Paddling Update day 20-24

Paddle Day 20

Melkboss to Witsands 57 km 

Today I was on the water just after 5am. The swell had picked up and the tide was low so it took a little bit of timing and paddling over white water before making it to the back line. The day’s plan was quite simple “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line” so I headed straight across Table Bay with Robben Island to my right. The water was once again in that oily state but this would change later. The bay shoreline was covered in the morning haze which only got worse as the city and traffic woke up. For some reason the VHF coms with Warren was not working. I found out later the external microphone and talk piece was faulty and had remained stuck on transmit which ran the battery down. We then changed to cell phone coms but I had left the Land Rover phone on silent so Warren had no idea I was calling. I then called Mark who managed to relay messages to Warren’s own number which I had not yet programmed into my phone.

Teething problems like these were good to sort out in my own backyard in calm conditions.I stopped a few times to try my GoPro camera which I mounted onto a short pole so I can video myself. It is quite tricky staying upright but I think the footage came out just fine. I will post it when I get the time to do some editing.

Rounding Karbonkelberg was when things started to get a bit bumpy. There was still a 3m swell running so I opted out of taking the straight line between the rocks. Ya, I must be getting soft in my old age or maybe just like making it to the end of the day in one piece!

From here a NW wind started to blow and I got my first taste of a downwind and a broad smile was showing all the way to Slangkop Lighthouse only to disappear when I approached the point off Witsand / crayfish factory. The surf was pounding onto the point and my heart sank thinking this was going to be a tricky landing. As I rounded the point I could see that there was a clear path to the slipway with no surf at all. Pop! Smile back on!

It would have been wonderful to paddle more distance, especially with the tail wind, but there is no safe landing spots in a big SW swell before Cape Point. All in all I was happy with the day.

Paddle Day 21

Witsands around Cape Point to Buffels Bay 33km

The forecast was spot on. No wind in the early morning and then it would switch from a SE to a Westerly. The swell had flattened out. In fact it was so calm that South West reef was not breaking and rounding the point I am sure I could have touched the rocks.

Bianca Beavitt joined me for the paddle and we made a very comfortable average speed of 10km/hr. I stopped a few times to take more video of the paddle and on the False Bay side I paddled into the “cave” and got well up to the pebble beach under the cave. The water was crystal clear and I could see the bottom at least 12m down.

The last stretch to Buffels Bay the wind had switched West which gave a light head wind.All along today’s route the VHF coms with Warren were working perfectly and once he even called up to query if all was OK because I had stopped off Cape Point to do some videoing and he was above me at the lighthouse. I felt like a schoolboy being busted doing something naughty! ? He told me later that he had become a bit of a tourist attraction at the lighthouse as the bus loads of punters were asking him all sorts of questions about us below.

After rounding the point I took the opportunity of paddling to the cave in the cliffs below lighthouse and then made my way to Buffels Bay. Just after leaving the cave the Westerly wind started to pick up, which was very good for tomorrow’s False Bay crossing to Hanklip as it cannot be done in a SE wind.

Paddle Day 22

False Bay crossing to Hangklip 40km

Our earliest wake up call so far at 03h45 to pick up our safety duck and crew at Big Bay lifesaving club and then we had a long drive passed Simonstown to Millers point to launch the duck.

We were eventually on the water at 06h30 and the wind had started to puff. The forecast suggested a NW but for much of the paddle it blew from the North and even felt, at times, NE.For much of the paddle the North wind chop was side on and the remaining sea swell from the SW was coming from the other side which left the sea being quite lumpy, but there was always a little bump to ride, helping to keep the average speed up.

It was fantastic to have my good mate “Beetle” Bailey along for the paddle. This was his Cape Point Challenge training paddle! It had been a while since we had chatted so for the first hour I caught up on all the local news and we even joked about the big fish in this part of the world. Then a pod of seal hurriedly came porpoising past us and I turned to Beet and said: “I don’t like seeing this! It’s often a sign that something may be chasing them.”

