Former pro surfer Blake Johnston is officially an Aussie legend after successfully breaking the record for the world’s longest surf session, after surfing over 500 waves for 40 hours – in 30-degree weather to boot.
Why? As well as showing the people of Cronulla a good time, Johnston hopes that his feat will raise awareness of mental health issues as well as raise money for the Chumpy Pullin Foundation, which helps youth in crisis.
Having started his quest at 1 a.m. Thursday morning, Johnston hit over twelve waves per hour until 5 p.m. on Friday, when he was helped from the water by supporters. The Australian surfer took on this challenge at Cronulla’s “The Alley,” with a wave counter on the beach ticking over like a scoreboard and floodlights providing assistance during the long, dark hours of dusk, dawn, and night.
In the end, Johnston smashed the previous record (30 hours and 11 minutes, held by South Africa’s Josh Enslin) by a whopping 10 hours.
Johnston was confident that the training he has done for previous endurance events prepared him for this challenge. His previous challenges include running a number of barefoot marathons and an ultra-marathon along the NSW South Coast with only bananas and the bush for company.
“I’ve tested mental my capacity in previous challenges and pushed through,” Johnston told the ABC with hard-won confidence ahead of the surf session, “I know that doing it with the community support is gonna be amazing”.
This new mission was intended to inspire others to seek their own similar challenges that push their boundaries – both mentally and physically – while promoting an overall healthy lifestyle.
As for his board of choice, it was a standard shortboard made by Chilli Surfboards, with Johnson noting that the board is epoxy “which gives it a little more inflation… [which should] help as the fatigue sets in”.
Alongside the surfing challenge, there were onshore ice baths and breathwork seminars to promote meditation and breathing techniques.
Johnston has been a passionate supporter of mental health awareness since his own father took his own life ten years ago: “It’s been with me ever since, but it’s given me the power to share the message”.
Johnston argues that community engagement is an essential part of good mental health and wants to bring the community together through this challenge. He also wants to make meditation and breathwork more accessible and to demonstrate how they can help people in their daily lives:
“I want to create initiatives where kids learn actionable skills – mindfulness, breathwork, the power of gratitude” in the hope that young people will “not only survive but thrive, get through the hard times, tick off any goals or dreams they have”.
Johnston’s plan was to raise $250,000 for the foundation, which was founded in 2021 to honour the memory of Olympic and World Champion snowboarder Alex “Chumpy” Pullin, who drowned on the Gold Coast in 2020 at the age of 32. Over $200,000 has already been donated.