CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Greg Bertish is one of the most accomplished watermen in South Africa. Hailing from Cape Town, he’s been exposed to beautiful and gnarly ocean conditions during his formative years, all of which have played a role in his development as an athlete. Greg’s rap list of accomplishment includes national colors for both competitive lifeguarding and stand up paddling, as well as a healthy reputation for being one of the leading big wave surfers on the scene. He was also the founder of Shark Spotters, a nonprofit association that keeps an eye on some of the more popular surf and paddle spots known for high-risk shark activity. This week Supconnect had the good fortune of talking shop with him, discussing his career, his array of sideline projects and the SUP scene in Cape Town.
Supconnect: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Greg Bertish: Cape Town , South Africa – Pretty much in Western Cape, between Cape Town and the west coast up to langebaan.
Supconnect: You’ve got a really diverse and accomplished water-related background, as a surfer, a lifesaver and now as a SUP rider. Can you tell us about when you first got your feet wet and decided to pursue a lifestyle in water sports?
Greg Bertish: My dad was an awesome waterman. Sailor, surfer, waterskier, paddler and adventurer. My brothers and I were thrown in in the deep end. Always at or around the beach and ocean. Learning to sail and waterski before the age of 5 was where it all started. Then body boarding, windsurfing, and eventually surfing at about 14 years old only. Wave sailing ( windsurfing) was huge for me in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I then started surfing more and more, and ridding bigger waves at the same time I got into competitive lifesaving. ( Mid to late 90’s) Dave Smith, who I competed with at Clifton Lifesaving, and I started surfing and towing the big stuff together from around 2000, and I was also surfing lots of big waves with my brothers.
Supconnect: When did you start Stand Up Paddling?
Greg: Bertish:About 2008. Was offered to rid a big Naish 11.6 – My Brother and I Paddled out to an outer reef breaking at 8 foot and rode a few bombs, before I almost sliced my thumb off on the fin. After 25 stitches and plastic surgery, I was still hooked, and continued from there. It was early days , but I started competing in the early race and wave events, and I won a bunch of them. The competitive bug had bitten.
Supconnect: Where is your local paddling spot – can you tell us a bit about it?
Greg charging Pedestrians
Greg: Bertish: A few awesome Reefs off the coast, right here in the city. I love a wave called Pedestrians. A giant left hander, approx a quarter mile off the promenade in Sea Point. Works from 5 feet to 25 feet. A beast of a wave when big, and only a handful of us that SUP it. It’s a paddle to get there, and so its not a wave frequented by surfers very much.
Supconnect: You also run a Tour Operations Business with your brothers. Does this mean you get to do a lot of “field research” for work?
Greg: Bertish: For sure, that’s the Idea. I get to find and experience many new locations, beaches , waves and hotels and charter boats. Im not gonna get super rich from this business, but it sure has its perks.
Supconnect: Where is your favourite destination outside South Africa?
Greg: Bertish: Most of the Indian Ocean Islands. Reunion Island, Mozambique, Indo, Maldives …….BUT Probably my favourite is Madagascar…… cooking waves, no crowds, tropical perfection. And I LOVE the Lemurs! My brother Conn and I just found and rode some possibly, unridden , New waves and areas on some tiny Islands in the Indian Ocean , called Moheli and Anjouan. Was an adventure and exciting travel, but look what we found!
Supconnect: What is your training schedule like?
Greg: Bertish: I have two little boys now. Ryder ( 1.5 yrs) and Kodi ( 3.5 yrs). With them, business and life….. training takes a back seat. I try to run a few miles each week, get into the ocean for a surf/ SUP or Paddle 2 or 3 times a week if I can. I try to swim in the pool in winter a bit. That’s generally all the training I get. Summer is here, and my training will now consist of 1 or 2 downwinders a week, along with the Wednesday evening Down Wind Series Race. 8 Miles of downwinding in 25 plus knots, is one of the best work outs you can get.
Supconnect: Who do you enjoy following and watching in the SUP world today?
Greg: Bertish: Seeing what the “lighties” youngsters are doing on the surf side, and who is dominating the Racing.
Supconnect: What gear do you use and who are your current sponsors?
Greg: Bertish: I ride Coreban SUP Boards. I wear ION SuP gear and GUL wetsuits, and use Coreban and Quickblade paddles. I represent my online SUP company www.oceanriders.co.za
Supconnect: How is SUP growing in Cape Town and South Africa in general?
Greg: Bertish: Its growing for sure. We are seeing many newbies starting and also lots of athletes from other codes , getting into it for cross training purposes.
Supconnect: Where do you see the future of the sport?
Greg: Bertish: On every waterway and ocean across the world. Its no fad this, it’s a legitimate sport with an industry that may rival the surf industry globally very soon.
Supconnect: What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about SUP?
- Favourite – Keeps me fit, no wetsuit needed even in colder oceans.
- Least Favorite – Assholes riding SUPs and giving the rest of us a bad name.
Supconnect: What advice would you give people new to the sport of SUP?
Greg: Bertish: Get the right board, get a lesson and go practice on flat water, till you can paddle well. Then get into the ocean.
Supconnect: You’re from a big surfing family. Do you and your brothers spend a lot of time surfing and SUP’ing together?
The Bertish brothers, Greg, Conn and Chris, sharing a Dungeons beast.
Greg: Bertish: Yes, we are lucky. We all love the big stuff, live near the coast and each other, and love missioning on trips and surfing together- you’ve seen the infamous shot of the 3 of us brothers all on a giant wave at Dungeons?