Well, as you would have guessed, we just surfed, laughed, and traded, perfect glistening barrels until our arms would not take us back to the lineup anymore…3 hours of perfect waves, in a nature reserve, with not a sole to be seen ALL DAY…and paradise is just an ocean away!

Well the following day the swell had dropped and everybody was taking the day off from surfing, so Shaun Alladio (K38 Water Safety Instructor) was giving the Water safety crew an updated course, so I joined the class to enhance and update my knowledge with the rest of the crew.

Always a steep learning curve, training with Shaun Alladio, no matter how experienced you are on a PWC (Jet-ski), there’s always a whole lot more to learn when you train solidly for 6 hours with Shaun!

The following days were not so inspiring, as myself and half of the Red Bull invitee’s came down with the dreaded lurgi… Tonsillitis hell and out of action on my side for 4 full days….. Luckily..the waves weren’t great except the last day, where Dungeons was windy, bumpy and sketchy and a couple of the guys got to surf it… To be perfectly honest, I’ll surf most of the big wave spots in those conditions…Dungeons, no thanks…It’s a very dangerous place, when its like that and those are the days when the worst wipeout award is usually achieved and the person who wins it, doesn’t normally come out in one piece!

Friday, a couple of the Red Bull guys head up the east coast on an off chance, to catch a rare breaking spot…and scored windy, but good 8ft conditions…Not really phased I surfed the Crayfish Factory at 8ft plus on my own for an hour, before all the rest of the crew got out there…

Crayfish Factory is a world class Big Wave, heavy, powerful dredging right hander that works from the 6-8ft mark upwards…the kind of wave that if you make a mistake, you will know about it and will be dealt the relevant punishment, of a uninterrupted journey underwater through the kelp beds, for a good time longer than you wish.

This session, saw one of the surfers- a very accomplished big wave surfer, with many Hawaiian seasons under his belt, getting beaten on one of the sets, held under for two waves and coming up coughing blood. Off to hospital, very shaken and a couple days out of the water.

Surfing bigger surf is no joke and it’s consequences are a very real reality.

Any wave above 8ft has the ability to hold you down longer than you can hold your breath, if you are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time! The way to deal with this…Make sure your ability, experience, equipment and fitness are all highly in check, before you venture out and decide to tackle big surf…as the ocean will always have the last word and rule supreme!

Saturday, the waves were smaller and I took the opportunity to do some extra one on one, PWC training with Shaun Alladio, which turned out to be a little more than I bargained for…

There was an 8ft open ocean swell running, bumpy and nasty. We prepped the ski’s about to embark on a open ocean 30 mile high speed run…

We set off against the wind and swell, avoiding kelp at high speed, as we went… about an hour into the trip, cruising at about 40mph I saw what I thought was a big clump of kelp ahead, I started making a quick s-turn to avoid it when I noticed it wasn’t really kelp colored or shaped! This all in a split couple of seconds, as I suddenly realized I was about to run over the biggest Great White Shark I have ever seen up close and personal…As I rode over his tail area, he got a fright about as big as mine, and quickly rolled on his side and dashed for the deep…flapping his very large and fat Dorsal fin on the water as he dived…his white under belly, showing as he disappeared below the ski…

I brought the ski to a slow stop, a little shocked at what had just happened, I turned the ski around to go back to the area where the shark had dived, but he was gone…Looking back at the situation, I’m really glad he was gone, as that would have been a very pissed off Great White…Not the best place to be circling…So, off i went..and the rest of that day wasn’t really the same after that… ps.  You want me to try put a size on the shark… All I would say is…the ski is 10ft long, the shard …was a lot bigger.  Super-size would be the right description.

Sunday, the swell had dropped to 4ft range and a leisurely surf was had down at the Dune’ again, expert on some retro old single fin’s…Experimentation is all an integral part of the journey of surfing….

Monday, the 6th and the last week of the waiting period, with 12-15ft ground swell expected tomorrow, should be interesting….

The predicted big swell is expected to peak Early on Wednesday… with a sure amber call for the event and possibly green light!

We will see, only time will tell, but one things for sure… The next 3 days the swell is going to pump & Dungeons is going to be ridden….

