CapeTown Etc

Highbury Media onboard as official media partner to Ocean X

Behind every great adventure is a team of people who help to bring the adventure alive. I am extremely lucky to have some great people and corporates supporting my dream.

Treble Group is a sports marketing and event management agency who are playing an enormous part in managing the project, from securing the much needed financial support and sponsorship to get the adventure off the ground, to managing the ongoing media and digital presence, helping me to build the brand.

Treble Group secures media partner

The Treble Group is excited and privileged to have secured the premium publishing house, Highbury Media, as official media partner to Richard Kohler’s Ocean X adventure.

Highbury Media

Highbury’s award-winning expertise in print and digital media communications will be integral in building the media presence for this incredible journey. Their team have already built and designed Richard’s website. The website allows fans and followers to stay up to date on Ocean X’s latest news. In addition, they will also assist with content generation. This will be leverage through their extensive digital and print magazine portfolio on the highly popular Cape Town Etc and Sports Club platforms.

Richard’s Ocean X adventure is a story about endurance, courage against the odds, and the indomitably of the human spirit. It’s a story that needs to be told. Which is why Treble is excited to partner with Highbury in documenting every stroke of Richard’s mammoth task.

If you would like to get involved with Richard’s Ocean X paddle from Cape Town to Brazil you can contact the Treble Group [email protected] or find the sponsorship opportunities here.

solar panels on my kayak

Solar Power = Water = Life

My unique ocean-crossing kayak needs an electrical source to power its numerous electronics required for me to achieve this heady task awaiting me. The biggest consumer of electricity, which is the most important aspect of my journey, is the water maker. Electricity can be generated using solar panels or wind generators.

In my case: Solar Power = Water = Life

Richard Kohler Kayak

As there are so few kayak crossings, my research focused on ocean-rowing boats. I found that the majority of them experienced some sort of power problem during their crossings, so I need to ensure that I avoid similar issues.

The power generation and storage system for crossing has been designed by Tiaan Oosthuizen, a Tshwane University of Technology Solar Team Member & PhD student. Tiaan has studied the average sunshine for the past 22 years over the entire route I will be paddling. He has based the power generation requirements with this data against the power consumption expected by the electronics on board. Isn’t science and technology just great?

The daily average sun yield will decrease by almost half the closer I paddle to Brazil. When I leave Cape Town’s shores, there should be about 3kWh/day reducing to 1,8kWh/day near Salvador. The solar system I will be using is meticulously designed with a worst-case scenario in mind. Safety first!

Solar Panels

Solar Panels are often used for electrical generation in rowing boats, and reliably produce energy for its systems. However, in foggy, overcast, or rainy conditions their output is significantly reduced. Considering the nature of this kayak and the limited space available, flexible solar panels are best suited for my daily requirements.

Performance is in direct ratio to cost, and unfortunately they are not cheap. A unique design departure that will dramatically increase solar power output are the two lifting and tilting side panels on the front compartment. Total solar array is 380watts.

Wind Generators

Cost for cost they can produce more energy than solar panels. But of course they rely on steady winds and should be mounted as high as possible to get the least interrupted wind.

On a small kayak the main concerns are the weight and resistance of a wind generator and the negative effect this has on the stability of the boat. Considering that the average winds are expected to reach 12 to 15 knots, less my kayak speed, will give me an average of say 10 knots (5.2m/s) of wind. Looking at the graph below it is evident that there is not enough wind speed for efficient use of a wind generator.

graph of air power curve

Solar Controller/Charger

A maximum power point tracker (MMPT) is an electronic DC to DC converter that optimises the match between the solar array (PV panels) and the battery. To put it simply, they convert a higher voltage DC output from solar panels down to the lower voltage needed to charge batteries. MPPT controllers are 93-97% efficient. The charging information will be available to me via a Bluetooth app.


It is necessary to store the energy from the solar panels or wind generators and this will be done using two 12V 100ah LiFePO4 batteries. Traditionally marine deep cycle lead acid batteries have been used, but they only allow a maximum of 50% discharge and ideally as little as 20%. This would require at least twice the battery capacity compared to lithium-ion phosphate (LiFePO4). LiFePO4 batteries can be discharged to a much lower state of charge without damage. However they do come with a hefty cost penalty.

BMS (Battery Management System)

The two 12V 100ah LiFePO4 batteries come with a built-in BMS. It is the brains behind battery packs. They manage the output, charging and discharging, while also providing notifications on the status of the battery pack. They also provide critical safeguards to protect the batteries from damage.

