More South African Extreme Excellence

Ryan Sandes

Ryan Sandes was born in Cape Town South Africa, in March 1982.

He attended the South African College Schools, in Cape Town, and later studied at the University of Cape Town, receiving a BSc degree in Construction and an Honours in Quantity Surveying.

Although he played a number sports while at school, Sandes soon began to excel at trail running, and has since established himself as one of world’s greatest

In 2010 he became the first competitor to have won all four of the 4 Deserts races, each a 6/7-day, 250-kilometer (160 mi) self-supported footrace through the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Gobi Desert in China, the Sahara Desert in Egypt, and lastly Antarctica.

To date only 81 individuals have completed all four trails. 11 competitors have managed the 4 Deserts Grand Slam, that is, completing the four trails in a calendar year (from 1 January to 31 December of the same year).

In 2010, Time magazine included the 4 Deserts Challenge on a list of the ten most demanding endurance races in the world.[2]

Racing Record

His first major success was winning the Sahara Race in 2008, as well as the 250km Gobi March later that same year.

In 2009, Sandes placed second in the Racing the Planet in Namibia, and set a new course record in winning the Jungle Ultra Marathon in Brazil’s Floresta Nacional do Tapajos, setting a new course record!

In 2010 Sandes won the Last Desert Race in Anrarctica, in which the winner is the runner who can cover the most distance in the allotted time. Sandes ran 230.5km in the most atrocious conditions — 37km further than the runner who finished second!

In 2011, Sandes won the Leadville Trail 100 mile “Race Across the Sky” in 16 hours 46 minutes and 54 seconds, more than 30 minutes ahead of the second-placed runner, and setting the 3rd fastest time in the history of the race and the fastest time by a non-American — it was his first 100 miler.

The race features a 4,800m ascent/descent!

In 2012, Sandes won the North Face 100-miler in Australia in a time of 9:22:45. Also in 2012, Sandes set a new record in winning the 90km Fish River Canyon Trail, in a time of 6:57, bettering the previous record of 10:54.

In 2014, Sandes won the North Face Transgrancanaria, the second race in the Ultra-Trail World Series Tour.

In March 2014, Sandes and running partner Ryno Griesel set the Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the Drakensberg Grand Traverse (DGT), an un-marked and self-navigated 240km route across the Drakensberg Escarpment in South Africa, and a 3,000m ascent/descent in elevation!

The pair completed the race in 41:49:00!

In 2017, he won the Western States Endurance Run in 16:19:37.

In 2018, Ryno Griesel and Ryan Sandes ran a total of 1,504km in 24 days, 3 hours and 24 minutes set a new FKT for the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT).

International Race Record

· 2008 Gobi March (China) — 1st

· 2008 Sahara Race (Egypt) — 1st

· 2009 Namibia Desert Race — 2nd

· 2009 Jungle Marathon — 1st in new record

· 2010 Atacama Crossing (Chile) — 1st in new record

· 2010 Gore-Tex TransAlps Race — 3rd in mixed pairs

· 2010 The Last Desert (Antarctica) — 1st

· 2010 4 Deserts Champion, and the only runner to win every stage of each of the 4 Desert Races!

· 2011 The North Face 100 Australia — 3rd

· 2011 The Salomon Zugspitz Ultra — 4th

· 2011 Leadville 100 Mile Trail Run — 1st in 3rd fastest time in history

· 2011 Racing the Planet Nepal — 1st Place

· 2012 Vibram Hong Kong 100km Ultra — 1st in new record

· 2012 The North Face 100 Australia — 1st

· 2012 Western States 100 Miler USA — 2nd in 2nd fastest time in history

· 2012 Fish River Canyon Trail — 6h 57min ( record time )

· 2013 The North Face TransGranCanaria 83km — 1st

· 2013 Only person to have won an ultra trail race on every continent

· 2013 Patagonian International Marathon 63km — 1st

· 2013 The North Face San Fran 50 miler — 9th

· 2014 The North Face TransGranCanaria 125km — 1st

· 2014 The Drakensberg Grand Traverse 209km — 41hours 49min (record time)

· 2014 The Ultra Trail Mount Fuji — 2nd

· 2014 Western States 100 Miler USA — 5th

· 2014 Racing the Planet Madagascar — 1st

· 2014 Ultra Trail World Tour — 2nd overall

· 2016 Tarawera Ultra Marathon — 3rd

· 2016 Ultra Trail Australia — 4th

· 2016 Grand Raid of Reunion — 4th

· 2016 Ultra Trail World Tour — 4th Overall

· 2017 TransGranCanaria Marathon — 4th

· 2017 Western States 100–1st

· 2017 CCC (Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc) — 21st

· 2017 Ultra Trail Cape Town — 2nd

· 2018 Fastest Known Time on the Great Himalaya Trail of 24 days 3 hours and 24 minutes (with Ryno Griesel)

· 2019 Tarawera Ultra Marathon — 5th Place

· 2019 Western States 100–11th

· He was the first person to win all 4 races in the 4 Desert Series and in 2013 became the first person to ever win an ultra-trail race on all 7 continents.

Ryan currently lives in Cape Town with his wife and child.