So, I will leave you with my prayer for 15ft, clean, heaving barrels, over a very sketchy, shark infested Dungeons reef….

Chris out!

We left off with visions of 12-15ft Dungeons..and that’s exactly what we got…

Except…20-40knts of breeze on top of it! Not nice…Scary and nasty…But there were waves to be had…A couple of scary drops…and lots of tense moments…the waves had to be chosen carefully, but there were waves to be had….We were the first 3 out there…Jamie Sterling, Grant baker and myself..No water safety, just a couple of the top guys charging hard and get a some scary, windy beasts…

After 2 hours the wind picked up too much to make it safe, compounded by a shark scare, getting all of us out of the water for half an hour and one of the water safety teams, stearing cables braking in the impact zone, the crew having to abandon ship and the RIB, getting sucked over the falls…Yes, a very eventful day….

The following day, the swell had dropped and was predicted to hit up the coast..

So a few of the Cape Town boys, myself included, all crammed into one of the vans and headed 4 hours up the East Coast for some solid, uncrowded point break waves…

Wednesday afternoon that’s exactly what we got…6ft perfect uncrowded waves…5 of us out…and as you would imagine..we surfed until dark…

Knowing it was a building swell we stayed overnight and got spoilt by some great local hospitality… and awoke the following morning to more uncrowded waves.

I surfed the point alone for an hour, while the rest of the gang decided wether or not it was good enough yet..After 3 or 4 healthy barrels they realized the waves were on and they scurried for their boards… We ended up surfing the entire day with only two other surfers, besides ourselves. We surfed till our arms would not take us back up the point for one last wave…with burning muscles and limp bodies, we drove back to Cape Town late into the night…and all spent Friday recovering from overworked muscles and nurturing ourselves back to health for the hope of the Big swell looming for Sunday and possibly Monday!

Saturday was spent doing a water-safety instructors course…and teaching others PWC use and the advantage and techniques necessary for rescue and recovery in big surf.

There is always more to learn…

With the last days of the waiting period coming to an end and talk of the big swell arriving days after..the apprehension and anxiety is at a frenzied high-point as they talk of extending the waiting period till possibly wednesday, so they can achieve the right conditions for the event! 15-20 ft consistent heaving barrels at Dungeons…

So, tomorrow they will make the call…but until then… we wait…

Last update..

Well, they say it ain’t over till the fat lady sings…Well, she has finally sung and on Sunday the 12th June, they decided, the waiting period wouldn’t be extended, even with predictions for 20ft waves for Tuesday adn the contest waiting period comes to a close…

The closing function was quick and painful, knowing all the effort everyone had put into the event to make it run….but at the end of it all…The time had run out!

I was told that I was was runner up to Grant Washburn, for the biggest wave of the event award, but there aren’t prizes for second best….maybe next year!

Monday came with a bit of blurry eyed hang over, after the realization that the event had finished and all the preparation had not really been put to the test..but at least the swell was still 12-15ft and still rising….

I ended up surfing the Crayfish Factory solo, at 12ft for hours, until I got a really nasty 12-15 Footer on the head, which quickly knocked the sense back into me, that it is never clever to really surf big waves on your own…so I headed in content, shaken and a little stirred!

That evening, knowing the swell was peaking the next day and I was flying out that same evening…

I was still hoping for that one ellusive 20ft swell, that we had all been waiting for the entire event which had never arrived.

One last look at the charts and it was still looking good & very big…

I woke in the morning to a message from Jamie Sterling on my phone saying I was going to be his tow partner and the waves were 20ft & perfect!

We got all the pre-checks done on the ski, suited up and headed out to Dungeons…

Arriving on the scene, it was very big, shifty and nasty…

We towed all day, with just a handful of other guys into some of the biggest waves ridden  in Africa….some close calls and tight situations, but at the end of the day, we all made it back to the beach in one piece….and that is what is considered a very successful Big Wave surfing day!

I packed my bags and headed out to the airport, finally content, that we had got that one big day, even though the contest didn’t run…..at the end of the day. you can prepare all you want, but you can never control mother nature!

Thanks to all of you for checking in….See you in the water at Fistral!

July 2005

Bertish does it again!






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