Thu, 24 Sep 2020

After becoming the first and only person to paddle the entire circumference of the South African coastline in 2012, Richard Kohler is training for his next odyssey at a time when self-isolation is the norm.

Ocean X is the ultimate solo mission, and in December 2020 Kohler will paddle 6 700 km unsupported from Cape Town to Brazil, something that no one has ever attempted, all while raising funds for Operation Smile.

Kohler recently completed a gruelling weekend of training for Ocean X by paddling non-stop from the source of the Breede River to the sea, again setting another record having been the only person to achieve this. The heady task saw Richard paddling for 38 hours, clocking up 310kms, and was achieved with no sleep and pushing on through the winter cold of night.

Kohler'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.

Sailing has always been in Kohler's blood, beginning his journey at the age of six to later sailing at international level, including sailing in the 2007 Americas Cup for South Africa aboard the Shosholoza.

Sailing the equivalent of three times around the globe as a professional yachtsman, in 2012 Kohler became the first person to solo kayak around the entire South African coastline.

Having been attacked by a shark during his last mission, having his kayak broken in half and all his equipment stolen, Richard has learnt the art of never giving up and nothing will stop this brave man from dipping his toes into the cold Atlantic Ocean yet again.

The remarkable aspect of this journey into the unknown is the vessel that will carry Kohler all the way to Brazil. An 8m paddling torpedo allows 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.

"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," said Kohler.

"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 Kohler's biggest challenges. Avoiding leg cramp and debilitating salt sores are daily requirements to ensure he remains at optimal levels to complete his task.

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 for drinking water. Research indicates that having enough electrical power to make water is one of the highest priorities. In Kohler's survival of this mammoth task that awaits him; water equals life.

Richard intends surviving his crossing and not just to acquire bragging rights for the latest outlandish watersports adventure. He is motivated by raising funds for the charity, Operation Smile, and partly to slake the kayaker's innate lust to paddle across anything larger than a glass of water.

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