Controlling the over and under voltage, overcurrent and short-circuit protection, over temperature and cell imbalance, the BMS monitors the battery to ensure safety and maximum lifetime over the full range of operating conditions. Most importantly, everything I need to ensure I remain hydrated! Water = Life.

Below is an overview of the power system

Energy system diagram

Keep paddling!

Southern Atlantic routing chart for Januay

Weather, winds and route to Brazil

The mammoth challenge that awaits me as I mentally prepare for my Ocean X odyssey offers a rather simple, yet complex question: when is the best weather and correct time to kayak across the Southern Atlantic?

It would be virtually impossible to kayak across an ocean if the elements are not in your favour and the most important weather elements to consider are the winds and currents. Failing to prepare leaves me with no option but to prepare to fail and even that theory can be quashed by the sudden change in the elements of Mother Nature.

The Southern Atlantic Ocean is dominated by the South Atlantic subtropical high pressure, which basically sits over the middle of the ocean. In the centre of the high pressure there are generally calm winds and variable winds. Moving outwards the wind speed and direction become greater and from a more constant direction

I’ll be departing from Cape Town and those who live and grew up in the fairest Cape know that during the winter months the cold fronts (low pressure systems) bring the north-westerly winds that create big sea swells and lots of rain.

The direction that I will be heading on my journey from Cape Town to Brazil is in a North-Westerly direction so trying to paddle into a headwind during the winter months would be futile. I’d be wasting a lot of time and energy for hardly any gain.

South Easterly Winds

During the summer months though, the opposite happens as the South Atlantic high moves South and pushes the cold fronts downwards and away from Cape Town. Summers here in the Cape are normally dominated by the South Easterly winds that blow in the direction that I want to pursue in achieving my Ocean X dream.

A week after leaving Cape Town it is highly likely that I will move into an area of consistent South Easterly winds known as the Trade Winds. These winds blow in an arc around the high-pressure system, thus helping me towards Brazil.

trade winds

The ocean winds are also the main driving force of the ocean currents and they generally follow the direction of the winds, so waiting for the summer months will again work in my favour. ‘Timing is everything’ as they say in life.

One thing about ocean currents is that they do not move in a perfectly straight line. There are lots of what is termed as ‘eddies’, which is a circular current of water. It will be very important for me to not get stuck in the bogey counter-currents known as ‘eddies’.

When sailors – and now kayakers – plan for an ocean crossing, they use what is known as routing charts. There are routing charts for every month of the year, which indicates the average conditions that could be expected for a given month using empirical recorded data over the past 20 years.

Southern Atlantic routing chart for January

Southern Atlantic routing chart for Januay

On the right-hand side of this chart there are detailed overviews of the temperature, wind, visibility and the wave heights.

Wind description

As you can read from the image above of the wind description, the South East wind is the most dominant between the Cape of Good Hope and the Horn of Brazil – a good time to be kayaking over 6000kms across the ocean!

A routing chart also includes several smaller inserted charts as seen in the image below.

gales and pressure

As you can deduct from the gales and pressure the red numbers in the centre of each square show the average percentage of ship reports in which winds of at least Force 8 have been recorded. The blue lines show the average barometric pressure at sea level.

This chart shows the mean air temperature in Celsius in the red line showing every 2 degrees. The blue lines show the percentage of observations reporting visibility of less than 2 miles and the green lines are the average sea surface temperature in Celsius and show for every 4 degrees.

Wind Rose

wind rose explanation

Every 5 degree square on the routing chart includes a Wind Rose. Above is the explanation of the Wind Rose. A cursory glance of the Wind Roses between Cape Town and Brazil show the South East arrow is the most dominant, which compares with the general wind description as indicated earlier.

But if you take a closer look at the Wind Roses around Cape Town you will notice there is a fair amount of wind blowing from other directions.

The most problematic wind for my departure would be the South West and Westerly winds, which could potentially blow me on to the shore wreaking havoc before I have even left the fairest Cape!

I will have to wait for a weather window that has about five or six days of Southerly and South East winds that will enable me to get North / a little bit West, so if I do encounter any winds from the West I would have made enough sea room to keep me from being blown on to the shore.

The other thing to note are the thick red lines that indicate the percentage frequency of having wave heights greater than 12 foot.

This brings me back to the beginning where I posed question: when is the correct time to kayak across the Southern Atlantic?