Shortly afterwards the safety boat drew alongside and Derrick told us that there was a pod of Killer whales coming our way. Mmmmmmm this could be tricky. What to do? First thing was to make sure Beetle was between myself and them – lol

What magnificent creatures. They sped past us only a few boat lengths away. Not even giving us a second glance. I am sure they had those seals in their sights. We guessed that there were about fifteen Orca’s in the pod and I also spotted a juvenile. I believe the males are the ones with the bigger dorsal fins. When they are about to break the surface the fins look like submarine periscopes cutting through the water. Definitely the highlight of the trip so far!

The deal with the safety boat was that if they saw something that was of concern they were to come along side me ASAP. I mentioned this to Beet and he agreed that that was a cunning plan. A while later the rubber duck came motoring towards us and without saying a word Beetle and I paddled close to each other in anticipation of the next thing in the water, only to be told that we were now half way!

In comparison the rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. The last hour the wind and swells lined up a lot better and we were treated to some great downwind conditions until we passed the Hangklip lighthouse and turned into Masbaai for a short upwind to the slipway where Warren was waiting with the Land Rover and boat trailer.

Paddle Day 23

Hangklip to Hermanus 43km 4hrs 45min

Last night we stayed at the legendary Hangklip Hotel and were met by chef Eugene who coincidently was born with a cleft palate. At this stage the wind was howling around the mountain and the sea was covered in spray. The forecasts indicated that the wind would start subsiding the following day by 11am and then switch to SW in the late afternoon. The day’s plan was to go paddle to the slipway at Hawston, a manageable 30km.

We did not stay in the hotel bungalows but in a private two bedroom holiday house. What a great little place it was with a cool collection of vinyl records plus two turn tables. It’s such a pity we don’t get to spend much time at each spot to really make the most of what they each have to offer.

It was Warren’s first dinner duty and he served up a gourmet creamy cheese, spring onion and tuna pasta with a glass of red wine. It sure hit the spot. Knowing I did not have to be up at 04h30 I hit the sack after 10h00. As I am in a routine, I was awake by then anyway, only to hear the wind was still giving its all.

Later we decided to drive to Bettys Bay to look at the slipway in case the wind did not slack off and I wanted to use this as a get out point. Then it was to a coffee shop to wait for the wind to do its thing which it started to do around 11h30.

Back to Hangklip and onto the water by 12h15. Leaving Masbaai had a few interesting moments as I had to avoid the big swells breaking on the outer reefs. Once I rounded the point I headed towards Bettys Bay. Along the rocky shoreline the sea got very lumpy with the bounce-back and progress was a little slow. I also think I was fighting a bit of head current.

There were lots of penguins around and the water had these dark spot all over it. Some spots as wide as 50m. After going over one of them I realised that these were schools of bait fish. Now I know when you have little fish you get bigger ones eating them and then bigger ones eating the big ones etc….. you get where I am going with this…. I do not like paddling over bait fish!!!

I was surprised not to see any fishing boats taking advantage. Maybe they were all out looking for perlemoen!!!

Most of the time I try to paddle along the shoreline which offers the quickest option to get off the water if there are any issues. The evening before, Warren and I study the coastline and decide on possible exit points for myself and the positions that he must go to, to follow me. Yesterday he managed to keep me in his sights for most of the day, thanks to the coastal road being slightly elevated.

Before I got to Hawston I decided to push on to Hermanus while the going was good. After advising Warren, he told me Louise Fick from the Kleinmond tourism Bureau had tracked him down at the Kleinmond slipway and had given him a Cape Whale Coast Cap and Kogelberg Biopshere Guardian T-shirt for me. Nice one, thanks Louise!

Another surprise was Kevin Weaving (GPS Tracking South Africa (SA) Fleet Management [my backup GSM tracker]). He is a schoolmate of mine whom I have not seen since school days and he joined Warren at the Hawston slipway and followed us the rest of the way to Hermanus. It was lekker to catch up with him at the harbour after the paddle.

All in all it was a good day on the water. Saturday is Judy’s Birthday and Sunday the swell is over 6m so I will take these as rest days and then plan to get passed Gaansbaai on Monday.

Paddle Day 24

Hermanus around Danger point to Kleinbaai 43km

Last night we were fortunate to stay in the Windsor Hotel in Hermanus.

