Paddling for Smiles - 2600km around South Africa

Thursday, 01 December 2011 17:49 | Written by  Murray Williams
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Richard Kohler Richard Kohler

A solo Cape Town paddler is braving the entire South African coastline on a kayak, a first-ever attempt, to raise awareness and funds for children born with cleft lips and palates.

Sense of Humour...

Richard Kohler, 41, of Milnerton, was married recently, and conceded to the Cape Argus that heading off on his adventure barely a month after leaving the altar required his wife, Judy, to have a sound sense of humour.

“This will be the first solo, unbroken paddle around the coast of South Africa, departing from the Mozambique border on the 1st December 2011 and ending at the Namibian boarder,” he explained.

Kohler, who is self-employed, began paddling 11 years ago, and has since completed six Windhoek Berg River Canoe Marathons, four Southern Shamaal Port Elizabeth-East London surfski marathons and has been awarded Western Province canoeing colours twice.

“I’ve also been a professional sailor for 20 years, and have logged enough nautical miles – around 200 000 – to have circumnavigated the earth eight times!” he joked.

Included in  his voyaging was sailing for South Africa in the Americas Cup in 2007 on Shosholoza, and completing the Cape to Rio race in 1993.

50km per day

With this wealth of ocean experience Kohler will tackle a total of 2 600km, hoping to paddle around 50km a day, which he expects to take between five and eight hours.

He will camp most nights and is being supported by his “second”, Riaan Fourie from Green Catering who has taken two months leave to assist Richard on this epic challenge.

Out at sea alone, he will carry electronic navigation equipment which will provide live tracking of his progress on his website, and will also carry a personal locating beacon linked via satellites to possible rescuers.

The furthest from the shore he expects to be is 28km, as he crosses Nelson Mandela Bay, a 90km haul. He hopes to reach Durban after eight says, East London after 18, Port Elizabeth four days later and Cape Town on Day 37 – finally finishing at the Orange River Mouth after 50 days.

Arrow Skis

Kohler has been sponsored with a pair of skis by Arrow

Sharks, whales and jellyfish

Asked about potential dangers, Kohler said: “Wind, currents, big surf, rocky shores, fog, sunburn, cold water on the West Coast, sharks, whales and jellyfish.

“Physically, it will be repetitive stress injuries - wrists, hands, back – and I have also undergone back surgery, in 2002, so my priority is looking after and manage my lower back.”

The Cipla Miles for Smiles foundation was formed to assist Operation Smile in creating awareness for the plight of children born with cleft lips and palates and raise funds to perform corrective surgery on them. Kohler hopes to raise enough R1.1million to “give a smile back” to 200 children.

Miles for Smiles

Paddle with Richard

There will be plenty of opportunities to take part in this project by paddling with Richard.  Check out the website to see when he's likely to be near you.


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