It would be virtually impossible if the elements are not in your favour and the window period for me to achieve my ultimate goal is December to the end of February when I can look forward to catching that treasured glimpse of South American land.

Keep paddling!

Breede River Source to Sea Kayak, non stop!

When I finally had the time to take it all in and reflect, I had paddled 310km in 38hrs and had not slept for 47hrs. I was knackered but still brimming with pride as the last remnants of adrenalin had subsided and the warmth of it all had set in.

As part of my preparations for my solo Ocean X mission, it was a no-brainer when I decided to undertake my own virtual version of the Ultra Paddle. Cold doesn’t begin to describe how I felt during this paddle and the lack of sleep induced some vivid hallucinations during the final seven hours of this challenging adventure. All I can say is thank heavens for coffee and hot soup!

Experimenting with different concepts is vital for success when planning an adventure. Often the simplest idea is the best. I started at 2pm on Friday at the confluence of the Dwas and Whittle rivers. It had been 11 long months since I had been here last, which was also a source to sea trip but on a stand-up paddle board.

Navigating the Breede River

The first section to the White Bridge is narrow and fast flowing with a number of short rapids guaranteed and tree blocks to get the adrenaline flowing. The water level was manageable but still low enough to run aground if you took the wrong line through the shallows.

I had brought along an extra mobile phone to use for social media updates but there was no cellular signal and I only once managed to get a Vodacom signal around Robertson. The other mobile phone was to run the SafeTrx app, which enabled friends and family to track my movements.

The navigation app was meant to assist in choosing the correct route during the night, but with different options being only a few meters apart, the weakness of my cunning plan quickly became apparent and I was often fighting my way through the trees in unknown channels. Once in the Bontebok section the app was mostly useless, which I think was due to poor GPS signal of the phone.

On the Wyzersdrift section I had hit a bollard on a low-level bridge and gashed a 15cm hole in the hull below my feet. I was frustrated with myself for taking the wrong line and while mentally giving myself a telling off, I took another wrong turn and ended up in some random flooded channel blocked by more trees. No time to dwell on mistakes. Just dust yourself off and paddle forward!

At Slanghoek low-level Bridge I examined the damage and used duct tape to make some repairs. In my early days of paddling I would tear off a single strip of tape to cover the hole. The first scrape over any object would peel the tape off and I would have to repeat this multiple times to get to the end.

Fish scale technique

A few years ago, while doing a previous source to sea mission, my good friend Ralph showed me the fish scale technique. Starting from the tail side, you place little square pieces of tape. Each one overlapping the previous one as you work your way forward. Any scrapes thereafter may cause the first square or so to dislodge but not the whole lot, which eliminates multiple stops for repairs.

It started to get dark as we approached the finish bridge of the Wyzersdrift race. From there to the N1 bridge is a short 4km section but is completely blocked with trees. It took ages to wade through in the dark and visibility was a challenge – even with a torch the steam rising from the water into the cold air made for tough navigation.

The flat land above Nekkies resort was straight forward as the flooding waters had receded back into the main channel. I chose to shoot weir and it was just a nice big wave train but I did get a good soaking. Alvies Bridge was going to be the next stop to have a much-needed hot cup of soup to restore morale as the temperature had already dropped to almost zero.

About 19 km later at La Chassseur Weir I stopped for another cup of soup, because it was getting unbearably cold. My fingers were numb and I could not even tear open the packet, resorting to my teeth to open it in nervous anticipation of warm nourishment of the welcome soup.

At Goree Weir, the channels were relatively easy and the big wave trains on the way down to the pool certainly got me joyfully bouncing in the dark. Unsure of the water level in the Silverstream sneak channel I decided to portage the low-level Bridge.

This was a very good decision as the water was just over the bridge but the Blue Bollards were still sticking out and a simple slip-up would have been the end of the kayak. The S-bend at the bottom of the channel into the Silverstream pool was over so quickly and without any drama. At the Weir below Silverstream I managed to sneak over the far right-hand side without portaging.

By the time I approached McGregor bridge, which is the start of the Breede River Marathon, It was just after 4am in the morning. An egg, cup of coffee and a freeze-dried meal was welcomed with glee and I was set for the rest of the day.

24 hours no sleep

After more than 24 hours of no sleep I was pleased to find that I was still mentally lucid. During the cold and dark times of the night I was struggling with simple mental tasks like trying to figure out what the distance to the next point would be and even basic maths. As soon as the darkness faded into light my brain seemed to wake up again and function normally.

