It has been seven weeks since 53 year old Capetonian, Richard Kohler, set off from Granger Bay in his kayak, to paddle solo and unsupported 7 000km across the Southern Atlantic Ocean to Salvador in Brazil.

If successful, he will be the first person to achieve such a crossing. And he’s doing it, not only for the adventure, but to raise funds for Operation Smile South Africa.

More than halfway there

Already, Richard has made remarkable progress, clocking up an impressive 100km a day. If he keeps up this punishing rate, he should reach Salvador considerably ahead of schedule around 22 February 2023.

The journey has taken him north along South Africa’s west coast, where he was hampered by unusual weather conditions – gale force winds, rough seas, and rain squalls. But, three weeks into his journey, he was able to turn his kayak, Osiyeza (‘The Crossing’ – named after Johnny Clegg’s famous song), west to take advantage of the trade winds, which will help him on his way as he heads towards the shores Brazil.

Says Richard: “During the first week of big seas and high winds even I was doubting my sanity of taking on this challenge. Spending all this time without face-to-face human interaction, being constantly tossed about, waves breaking over me and the physical strain of paddling 12 hrs a day, have all become part of daily life. It’s now normal for me, which shows how adaptable we are.

“Reaching the halfway mark raised my spirits, but I am all too aware that it’s still a very long way to go and with mother nature in charge, anything can happen.”

Raising funds for Operation Smile

As with his journey, Richard is almost halfway to his fundraising goal. He has already raised over R285 000 for Operation Smile, which works globally to give children born with cleft lip and palate safe, transformative surgery.

His aim is to raise R500 000 for 70 life-changing cleft lip and palate operations, giving 70 children new smiles.

Please consider donating to Operation Smile through his Givengain fundraiser.


Gerhard Moolman, CEO of ALTSA, and a close friend of Richard’s is no stranger to the demands of the open ocean and is excited to sponsor Richard’s mammoth expedition.

Over 20 years ago, Moolman paddled 6,152km from Hout Bay in South Africa to Lamu in Kenya.

“From one adventurer to another I could identify with Richard’s dream, and we are proud to be a presenting partner and help in any way to support Richard’s dream,” he said. “Thank you to everyone who has supported and sponsored this adventure.”

Sarah Scarth, Operation Smile South Africa Executive Director, said, “We are deeply honoured Richard has chosen to take on this enormous challenge in support of Operation Smile and we are hugely grateful for all those who have generously donated so far to help us transform lives through new smiles.”

Follow Richard Kohler’s Paddle for Smiles adventure:

Listen to Richard talking to Cape Talk’s Lester Kiewit live from aboard Osiyeza in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.

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