GivenGain Foundation February Fundraise of the Month

An important accolate to have… I am honored to be GivenGain Foundation’s February Fundraiser of the Month!

So far we have raised over R10000 for Operation Smile. So far this will change the lives of 2 children who will receive life changing surgery for cleft palates. Changing the world one smile at a time

If you want to donate to Operation Smile please click on my GivenGain fundraiser…/richard-kohler-raising…/ or if you want to get invovled and sponsor or support my Ocean X adventure, please contact me.
Richard will be the first person to paddle a kayak solo and unsupported across the Southern Atlantic Ocean. For now, unfortunately, the big adventure has been put on hold due to the impact of COVID-19. New date will be announced later this year.

Covid-19 delays Richard Kohler’s Ocean X adventure departure

I would be lying if I said wasn’t bitterly disappointed that I have no choice but to postpone my mammoth Ocean X odyssey to Salvador in Brazil on the South American continent – this has been a dream of mine for 10 years!

My planning began three years ago, but with all the uncertainty around the current pandemic that the world is experiencing, and Brazil’s escalating Covid-19 cases, including their closure of all land and sea borders, plus many countries implementing travel bans from Brazil, I believe the risks are stacked against me.

The enforced hard lockdown last March meant that delays would be inevitable. The setback meant that I could only commence with the kayak build after initially starting my research and design ideas in July 2019. Sadly, my friend, designer and builder, Uwe Jaspersen, passed away a month into the kayak build. The emotional setback was immense, but I needed to find a solution and soldier on.

Enter Phil Southwell, who knew my original concept, understood my vision and was able to design the kayak. Obviously, Uwe was a designer and a builder, so I still needed to source someone who could build on my vision within the parameters of Phil’s design. In early-September I started chatting to Dylan Soares De Melo from Further Composites and the ball started rolling at once.

We were on track with the build – even though the hard lockdown had put me back five months – and we were ready to start the first round of sea trials in mid-December. The day after we launched the kayak in Langebaan lagoon, the beaches were closed by the government under the adjusted Level 3 lockdown restrictions.

First time launching at Langebaan Lagoon

Fortunately, that one paddle proved to be the most valuable exercise as it confirmed the need to include my original design of the keel for improved stability. This is something to be positive about and only just this week the government has allowed South Africans to be able to return to the beaches, rivers, and lagoons.

Sea trials require a minimum of a month and a half, which excludes any alterations that need to be done to the vessel. Obviously, I have a real job so 12 full days of training amounts to quite a few weekends! The Covid-19 restrictions have hampered that time frame to test out equipment and make any adjustments and improvements to the craft.

With a very tight deadline to leave within the current weather window, there is only a short time left for me to complete all my tasks. From a safety perspective it would be crazy to undertake my journey to Brazil without ticking every single box on my checklist. This does not include any uncertainty over the virus – especially with the unknown issue of a third wave.

My mate Robin Tindall testing the kayak at Century City

But for me to achieve my Ocean X dream, staying positive is of paramount importance and there are many positives to take from my decision to postpone till later this year. It gives me plenty of time to ensure the kayak is 100% and ready to go. My life depends on it!

Also, it offers my sponsors 10 months of extra coverage as I nip and tuck all my preparations to achieve my successful crossing to Brazil. But, more importantly, for everyone on this planet, the understanding of Covid-19 should be a lot clearer and hopefully the vaccines may have improved the situation considerably.

Thank you to all my partners and everyone involved on making this journey possible. Teamwork makes the dream work and nothing can be achieved without your support.

Please keep following the progress as we build towards the end of the year. Some exciting things happening soon…

Stay safe and keep paddling!

ALTSA partner with Richard Kohler’s Ocean X odyssey

We are proud to announce that ALTSA has been named as the presenting partner for Richard Kohler’s Ocean X odyssey.

Gerhard Moolman, CEO of ALTSA, is no stranger to the demands of the open ocean and is excited to be a main sponsor of Richard’s mammoth expedition of paddling unsupported from Cape Town in an eight-metre paddling torpedo across the Southern Atlantic Ocean to Salvador in Brazil.

“ALTSA will cross oceans for their customers,” says Moolman, who holds the Guinness World Record for the longest distance paddled on a Surfski. Almost 20 years ago, Moolman paddled 6,152km from Hout Bay in South Africa to Lamu in Kenya.

“From one adventurer to another I could identify with Richard’s dream and we at ALTSA are proud to be a presenting partner and help in any way to support Richard’s dream.” he added.

“When I set off on my six-month journey, I knew there were many challenges ahead of me, but I always knew that all the support I had, would allow me to achieve my ultimate goal, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to assist in Richard’s, Ocean X exploits.”

ALTSA is a leading outdoor and indoor LED lighting solutions provider based in sub-Saharan Africa and the largest lighting exchange company in South Africa. ALTSA is where innovation meets the cutting edge of lighting design.

Richard Kohler is scheduled to leave in early-2021 on an unsupported paddle in aid of raising funds for his charity of choice, Operation Smile. Sailing has always been in his blood, and he began his journey at the age of six, and has sailed at international level, including the 2007 Americas Cup for South Africa aboard the Shosholoza.