The next stop was Bonnievale Causeway. I had had company in the form of Peter, who decided that after 146km and one night of paddling, it was time for him to say his goodbyes. It was wonderful to have some company for the first section of the river, but now I was on my own and paddling the second half of the Breede River Marathon race and the first of many big long flat sections.

It was all plain sailing for a while. Waterfall rapid was just a small wave train offering no real challenge and then the many long flat pools had to be crossed. Surprisingly, it went relatively quickly but I guess I was running on autopilot.

Popping over Swellendam weir and going under the N1 bridge was a good moment knowing that I just managed to claim 200 km. I had a short stop at the Bontebok National Park to redo some duct tape repairs. Getting out and standing up was now becoming quite a struggle.

I was now chasing the setting sun. One of the sections I did not want to do in the dark was the channel after Hole-in-the-Wall rapid. At Hole in the Wall I managed to navigate my way down the far left-hand side without too much drama and very shortly after that was up my dreaded channel.

As I made my approach, I decided that the water level was high enough to try to sneak to down the far left-hand side to avoid the channel completely. Good choice. No drama. It was now pretty much pitch black. There was also no signal in this part of the valley, so if anything went wrong I was on my own until I climbed out and found cell phone signal.

Berg River Ultra Paddle Completed

Sometime during the night, I realised I had completed the first goal of the expedition, the Ultra Paddle, a 240km virtual Berg River Marathon in aid of Canoeing SA and the #canoeing4covid food relief fund.

The next three hours of paddling was some of the most intense and terrifying moments I have ever experienced. By now I had learned the difference between the sound of water rushing through trees and the sound of water rushing over and around rocks. The water rushing around the rocks is a deeper growling sound than that of trees.

The flashlight’s maximum range was about 2m and the headlight was even less as the fog began to thicken. I was now mostly navigating by sound making sure that the boat was following the flow of the water and not to get caught perpendicular to the stream, risking being washed upside on to a rock.

This would have ended in disaster as the boat could wrap around the rock and be destroyed or worse, leaving me pinned against the rock. I knew once I got to the end of this section, I would be in the clear with no more rapids left to contend with. It was with less than 1km to go to this safe point when disaster almost struck.

Suddenly a massive whirlpool appeared beneath me, instantly spinning the boat 180 degrees and as quickly as it appeared it vanished but was replaced with a huge surge of water that pushed the kayak sideways into a tree stump sticking out of the river. The kayak wedged hard up against the log.

Instinctively I leaned the kayak towards the log stopping it from flipping upstream. I managed to get one good push with my foot against the log just as the kayak was starting to crack and fold. As the kayak moved backwards, the upstream rail dipped in the water, flipping it, but also same time dislodging it from the log.

I was now floating downstream next to my kayak, soaked to the bone and rattled mentally. Happily, I paddled into the flat pool a minute later and I realised that I had past the worst of it and now only had 65km of flat water remaining.

The following stretch of river to Malgas was uneventful besides the tall trees along the bank started to look like cartoon characters in the contrasting light of the stars. At Malgas I managed to get a cup of soup into my stomach. I did not stay long as I wanted to keep moving before my body shut down completely. By this time, I was not able to stand without assistance and walking was not a very pretty sight!

The final 35km to the sea was purely a mental battle. The hallucinations from lack of sleep were coming to the fore. At some stage I realised that I was paddling into the incoming tide and decided to stay close to the left-hand bank to stay out of the fastest flow. Being so close to the bank my head torch could light up the rocks and trees and all these turned into fantastic creatures.

Elephants, monkeys and more.

I spent many hours muttering to them and asking them things like “how far to go” and “am I going in the right direction”. They never did answer but quietly cheered me on. At one stage I ran aground on a rock from which I could not push myself off, so I tried to stand.

I ended up falling into the river and thinking that if I don’t get back on to this kayak right away, I will end up floating in the river forever. Not one of my new animal friends bothered to help me. I stopped talking to them after that!

After many attempts I got myself back into the kayak and realised that the grounding had dislodged the duct tape repair and quite possibly a kayak was now going to take in a lot of water but I was in no physical or mental state to do anything about it.

When I eventually made it to the finish line I could no longer manage to stand. Paul had to manhandle me out of the kayak and literally carry me to the vehicle. The kayak had filled with so much water that they could not get it up the slipway. After 38hrs of paddling 310km and 47 hours of no sleep, I had successfully completed my goal.


