Meet James Castrission
They’re aren’t many people out there who would end up in a situation where there’s a centimetre of kayak hull between themselves and two blue sharks. Then again, not everyone is James ‘Cas’ Castrission, who is one of Australia’s great young explorers.
Cas and his mate Justin ‘Jonesy’ Jones have tackled some big adventures, but one of their most harrowing feats was crossing ‘The Ditch’ from Forster on the Australian coast to New Plymouth in New Zealand. “It took us 62 days, we lost a combined 18 kilos and it was absolutely brutal,” Cas says, wincing at the memory. And when the two sharks spent four hours grinding against their kayak’s hull, Cas said it was "exciting", but also "incredibly intimidating". Compare that to hallucinations and their bodies falling apart, however, and sharks were the least of their problems. “After a week out there, our bodies started to degrade at quite a fast rate,” Cas says. “We developed sores, muscle stripped off us and joints ached. We were constantly wet and getting bashed around, and in the bad storms while getting ripped through 10-metre waves, we thought we’d entered hell. But we signed up for it, and weren’t going to be deterred!” he says with a laugh, and perhaps a shiver at the memory.
Cas often explains in the talks and seminars he now does, that the adventures themselves are only about one per cent of the experience, and the other 99 per cent of time is spent on project planning, which includes harsh training. For the kind of record-breaking challenges that Cas and Jonesy set themselves, it’s not just about getting fit. It’s about understanding exactly what your body will undoubtedly go through. For crossing the Tasman, the boys enlisted the help of the Australian Army, and they were put through gruelling training that took them to the brink hallucination and exhaustion. “In a controlled environment, they pushed us beyond our limits, and that gave us a sense of familiarity when we really were out there hallucinating and in pain,” he says. “I’m more of a visual person, so I would see things like a baby in nappies sitting on the hull of the kayak, whereas Jonesy is more of a sensory person, so he’d feel things, like hands trying to take over his oars. The training is what gets you through, as somehow, the memories and familiarity kick in.”
After tackling the Tasman, the men completed the first-ever unsupported trek from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back, skiing 2275km over 89 days in temperatures of around minus-40 degrees. They set a new benchmark and raised the bar of polar exploration globally, but there’s no signs of ego here. Now, the guys spend much of their time travelling the world and speaking about their experiences, life and the wild world around us.
This is an excerpt from the Spring 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller Australia & New Zealand). Read more when you buy our app or the magazine.