Richard Kohler Embarks on a 7000km Solo Surfski Paddle Across the Atlantic Ocean

by | Dec 14, 2021 | Canoeing Athlete Profiles

Intrepid adventurer Richard Kohler is just days away from leaving Cape Town for a solo surfski paddle across the Southern Atlantic to Salvador in Brazil, aiming to become the first person to complete the 7000 km journey alone and unsupported.

Richard Kohler Ocean X

52 year old Kohler will be paddling a specially designed surfski named “Osiyeza”, after the Johnny Clegg song “The Crossing”, aiming to raise money and awareness for the Operation Smile charity.

Kohler’s unique eight metre long craft has been modelled around a traditional surfski that he paddles frequently, modified to accommodate a hatch that will house his essentials and allow him to sleep. His paddles are substantially longer than traditional surfski paddles to enable him to reach over the unusually wide ski.

Richard Kohler Embarks On A 7000Km Solo Surfski Paddle Across The Atlantic Ocean
Kohler will attempt the crossing on an 8 meter long 450km adapted surf ski. That is a lot of boat for 1 man to move!

He plans on paddling around fifteen hours a day, aiming to cover 100 kilometres daily, aiming to take between seventy and ninety days to reach Salvador, but hoping that it could take sixty days or less if all the conditions work in his favour.

“I am hoping for two months of downwind paddling bliss!” he said.

Kohler is finishing up the last of the paperwork that needs to be done, including setting up his emergency beacon communication system to make sure he can reach out for help if he runs into trouble.

“For every possible problem I have a plan A, plan B and and plan C,” he said adding that the one issue that might threaten his record bid would be the failure of the fresh water making machine. 

“Even then I will be able to harvest rain water and make a plan. Running out of water is a potential show stopper.

Fully loaded his enlarged surfski will weight 450 kilograms, and can cruise at around 6-7 kilometres per hour.

He will carry 90kgs of food on board and plans a diet of dried ‘space food’ supplemented with fats from olive oil, coconut oil, MTC oil and macadamia oil. “In effect, an athlete Keto diet,” says Kohler.

He won’t be relying on catching fish to eat, though he concedes that he will be dragging a fishing line from his boat. “Mostly as a form of entertainment and to deal with the boredom.”

Having undertaken similar adventures before, including becoming the first person to paddle the entire length of the South African coastline in a surfski, he has a plan to deal with the physical demands of the adventure. 

“Like ultra-paddler adventurers like Freya Hofmeister I like to go into the journey undercooked and get fitter as I go along.

“I accept that there is nothing you can do about the muscle pains, the blisters and the chafing. You just have to deal with it. Mentally you tend to find the first ten days are pretty miserable and then you adapt.”

As a seasoned ocean sailor and paddler he is ready for any conditions that he might encounter in the Southern Atlantic.

The bank of solar panels on the back deck of his ski will provide a massive 460 watts of power to run his equipment, powering his cooking and communication gear.

“I have a fantastic comms set-up and onboard wi-fi.” he said “But with data via satellite costing around R10 000 a gig, I have to be sensible!”

Kohler is waiting for optimal weather to set off on his trip, which in all likelihood will be around mid-December.

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