“Blindness, infected ears, dehydration, sleep deprivation, hypothermia, sharks!"
The Australian surfer Blake Johnson, an early-rising maniac they call Forrest Gump around Cronulla, has just stepped out of the water after stomping the Guinness world record for longest surf session ever, surfing for forty hours straight, catching over 500 waves and raising almost a quarter of a million dollars for charity.
Johnson, who is forty-one, was gonna do an easy six-hundred mile run to Queensland to raise awareness for mental health but, after a little Googling, discovered the world record for longest surf sesh, set by South African Josh Elsin, was only thirty hours, eleven minutes, with 455 waves eaten up.
“I reckoned I could smash it. I can run for forty hours,” Johnston told me back in December. “And, this way, I can surf with people I like and make a difference.”
He wants to make a diff ‘cause suicide is something real close to Johnston. His daddy Wayne took his own life ,and when he was a kid riding for Quiksilver one of that company’s most popular employees Andrew Murphy, died at the hands of the black dog.
“It affected me a lot. I have my own battles, too,” said Johnston. “I’m not nice to myself. I tell myself, ‘You’re hopeless at what you’re doing’. I’m pretty mean. I do these things to prove myself I’m worthy and that’s what my battle is. In those dark moments, I have to tell myself, well, how good is this? My boys (he’s got two of ’em, one with a spectacular mullet) deserve a strong dad.”
And, so, last night, on the ten-year anniversary of his Dad’s death, Johnston hit a joint called The Alley, a wave next to a breakwall right in town, corporates paying for the thrill of surfing during a world record attempt and to challenge employees with a night surf.
The money peeled off the corporates goes into raising mental awareness ie, helping to address the plague of suicides, particularly among young men.
I asked Johnston how he deals with the blackest moments during his endurance events, in the middle of the night when there ain’t nothing but your head, the voices.
“Man, you go to places… I’m thinking about making myself proud, my family proud. I put it on myself not to make it a big deal, that people can run further and for longer than I do. But it’s hard to explain. One minute you feel invincible, the next you’re in tears. It’s like you’ve got short-term bi-polar. It’s so up and down. One minute you think you’re killing it, then the next forty k’s feels like it’s going to take four years.”
Listen, says Johnston, “You don’t have to be a superstar to live a full life. You just gotta make an effort. You gotta go after it.”
At seven eleven am he broke the previous record of thirty hours and quickly came in and addressed what looked like the whole town.
“Everyone deserves to feel awesome,” he told ’em, before heading out for another ten hours.
The money raised goes to the or youth mental health initiatives with the Chumpy Pullin Foundation. Alex “Chumpy” Pullin was an Australian snowboarder and Olympian who died while spearfishing in 2020, aged thirty-two.
Johnston wraps up his attempt at five pm today, Sydney time.
Seven hours to go!