Cape Town paddler completes solo kayak crossing of Atlantic Ocean

Posted on 21 February 2023

Richard Kohler has made history by successfully completing his Atlantic Ocean crossing on his solo and unsupported Ocean X kayak adventure from Cape Town to Brazil, becoming the first person to cross the Southern Atlantic Ocean on a kayak.

Richard left Granger Bay in Cape Town on 19 December and finally completed this mammoth task in a story about endurance, courage against the odds and the indomitability of the human spirit.

Richard had to touch the dock or land unsupported to claim the record for paddling solo and unsupported from South Africa to Brazil. Because there was no place for him to dock at the yacht club, Richard had to swim ashore to complete the requirements for making his Ocean X crossing official.

The bay of Salvador is vast, with strong tidal currents filling and emptying the bay every few hours – meaning that if Richard didn’t arrive in time, he’d have to wait until Monday morning to set foot on Brazilian soil.

Picture: Craig Hung / Supplied

As luck would have it, Richard was able to swim to the beach by paddling hard in the final moments of his long journey, and he was joined for the last few kilometres by an entourage of navy personnel, lifeguards and local paddlers. After tying Osiyeza to a mooring buoy, Richard jumped ship and swam ashore to meet his wife, Judith and the rest of the welcoming team.

Picture: Craig Hung / Supplied

“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,” said Richard upon arriving in Salvador.

He continued, “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. 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 act on their dreams. I would like to thank all my sponsors, supporters, followers, donors, my exceptional shore team, and my family for getting me across the ocean.”

“The crowning glory must be the phenomenal success of the fundraising 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,” Richard beams.

Picture: Craig Hung / Supplied

This has been several years in the making, and Richard first attempted the crossing in December 2021 but had to regrettably make a detour to Walvis Bay after just two weeks at sea. But this time around, through lonely days and nights, Richard has achieved his Ocean X dream and finally touched down on land a few days earlier than his estimation of 70 days to complete the crossing in an incredible 63 days and 7 hours.

Richard’s journey started from Cape Town, where he made his way north along South Africa’s west coast in his kayak named Osiyeza, “The Crossing” (named after Johnny Clegg’s song).

Several unusual weather conditions hampered the first part of the journey, with Richard experiencing gale-force winds, rough seas and rain squalls.

Richard had to sit tight and hang back in order to avoid severe storms while also maintaining a positive state of mind. Richard’s meticulous planning paid off, and three weeks into his journey, he turned Osiyeza west to take advantage of the trade winds. This ensured he stayed on course for the shores of Salvador, Brazil.

The number 70 is also significant to Richard and his Ocean X journey, as this solo crossing was undertaken with the intention of making a difference by raising enough funds for Operation Smile. Richard’s inspiring journey has seen him reach and exceed his goal of 70 life-changing cleft palate operations, raise nearly R600,000 for charity, and provide new smiles to over 100 children. one for each day he has been at sea.

Sarah Scarth, executive director of Operation Smile South Africa, thanked Richard.

“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 lips and palates. We are deeply grateful to everyone who has contributed in support of Operation Smile. Congratulations and thank you, Richard!”

Written by Sarah du Toit

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