Adventurer. Solo Kayaker. Speaker.

On 19 February 2023 after 63 days at sea, Richard Kohler made history as the first person to kayak solo across the Southern Atlantic Ocean from Cape Town, South Africa to Salvador in Brazil, 6403km unsupported and on his own.

Click on the interactive map to read Richard’s updates.

Ocean X

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.

Operation Smile has been operating for 35 years in 34 countries, with millions of children unable to secure the specialized and costly medical care. For every R5,500 raised another child can receive the operation.

Richard and his Ocean X journey was done with a purpose in mind to make a change by raising enough money for Operation Smile. Richard’s inspiring journey has seen him reach and exceed his goal of 70 life-changing cleft palate operations, having raised more than R600 000 for the charity, giving over 100 children new smiles. More than one for every day he has been at sea.

“Like everyone who has been closely following Richard’s progress, we are in complete awe of what he has achieved and delighted he has made his dream a reality and deeply grateful that he has used his epic adventure to transform the lives of dozens of children born with cleft lip and palates.  We are deeply grateful to everyone who has contributed, in support of Operation Smile. Congratulations and thank you Richard!” says Sarah Scarth, Executive Director Operation Smile South Africa.

Please consider donating to Operation Smile through my Givengain fundraiser.

😀 TARGET: R500000 (90 Smiles)
😀 RAISED: R603 086 (110 smiles)

Whether he’s in a kayak or standing on a stage, Richard Kohler inspires change.

Richard Kohler has been training for adventure his entire life.

In his school years, he played tennis, cricket, rugby and yachting. He went on to compete at the highest level in sailing with the South African Americas Cup sailing team, Shosholoza. He has kayaked for South Africa in the World Masters Marathon Championships. He was also the first and so far only person to paddle solo around the entire coastline of South Africa.

Richard has a boat load of insight about dedication, determination and the art of not giving up. In 2013 he became the first person to solo kayak along the length of the South African coastline (3300km in 70 days). Then in August 2019 he broke another record as the first person to SUP solo and unsupported the length of the Breede River (330km). In August 2020 while training for his Ocean X expedition, he set another record as the first and only person to kayak from the Breede River source to sea non stop, 38 hours of paddling.

In his latest feat, Richard set off from Cape Town, South Africa in an 8 meter ocean crossing kayak of his own design. He paddled 6500km solo across the South Atlantic Ocean to Salvador, Brazil, entirely unsupported while raising funds for his charity, Operation Smile.

On 19 February 2023, 63 days after leaving Cape Town, South Africa, Richard landed on the shores of Salvador, Brazil, claiming a world first.

Along his journey of incredible achievements, he has endured many setbacks and failures to reach his goals. His story is a story of endurance, courage against the odds, and the indomitability of the human spirit. It takes a man of unique vision and strength to be the first person to paddle a kayak solo and unsupported, across the South Atlantic Ocean.

Richard is passionate about changing the lives of those he meets and shares touching and thought-provoking stories about his many adventures as an ocean warrior and endurance sportsman.

“I encourage you to step off the beaten track and take an adventure of your own. You don’t have to kayak across the ocean or become a marathon champion – you’re capable of doing anything you set your mind to,” says Richard.


ALTSA partner with Richard Kohler's Ocean X odyssey

We are proud to announce that ALTSA has been named as the presenting…

WIN a chance to name my Ocean X kayak

Back in 2016, Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council…

Paddling for Smiles (Operation Smile)

As I count down the weeks left until I set off for my Ocean…

Kayak build - half way there

We've reached the end of the third week of my Ocean X kayak…


Breede River Source to Sea Non Stop

On 17th July 2020 Richard completed a grueling weekend of training for Ocean X by paddling non-stop from the source of the Breede River to the sea, again setting another record, being the only person to achieve this. The heady task saw Richard paddling for 38 hours, clocking up 310 kms, and was achieved with no sleep for 47 hours while pushing on through the cold of night in the middle of winter.

Richard’s Source to Sea Breede River exploits also saw him double up on his goal of completing the Berg Ultra Paddle: a 240km virtual Berg River marathon in aid of Canoeing SA #canoeinf4covid food relief fund, which he achieved in a single day.


South African Coastline Solo Kayak

On 15th October 2012, Richard set off from the SA-Namibia border on an epic surf ski adventure, paddling the circumference of the South African coastline. The 3300 km journey ended at the Mozambique border making him the first person to kayak solo around the Southern African coastline.

Richard spent 70 days in the water averaging 50 km per day and endured some of the toughest challenges and sea conditions that the South African coast could throw at him. From being attacked by a shark, to breaking his surf ski and being burgled, Richard overcame all obstacles to complete the adventure of a lifetime.

Breede River Source to Sea solo SUP

On the 3rd August 2019 Richard Set off on a solo unsupported SUP paddle of the Breede River from the source to the sea. He completed 330 km in 5 days averaging over 60 km per day in winter conditions, the start of which would be his ambition to do an ocean crossing in a kayak.


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