A lovely place overlooking the bay and I could see the conditions by glancing out of the window.

Kevin Weaving from GPS Tracking South Africa has been our shadow for the past few days has escorted Warren from view point to view point making his life a lot easier. It is wonderful meeting people like Kevin. There are good people out there ?

I was on the water at 06h00 from the new harbour. I had the option to paddle straight across the bay which would have been about 10km shorter but I am sticking to my safety rule of following the shore line unless I have company. The first leg was towards the main beach was a great way to start the day. Swells and wind from behind ?

Paddling behind the breakers following the beach to Gaansbaai also turned out to be a good leg. With a little bit of a following bump caused by the swell reflection off the cliffs at Hermanus. The swell was still running at 3.5m and a couple of times I had to make haste to get seawards to avoid being dumped by the occasional rouge wave. In the end I stayed a fair way off the back line.

Once I was on the Gaansbaai side of the bay and heading into the swells towards Danger Point my progress slowed significantly. I was treated to some common dolphins and a whale near the point. As I approached the point I was feeling quite confident as the sea felt calm. I could see the swell breaking on the reefs off the point but how bad could it be!

Danger Point – I now understand how it got it’s name!

The further off the point I got the bigger the swell seemed to get. There was a swell running in from straight ahead and one from my left. When the two met and peaked the crest would crumble into a massive rolling ball of white water big enough to break my boat. This appeared to be happening all around me and at random! GET ME OUT OF HERE!!

I had to paddle almost 2km SW, straight out to sea, to get beyond the reefs before I could think about turning the corner. It was a very long, lonely and nervous 2km’s. Up and down keeping a weary eye out for the breaking crests. Eventually I started to turn only to see another reef, which I later discovered was the Birkenhead reef [see foot note]. I made a line to go around it. At the last minute I decided I had had enough and sneaked on the inside and started to make the most of the tail wind and following sea to Kleinbaai. This leg was covered with blue bottles and at times i had to just drift to get passed them so my paddle would not pick them up and fling them onto me.

Approaching Kleinbaai I was very glad to have the assistance of the harbour master to guide me in. In fact I almost came in too soon and would certainly have been banged up in the surf and kelp. It is a tricky entrance with the big swell running and every now and then a wave would break right across the main channel. In the end I came in without any issues.

Arriving at the slipway I was surprised to get a round of applause. A group of people who had been tracking my progress come down to see me paddle in. Here I met the resident marine biologist team from Marine Dynamics Shark Tours, Michelle, Oliver and Alison. Michelle quietly asked if I had seem any of the Great Whites Sharks today. To which I said NO! “Oh!” she said, “well I can tell you they saw you”…….mmmmmm

The local press were also there and once the pictures and interview were done we were invited up to the Great White House for a cupa java. Ah! A big cappuccino, comfy chair and a lekker long chat. Marine Dynamics have agreed to escort me through shark alley (YAY) when I head off next. But not before they put us inside a cage, under water, and get a Great White Shark to swim past!!!! I may be coming face to face with my biggest fear.

Good or bad thing? I will let you know……..

[HMS Birkenhead, also referred to as HM Troopship Birkenhead or steam frigate Birkenhead, was one of the first iron-hulled ships built for the Royal Navy. She was designed as a frigate, but was converted to a troopship before being commissioned.

On 26 February 1852, while transporting troops primarily of the 74th Regiment of Foot to Algoa Bay, she was wrecked at Danger Point near Gansbaai on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. There were not enough serviceable lifeboats for all the passengers, and the soldiers famously stood firm, thereby allowing the women and children to board the boats safely. Only 193 of the 643 people onboard survived, and the soldiers’ chivalry gave rise to the “women and children first” protocol when abandoning ship, while the “Birkenhead drill” of Rudyard Kipling’s poem came to describe courage in face of hopeless circumstances]

Milnerton to Granger Bay Paddle 17 Nov 2012

More than 20 paddlers from around Cape Town joined Richard Kholer as he paddled in to Granger Bay in Cape Town.  Amongst them was Jade Carstens. Jade was born with a cleft palate which was corrected after seven years, “He (Richard) has no idea how great it is, what he is doing, I never thought people knew or cared about this,” said Jade.