For more detailed information, check out Trail Blazer — My Life as an Ultra-distance Trail Runner by Ryan Sandes and Steve Smith, published by Zebra Press.

He is an ambassador of the prestigious Laureus Foundation and special mention about his phenomenal career was made at the International Laureus Awards in Abu Dhabi

Mallory Finally Conquers Everest

The first South African-born climber to summit Mount Everest was George Mallory II, grandson of the famous George Mallory who, along with partner Andrew Irvine, may have actually summited Mount Everest in June 1924, 28 years before Sir Edmund Hillary, before both perished on the descent.

John Mallory was barely 3 years old when his father left for Tibet, never to return. John and his wife Jennifer emigrated to South Africa, where George Mallory II was born.

George subsequently relocated to Melbourne, Australia, before undertaking the Everest expedition.

In 1999, an Everest expedition, came across Malloy’s corpse, at a height of 8,290m, just below the 8,848m summit.

Chris Bertish

Chris Bertish was born in South Africa in 1974, and lives in Cape Town.

A keen surfer, he first came to the world’s attention when, watched by 50,000 spectators in February, 2010, Bertish battled 12m waves to win the Mavericks Surf Contest in Northern California on a borrowed surfboard, winning the $50,000 first prize.

Since then Bertish has continued to perform prodigious feats in Big-surf competitions around the world (See International Achievements), but what really caught the world’s attention was when he announced that he was going to attempt the first solo crossing of the Atlantic on a Stand-up Paddle board.

Previously, Bertish had completed a 320km run/cycle/paddle down the River Thames and across the English Channel on a Stand-up Paddle board, which he completed in 3 and a half days.

His attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a similar fashion would be on another level entirely, as it would be entirely solo, and un-supported!

The custom-built 6m long SUP cost $120,000 and was essentially a large self-righting paddle-board with a small cabin at the front end, and equipped with a satellite navigation system, radar and a fresh water maker

Bertish set out on his epic journey on December 6th, 2016 from Agadir in Morocco, the beginning of a 7,400km journey, that would take 93 days to complete! Paddling mainly at night to avoid the danger of heat-stroke, he finally arrived at English Harbour in Anegada in the British Virgin Islands on March 9th, 2017. He had averaged 69km per day!

In doing so, he became the first ever person to paddle solo across the Atlantic Ocean on a stand-up paddle craft!

Were it not for the fact that the weather was expected to deteriorate significantly, Bertish would have continued to Florida in the United States.

The success of the this endeavour, which had been sponsored by Carrick Wealth, raised a total amount of $412,000 for a number of South African charities, including Signature of Hope, the Lunchbox Foundation and Operation Smile.

In addition to setting a Guinness World Record for being the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean on a stand-up paddle board, Bertish also set another world record during the attempt by travelling the furthest distance solo, unsupported and unassisted over open ocean, of 115.86km. in a day.

The attempt was made in order to raise money for several South African charities to feed, school and provide medical operations for children and succeeded in raising $412,000.[13][16] The charities include Signature of Hope Trust, the Lunchbox Foundation and Operation Smile. The attempt had been sponsored by the financial group Carrick Wealth.

Currently Chris Bertish is a much sought-after motivational speaker.

He has also published an award-winning book and produced a movie

He has also published an award-winning book Stokedand produced a movie called Ocean Driven — The Chris Bertish Story

International Achievements


· First person to paddle in at Jaws — 2000 (Peahi, Hawaii)

· XXL Award — 2001 (Biggest Wave Paddled in the World)

· Red Bull Big Wave Africa — 3rd place — 2008

· Nelscott Big Wave event, Oregon, 2nd place — 2009

· First person to SUP Nelscott Reef, Oregon — 2009

· First person to SUP Dungeons — 2009

· First person to surf Seal Island — 2009

· Mavericks Big Wave Invitational Champion — 2010
(Half Moon Bay, California, Winner)

· Nelscott Big Wave event, Oregon, 2nd place — 2010

· South African Surfing Awards — 2011
(Pushing the Boundary Award)

· Big Wave World Tour, 3rd place finish — 2011
(after only surfing 3/5 events)

· Eddie Aikau Invitational Big Wave Classic, Oahu, Hawaii — 2011

· SUP World Championships, Peru, 9th place Distance — 2012

· ISA World SUP Championships, Peru, 6th place — 2013

· World first 325km unsupported/unassisted SUP up West Coast of South Africa — 2013

· Nominated for the Nightjar, South African Adventurer of — 2013

· Runner-up: Adventurer of the Year Award — 2013
(Global SUP Awards: USA)

· First Source-to-Sea: River Thames, England — 2013
(Run 20km/Paddle 243km/Cycle 42km)

· New English Channel World Record: SUP (5:26:03) — 2013


· New Open Ocean Guinness World Record: SUP 12-hour Record
(130.10km/12 hours) — 2014

· Chris launched his Film (Co-Director)-Ocean Driven-The Chris Bertish Story — 2015

· Ocean Driven has won 5 International Film Awards-Best Film/Audience Award — 2015

· New Open Ocean supported World Record: SUP 24-hour Record (131km/24 hours) — 2015

