This is a story about endurance, courage against the odds, and the indomitability of the human spirit. As the world shrinks and the opportunities for adventure diminish, it takes a man of unique vision to be the first person to paddle a kayak solo and unsupported, across the Southern Atlantic Ocean.
Last time Richard Kohler did something this crazy he got attacked by a shark, almost broke his back and smashed his boat in half, but he got there in the end. He became the first person to solo kayak along the entire length of the South African coastline (excluding the south Atlantic islands).
Ocean X is Richard’s dream and in December 2021, his first attempt, he was forced to make a right turn to Walvis Bay due to corrosion of the wiring that powered the solar panels. In December 2022, after lessons learnt and adjustments over the past year, Richard set off from Cape Town, South Africa in an 8 meter ocean crossing kayak, 6500km across the Southern Atlantic Ocean to Salvador, Brazil, entirely unsupported whilst raising funds for his charity, Operation Smile.
“I’ve always been keen to do a solo trans-Atlantic (yacht) race but never got a chance when I was sailing,” says the former Shosholoza crew member turned paddler. “Then I changed to kayaking but still had the urge to go across the ocean by myself.”
On 19 February 2023, just 2 months after leaving Cape Town, South Africa, Richard landed on the shores of Salvador, Brazil.
To claim the record of paddling solo and unsupported from South Africa to Brazil, Richard had to touch dock or land unsupported. There was no place for him to dock at the yacht club, so Richard had to swim ashore to fulfil the requirements to successfully make his Ocean X crossing official.
The bay of Salvador is vast and lends itself to strong tidal currents filling and emptying the bay every several hours – meaning if Richard didn’t make it in time, he would have to wait till Monday morning to finally touch down on Brazilian soil.
As luck would have it, Richard managed to paddle hard in the final moments of his long journey to be able to swim to the beach and was joined for the last few kms by an entourage of navy, lifeguards and local paddlers. Richard then tied Osiyeza to a mooring buoy, jumped ship and swam ashore to meet his wife, Judith, and the rest of the welcoming team.
“It’s been a dream of mine to cross an ocean alone. Paddling a kayak across the ocean has been a ten-year dream and the last five years of planning and execution. I am very relieved that I had what it takes for an adventure like this but also very grateful that it has come to an end,” said Richard when arriving in Salvador.
“The experience is one that I will cherish for the rest of my days, but more importantly I hope that my story has inspired others to dream and to act on their dreams. I would like to thank all my sponsors, supporters, followers, donators, my exceptional shore team and my family for getting me across the ocean.”
“The crowning glory must be the phenomenal success of the fund raising for Operation Smile South Africa. We have raised over half a million Rand ensuring that more than a hundred children will receive corrective cleft surgery,” beamed Richard.
Thank you to Richard’s sponsors and everyone who has donated and backed Richard’s cause on this incredible journey, while also giving much-needed messages of love and support on social media.
Thank you to everyone who has supported and sponsored this adventure, ALTSA, SMD Africa Marine, Seaport Supply, Aerontec, Powersol, Sicomin, Treble Group, Highbury Media, Further Composites, Phil Southwell Designs, Victron Energy SA, Solbian, AST Group, McMurdo, Link Engineering, Cableman, Forever Fresh, Buttanut, Carb Smart, Revive.