Hand Surgery

Finally went for the upgrade of my left hand.?️

The hand surgery was a dupuytren contracture fasciectomy. Basically the tendon gradually gets pulled over time and the finger/s start to curl. It was still in an early stage for me but far enough that I could not put my palm down flat.

Most importantly the paddle shaft was starting to irritated it and with 80 days of non stop paddling coming at the end of the year it was best to sort it out soonest.

I was super impressed with the medical team. They even arranged the COVID-19 test results in under 10 hours.

I was most fascinated with the “arm block” which enabled me to watch some of the operation. It’s quite surreal watching your skin being cut and pulled back without any pain sensation.

Recovery is longer than I thought but time will tell.

dupuytren contracture fasciectomy Hand surgery Richard Kohler hand surgery

Update on hand surgery

9 July – my hand has healed well and have been for my first paddle this week. So far so good.
hand surgery healing

Ocean X Craft Design

Ocean X is Richard Kohler’s odyssey and later this year he will set off from Cape Town in an eight-metre paddling torpedo across the Southern Atlantic Ocean to Salvador in Brazil, entirely unsupported whilst raising funds for his charity, Operation Smile.

The remarkable aspect of this journey into the unknown is the vessel that will carry Richard along the way in achieving his ultimate goal. An 8m paddling torpedo allows very little leeway to move around after 15 hours and 100km of paddling every day, and every single inch of space needs to be utilised for optimal performance and comfort.

Kayak design

“The design brief was to keep it as close to a traditional kayak but that it should include a sleeping area that can protect me from the uncompromising elements typical of being out at sea,” says Richard. “The kayak is 8.5m long and 90cm at its maximum width. Considering an average shoulder width is around 50cm, it does not leave much room on the inside for me and my gear.”

The cramped conditions are one of Richard’s biggest challenges. Avoiding leg cramp and debilitating salt sores are daily requirements to ensure he remains at optimal levels to complete his heady task. While his arms are sure to feel the burn after 15 hours and 100km a day, his legs will need regular stretches, and possibly some water-kicks from time to time.

“I can’t walk to get pressure off my butt, so if I get salt sores on my butt I will be in serious trouble,” he explains. “While the sleeping compartment does not have enough headroom to sit upright, therefore there is a clear ‘jet fighter canopy’ that can accommodate my head when sitting. It will also give me better views of the world outside.

kayak design Richard Kohler

Power and water supply

From the outside there is a large array of solar panels with the two forward side panels that can lift upwards to present better solar absorption of the sun. Research indicates that having enough electrical power to make water is one of the highest priorities. In Richard’s survival of this mammoth task that awaits him; water equals life.

The kayak is self-righting and has a knock-up rudder to minimise damage from hitting potential floating objects. It also has a short lifting keel for increased stability, and in the bow there is a retractable canard that will be extended when paddling in crosswinds to limit the bow being blown off course.

kayak design Richard Kohler self righting

Non-visible features include a number of floodable/pumpable watertight compartments that can be used to increase stability, and when the weight is in the forward sleeping area the stern compartment can be filled to counter the extra weight forward.

The custom-made 8m paddling torpedo is designed by Uwe Jaspersen that will see Richard voyaging into the unknown in a kayak with a total weight of 380kg that includes gear, food and himself. “Uwe is behind the design, with input from myself based upon my requirements. I wanted to make sure it was as close to a kayak and as far away from a rowing boat as possible,” Richard explains.

“The exact length is still to be determined based on sea trials – narrow overall width, and small cabin to rest in – or hide in if needs be. The cabin is basically a sleeping tube that I can crawl into, and there is only one place to sit upright.”

It remains a stiff challenge nonetheless, but Richard Kohler certainly has the drive and determination to succeed in his endeavours. Having being attacked by a shark during his trip along the entire coastline of South Africa, nothing will stop this brave man from dipping his toes into the cold Atlantic Ocean yet again and raising money for Operation Smile.


kayak design Richard Kohler  kayak design Richard Kohler side view kayak design Richard Kohler front view kayak design Richard Kohler  kayak design Richard Kohler kayak design Richard Kohler side view

Richard Kohler SUP Josaphat

Back on the water – post Covid-19 lockdown

Months after it was declared illegal to enter the ocean I got my first taste of freedom having being locked down due to Covid-19. How I have missed the ocean and training for my upcoming adventure.

It was spectacular to have a welcoming party. I wonder if the dolphins missed me as much as I missed them. ?