Sydney man Blake Johnston has broken the record for the longest surf session ever held after taking to the water at 1am on Thursday and harbouring plans to surf through until Friday evening to raise money for mental health.
During a short break, Johnston admitted that “everything hurts” and the marathon session was harder than he anticipated.
“I’ve surfed my whole life but never in this realm. Yeah, it’s been a mental and physical challenge, to say the least,” he told Nine’s Today show.
Johnston has smashed the previous record of 30 hours held by South African Josh Enslin and will continue surfing off Cronulla’s The Alley until Friday evening, taking his record up to 40 hours.
People have gathered along the beach to witness the world record attempt and offer support.
Johnston, a local surf instructor and former professional surfer, is performing the gruelling feat to raise money for the Chumpy Pullin Foundation. The charity was set up to honour the memory of professional snowboarder Alex “Chumpy” Pullin, who died in 2020.
Johnston lost his father, Wayne, to suicide a decade ago.
“This is to honour the anniversary of our dad … for Blake, it’s been like this crazy journey since we lost our dad,” brother Ben said. “This is just something to honour that and he really wants to actively show people that there are tools to deal with mental health.”
The physical strain of 40 hours in the water is extreme, with risks including sunburn, dehydration, sharks and marine stingers. The plan was to raise $250,000 for the foundation and more than $200,000 has already been donated.
Johnston’s wife Lauren said while she was relieved her husband was a new world record holder, she never had any doubt he would finish. “I knew he was always going to get the goal that he set,” she said.
The 40-year-old said earlier this week he wanted to inspire the kids he now coaches in surfing and provide them with practical tools and support to make it through tough times.
“I’m not nice to myself at times. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a great husband, father and friend,” he said.
Johnston’s goal to surf more than 500 waves – at an average of one wave every six minutes – has also been smashed with more than 533 waves ridden before 9am on Friday.
“Yeah, I’m stoked, but I’m cooked. I’ve still got another long eight hours left in the water today. So just dealing with that at the moment. This is way harder than I anticipated,” he said.
In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org