With Richard within striking distance of Cape Town, tourismZA, decided to step up the exposure for the expedition.  Try as we may, we could NOT get the green light for a single, lone paddler to paddle into Cape Town harbour. It seems that the logistics of getting a single paddler into Cape Town harbour with only one week’s notice is an insurmountable logistical task for Cape Town port control. Fortunately, Oceana Power Boat Club at Granger Bay came to the rescue and invited Richard and everybody who paddled the 6.5km with him from Milnerton to Granger Bay. The idea was to step up the exposure for the Paddling for Smiles expedition and use the reception as a platform to draw media attention to a lone paddler, who, against all odds is persevering through an endeavour that is nothing short of a herculean undertaking.


The event was to draw attention to the plight of children born with cleft lips and palates and raise funds to perform corrective surgery on them.

For every R5,500.00 donated to Operation Smile South Africa we can facilitate corrective facial surgery on a child and give them their God-given right to a smile.

Thanks to the efforts of tourismZA and Richard Kohler, we were able to raise over R10 000.00 towards the Paddling for Smiles Expedition. A complete list of all who contributed is available here.  This list is updated weekly.

tourismaZA would like thank all the fantastic people of the West Coast for assisting and providing accommodation for Richard and the Paddling for Smiles Expedition as he made his way to Cape Town.

We are still very far from the target of R1 000 000.00, which is going to take a huge effort on the part of everybody involved to make this a reality. We look now to the East Coast of South Africa and the next part of this epic journey.




Paddle Day 3 and 4

Paddle day 3:

Tuesday 23rd October 2012 we made the 42km from Alexander Bay to Holgat River.  So how did I feel after a 5hr paddle. Well a lack of on the water training, lack of time spent setting up my new Fenn Swordfish, lumpy sea, very cold water and an increasing head wind left me a little frustrated when I eventually washed up the beach just before midday.

That night we were allowed to camp at the secret Holgat camp site which is a few km up the river gorge without security baby sitting us. They actually put an old lock onto the main gate and gave us a spare key and asked us to just throw the key away when we leave! Unheard of!! So we have to give the Alexkor security a massive thumbs up for everything they have done for us especially Liuwelyn and Frans Ruiters. Oh yes, we were also told not to drive around or we might get shot! ?

What a fabulous place to camp. A night out under the stars.

Paddle day 4:

It was up a 5am to be on the water by 6am, a few minutes before sunrise. The sea had calmed down a lot. Not knowing exactly what the days wind forecast was I tried to take a closer conservative line to shore. Around 8am the wind suddenly switched to a hot but strong offshore wind. At this time I was going outside one of the many reefs and had to dig deep to get back inshore to avoid being blow out to sea. It stayed this way till about the last hour when it faded to nothing.

Close to Port Nolloth I passed a few diamond boats doing their stuff. I came along side one just to say hello. They asked the obvious question, “where did you come from?”. After telling them the one chap just shook his head and said “jy’s [email protected]$%ng mal” turned around and carried on working. Go to love it.

Got the 38km covered in just over 4hrs. I tried a 1mm wetsuit top that The Paddling Centre had given me, to try and combat the cold water. WOW! What a difference it made. Can’t understand why we don’t wear them more in the Cape. Especially on the late evening downwind paddles.

So as I sit here writing this the wind has switched to the North I wish I could get a few more hours in today to make some use of this wind but the next point South that I can get out at is Kleinsee which is still 56km away.Yesterday we are in the comfort of the Bedrock Lodge overlooking the harbour courtesy of Freddie.

Today I hope their will be some of this North wind left. The plan right now is to paddle off around 05h30 mist permitting and see what happens.

So the expedition begins – Day 1


Paddling for Smiles

My Surf Skis finally arrived on Thursday late afternoon after a 3 week wait which delayed our departure by 6 days. I headed off early on Friday morning to fetch my “seconder” – Paul Brouwer en route in Darling. Paul will be looking after me till the middle of November when I hope to in or around Cape Town.