We look forward to Richard successfully completing the experience, with local corporate partners like ALTSA joining the team and being able to witness first-hand the real effect of their efforts to raise awareness and funding for this great initiative.

WIN a chance to name my Ocean X kayak

Back in 2016, Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council introduced a public contest to name a new ship. That plan backfired with voters overwhelmingly supporting a name that a British radio presenter submitted, Boaty McBoatface. Since then we have had Ferry McFerryface, Trainy McTrainface and even Horsy McHorseface and no one has gone so far to ask the public to name a boat since.

Until now…it’s South African’s turn and I am putting it in your very capable hands so don’t let me down. Now you can help choose a name for the kayak. Here’s the catch though, I will select the top three names which the public will then vote on, so we won’t be naming this vessel Kayak McKayakface 🙂

How to enter: Fill out the form on Cape Town Etc website here

The three names will be posted on Cape Town Etc’s website and social media chan
nels for everyone to vote. The person who submitted the winning name will win an exclusive experience with mwah, including an invite to the launch and the naming of the kayak, as well as an invite to the departure at the end of January – and a paddle on the boat in Cape Town before I leave.
Prize details:
  • An exclusive experience and a paddle on the kayak
  • A personal invitation to the naming of the kayak and the launch
  • A front row seat to see me depart on my journey in January

Competition Ts & Cs apply.

Paddling for Smiles (Operation Smile)

As I count down the weeks left until I set off for my Ocean X adventure to Brazil, I have chosen to support and raise funds for Operation Smile South Africa, a charity that advocates for children born with cleft lift and cleft palates in South Africa.

It takes a 45 minute life-changing surgery to provide a beautiful new smile to a waiting child. Each surgery costs just R5500 to change a child’s life forever. Please help me raise money for a cause that’s very close to my heart through my GivenGain fundraiser. To donate click here:

Lauren Bright Operation Smile’s Country Manager said “it is an honour to have someone like Richard Kohler choose Operation Smile as his beneficiary and take up such an enormous challenge, to help raise funds for kids and adults born with a cleft lip and palate – to help change lives; one smile at a time.’

9 year old Clara, female, BCL and CP, after. Clara poses for photos holding her before picture. Clara received surgery for her BCL during Operation Smile’s 2016 mission and will return to the 2017 mission for surgery on her cleft palate. Patient village. Madagascar. May 2017. (Operation Smile Photo – Zute Lightfoot)


Kayak build – half way there

We’ve reached the end of the third week of my Ocean X kayak build.

Last week we invited some special guests who have helped my dream come true to have a private viewing of the boat build.
Thank you to my build team Dylan from Further Composites, Phil Southwell and Richard Bertie for your time and input.
Thanks to Bruce Robinson from Power Sol, Andrew Parsons and Craig from Aerontec, Vincent and Ashraf from SMD Africa Marine and Matthew from Getaway Magazine, Highbury Safika Media.
Check these awesome renderings of the design by Southwell Yacht Designs.

Gadget review – Solar Kettle

If my cooker packed up or I ran out of fuel would this solar kettle be a viable option to heat water to re-constitute a freeze dried meal? Let me know what you think?

Phil, Richard, Dylan discussing craft design

My Ocean X kayak build has begun

Things are getting real…

Got my first look at my Ocean X kayak being built by Further Composites. Timber frames form the shape of the 8m long hull. The core material will be stripped and formed to the hull shape before laminating the first of the outer skins.

I chatted to Dylan, the boat builder who is building my kayak…check it out here.

Craft Design 2.3 or is it 10.2? (But this is THE ONE!)


It literally feels like yesterday when Smile FM Radio announced live on 13 May 2019 that I was going to kayak solo and unassisted across the Atlantic Ocean. Much has happened since then, but this story is to pick up on the latest update around the actual design of the OCEAN X KAYAK.

Fast forward to post-Covid and the 13 August 2020 …

Almost to the day, eight weeks ago, I was having coffee at my local shopping centre with a well-known yachtsman, Nick Leggett, and while I was trying to convince him to join the team and offer his weather routing skills, a friend, Shaun Ferry, popped over to say hello.

Shaun asked for the latest news on the kayak design and build. I told him that I was still looking for the best boat builder to fit my needs and that I had been in contact with several possible options but had nothing concrete. He casually asked if I had chatted to Richard “Thirsty” Bertie?

Keep in mind that I am a terrible procrastinator, of the worst kind!

“No, not yet. But I was going to,” I replied.

Shaun is not a procrastinator. He just took out his phone and called Thirsty then and there. After a quick chat. he passed the phone over to me and said: “Here you go, speak to him.”

That was the start of what I needed to get Ocean X back on track.

Later that day was the first time since July, when my friend, kayak builder and designer Uwe passed away, that I was able to get access to his laptop to see if I could find a copy of the design drawings. Unfortunately, all that I could find was a single CAD file. Most of the latest design discussions and modifications never made it to this file. Check out my blog post from June here.