· “Adventurer of the Year Award” — 2015
(Nightjar People’s Choice)

· Chris launched his book- Stoked! — 2015
(#1 Best Selling Book)

· Runner up for Book of the Year Award — 2016

· New SUP Open Ocean 24hr, solo, unsupported, World Record: SUP 24 hour Record (62NM/24hr) — 2016

· First person to paddle unsupported and solo between Africa and Canary Islands- (356km) — 2016

· New Open Ocean solo, unsupported, paddle World Record (any craft under 20ft) — 2017

· First person to paddle unsupported, solo between Africa and Caribbean Islands (7,560km) — 2017

· Longest solo, open ocean, unsupported, SUP World Record (7,560km) — 2017

· SUP the Mag 2017 Global Expedition of the Year Award — 2017

· Global SUP Connect Man of the Year Award — 2017

· Nominee for Laureus Best Sporting Moment of the Year Award — 2017

· Selected by the Einstein Institute as Top 100 Global Visionaries of the Century


Mike Horn

Mike Horn was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in July 1966.

At high school he excelled in athletics and was an exceptionally talented rugby player. As a result, he studied Human Movement Science at the University of Stellenbosch, in the Western Cape.

After his compulsory military service, Mike Horn moved to Switzerland and began his career as an adventurer!

He became a ski instructor and a rafting guide. In 1991, Mike narrowly escaped death or serious injury when, on a trip to Peru, his crashed his paraglider while attempting to paraglide from the top of Machu Pichu.

He also took up the sport of hydrospeed (essentially white-water rafting on a boogie board and wearing a wetsuit and fins)!

At this point, Horn also began Motivational Coaching, at one stage working with the South African Cricket Team and helping them to beat England and take the Number 1 spot in the Test Rankings.

He was also a critical part of the coaching team that helped Germany win the FIFA World Cup in 2014, after 24 years.

Mike Horn now began to move into the next phase of his life — Expeditions across the world.


His first expedition, beginning in April 1997, was a 6-month solo traverse of the South American continent.

He travelled on foot from the Pacific Ocean to the source of the Amazon River in the Peruvian Andes.

He then cruised 7,000km down the Amazon on a hydrospeed to the Atlantic Ocean. His journey took 6 months, solo and without any assistance whatsoever. He lived off the land, hunting and fishing.

Latitude Zero

Two years later, in 1999, Horn began an 18 month journey to circle the equator on foot and via sailboat.

Beginning from Gabon, he crossed the Equator to Brazil on a Corsair F-28 trimaran, and then he travelled across Brazil and Ecuador by bike, canoe and on foot, until he reached the Pacific Ocean.

Crossing the Pacific, he reached Indonesia via the Galapagos Islands, and then crossed Borneo and Sumatra on foot, before once again sailing across the Indian Ocean.

Once he reached the coast of Africa, he crossed Kenya, the Congo and Gabon on foot to reach the Atlantic, and the point where he had started his journey.

It was a journey of epic proportions.

Mike Horn had completed the first circumnavigation of the earth around the equator, solo, un-supported and without any motorised vehicles.


Beginning in 2002, Mike Horn traversed the world on the northern Arctic Circle, on a solo expedition named Arktos.

His trip lasted 2 years and 3 months without any form of motorised support, travelling entirely by boat, kayak, ski-kite and on foot on a 20,000 odyssey.

Mike began his journey at North Cape in Norway, trekking across Greenland, Canada and Alaska before crossing the Bering Strait and Russian Siberia, before arriving back at his starting point of North Cape in Norway.

For a deeper insight into his expedition, read Mike Horn’s book Conquering the Impossible.

North Pole

From 2006 until 2012, Mike set off with Norwegian explorer Borge Ousland on an expedition from Cape Artichesky in Russia to the North Pole.

Once again, Mike did not use any form of support, not even dog sleds!

Through the Arctic night during February and March they dragged sleds across the ice in total darkness.


Mike Horn now began a program to involve the next generation of explorers, and in 2007 young adults from across the world between the ages of 15 and 20 were recruited to explore the continents and oceans with the Pangaea sailing vessel. In doing so, he hoped to encourage them to explore, learn and act in protecting the earth.

Driven to Explore

In 2015, drove from Switzerland to Pakistan, travelling through 13 countries en route. Once in Pakistan, he attempted to summit K2 (8,611m) in the Karakoram range.


In April 2016, Mike began his Pole2Pole expedition, accompanied once again by Borge Ousland. This was a 2 year, 40,000km circumnavigation of the globe via both the South and North poles, possibly one the greatest feats of human endurance ever undertaken. The explorers travelled part of the way by vehicle, but for most of the journey they had to travel by kayak, on skis and on foot. The journey included 2 polar crossings, one of which saw Horn become the first person to ski across Antarctica at its widest point, unsupported. They travelled from the Arctic to Antarctica on the yacht Pangaea.

It took Horn and his partner Borg Ousland , more than 3 years to complete their epic journey in December 2019.

A South African who believes that South Africa’s contribution to the world is under-rated, and intends to make sure the world is aware of this before he dies!