The drive up to the Orange River was an 800km mixed bag of conditions. Rain storm in darling- hail storm near Springbok and then hot dry conditions at the end. Arriving in Alexander Bay is a little depressing. The town is slowly fading away but the people here are warm and welcoming.

Looking for the weather window

Our first order was to find our guest house, Af en Toe. It’s an old 9 bedroom communal house which we have all to ourselves. Our second task was to get down to the harbour and check out the sea conditions. Access to the harbour is restricted as it is in the mine area. After a few calls we hopped into a mine security vehicle and were driven down to the harbour. All the diamond dredging boats were safely hiding away in the harbour with the sea pounding 5m swells into the coast. Every now and then a wave would close out across the entrance! Certainly not what we wanted to see.

What to do!

I decided that we will have another look on Saturday morning and try and give it a go. Back to the guest house for a plate of spagbog ala Paul and a good night rest. We had arranged a security vehicle to escort us and the Land Rover to the harbour at 8am. No need for an early start with only a 12km paddle ahead. Thankfully the wind had not started blowing but the swell was still thumping. Keen to get the paddling on the go I decided to give it a bash.

Wow what an experience!!!

I am not shy to admit I was “crapping” myself as I paddled out of the harbour and don’t remember paddling in swells this big before. The waves I counted 10 seconds to go up and down the other side. I made a beeline for the deep sea to stay away from the rogue swells that had their tops cresting and breaking. Getting hit by one of these would have been disastrous. From my GPS track I worked my way 2km off shore before heading North. At the top of each swell the wind would suddenly gust strongly offshore. This is caused by the air the wave displaces as it moves forward. Freaky!!

Paddling to the Namibian border

I paddled 7km to the Namibian border before turning around and heading south. The way back I could follow my GPS track which was comforting. By this time the vis had improved and I was feeling excited. Approaching the harbour I followed the leading lights in. Paul was on the VHF radio giving his advice and with this I made a safe and much relieved return to Alexander Bay harbour.

Richard Kohler rides the waves again

In December last year, filled with enthusiasm and the joys of life in the great outdoors he launched from a beach in Mozambique. His goal was to be the first solo-surfski paddler to paddle the entire 3600km South African coastline between Mozambique and Namibia. His purpose was to raise enough money to finance the reconstructive surgery that would enable 200 children to smile for the first time.

He didn’t make it!

During the planning stages conversations about the Herculean challenge ahead of him always seemed to wind their way back to the worst case scenario of a shark attack. The shark attack happened on day three of his paddle! A little rattled and more than a little anxious he put out to sea again in a replacement kayak.

Within a week of getting started the KwaZulu Natal coastline swallowed him up, worked him over and unceremoniously spat him out as a buckled man on a remote beach at the Amatikulu River mouth.

Mentally shaken up by the shark attack and physically damaged by the KwaZulu Natal surf, he gingerly put out to sea again. Hopefully, with a little physio at the next few stop overs the pain would subside.

Behind the scenes, with each passing day, word was spreading about Richard Kohler and his epic paddle for smiles. Despite the battering headwinds, shark attack and the serious punishment his body was taking he soldiered on.

Slowly, one kilometre at a time, with everybody’s support he was getting there. After three weeks he got as far as Winklespruit and then he suffered a knockout blow – the expedition was robbed. The low-lives that infest parts of this planet with their rot broke in and stole all the expedition equipment; safety gear, navigational equipment, radios, computers, cameras….everything – including irreplaceable photographs and video footage.

For all intent and purpose, Richard and Riaan had given it their best shot – expedition over!

…or not?

Seconds out; round number 2.

On 14th October 2012 (yes, that’s in 10 days time) Richard will launch from Alexander Bay, paddle up to the Orange River mouth which marks the border of South Africa and Namibia. He will do a ceremonious U-turn and begin his epic journey all over again.

“I have no intention of giving up!” said Richard in his quiet, resolute way. “With the support I have received from family, friends and people I have never met, I am more determined than ever to paddle the entire 3600km South African coast line. Together, where each of us do what we can to make this expedition work, we will give the gift of a smile to 200 children.”

Say no more!