A week later I met with Richard in Noordhoek to seek his assistance in the construction of my kayak. I think it took him a few long minutes to digest what I was planning and whether I was a complete nut job, or if there was something more to it.

I am very pleased to say he became quite intrigued by the whole idea and by the time we had said our farewells he had contacted someone to do the build. He also contacted a good friend of his, a yacht designer by the name of Phil Southwell, and convinced him to spare a few hours to complete the design that Uwe had started.

I remember driving home over Ou Kaapse Weg and thinking how amazing that short meeting was. The kindness, honesty, enthusiasm, and knowledge that Thirsty was going to bring to the team gave me the huge boost that I so badly needed.

The Designer

Phil Southwell sailed into Cape Town in 1981 and has been in South Africa on and off ever since. He designed with Lavranos & Associates for almost seven years, gaining the required experience after completing his degree for membership of the Royal Institute of Naval Architects. Phil Southwell established Southwell Yacht Design in 1989 and he designs exclusively in 3D.

I finally met Phil the following week. I had sent him a few screen shots of the CAD drawings beforehand and must admit that I felt a little out of my comfort zone. Uwe was a good friend and we talked openly and debated each concept of the design until we were both happy with each item.

I had never met Phil before. I knew of his reputation as a top-class designer. What I did not know was to what extent he was willing to assist. I should not have been concerned. Phil has put in countless hours into the design and is a remarkable talented designer.

In the past five weeks we have taken the original drawings and have gone through another 10 versions/design changes! We have a design/build team meeting weekly and when I listen to Phil, Thirsty and Dylan discuss how each aspect of the design fits into the reality of the construction, I sit back and smile quietly to myself knowing I have the best of the best on my side here. Well, it’s actually because I have no idea what they are talking about! ?

Phil, Richard, Dylan discussing craft design

ABOVE: Phil, Richard, Dylan discussing stuff I don’t understand.

The design

The basic dimensions of the Ocean X kayak are 8m long and 94cm at my paddle entry. The rudder is transom hung and will knock up if it collides with anything. I prefer the transom rudder to having a rudder shaft running through the hull from a safety aspect and accessibility should anything need attention.

For increased stability and weight reduction I have opted for a short lifting keel with a lead bulb (30-50kg) versus using water ballast in the hull. There is a compromise between using the weight of water ballast versus the drag of the keel. I feel confident that my design is on the correct side of this equation.

The keel box has been designed to absorb a collision with an object or beast. It has compression/absorption zones fore and aft as well as shear pins. If the keel was to fall off, then I have the backup of using water ballast bladders for extra stability.

In the front of the hull there is a lifting canard (skeg). This will be pulled down only when there is wind from the side. The windage on the cabin, which is in the front, will cause the bow of the kayak to blow away from the wind. The canard will help counter this action.

The kayak is of a carbon core construction and should weigh in at around 85kg without the lead bulb of the keel. The maximum overall weight of the kayak, gear, food and I can be no more than 400kg. Obviously less is better but to take enough equipment and supplies to keep me alive for up to 80 days does not come without its weight challenges.

See below for a snapshot of the design progression starting with my own crude drawings to Uwe’s and finally with Phil’s perfection that goes into manufacturing today.

Original Craft designOriginal Craft design

ABOVE LEFT: These are my first drawings.
ABOVE RIGHT: Uwe’s CAD drawing

Uwe design 3D render
ABOVE: Uwe design 3D render

 Phil Southwell design. Solar panel placements and sizes to change.

LEFT: Phil Southwell design. Solar panel placements and sizes to change.

New craft design

ABOVE: Here you can peek inside and make out my bunk. The bulkhead forward showing the sealed compartment containing the lifting canard. In front of this will be a crash bulkhead and a sacrificial foam filled “nose cone”. The aft hatch is for the food and spares storage.


ABOVE: Overlaying my paddling stroke to perfect the cut-away on the side of the deck and the cabin.

Craft build starts next week so should be complete by December, allowing me a few weeks of testing and training before I hit the open seas.

Keep watching this space for the exciting build progress as we get closer to departure date.



Jet Boil Review: Cooking at sea

All my cooking will be done with boiling water. I will have no need to fry, bake or the likes.

Jetboil stoves are brilliant. The Jetboil is far and away the best system I’ve used. Fast, compact and efficient. I will take a number of spare lighters, because the ignition unit is a major weak point in a salty environment.

The Jetboil only uses 5g of gas to boil 500ml of water. Allowing for some waste I should only need to take as little as 2.5kg of gas. As with every system on board I will have a backup plan. My alternative cooker is due to arrive on Tuesday so I will do a review of it after I have thoroughly tested it.

I will make my freeze-dried meal in a thermos mug and not in the bag that it comes in. If I make it in the bag, I have smelly rubbish to keep someplace (all plastics will be audited before and after).  The thermos mug is washable, and also means I can allow the meal longer to rehydrate fully without it going cold.

I will need to make a gimbal system for the cooker so if there are any engineers who have some time on their hand and would like to do this for me it would be much appreciated.

Jetboil Review at Sea: