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DECEMBER, 06, 2011

It's easy to smile! It’s set in motion by a little gesture or a simple pleasure. It tugs at the corners of your mouth and forms little laughter lines around your eyes. It’s contagious, medicinal and universally understood. But for children born with a cleft lip or palate, a smile is life changing.

Land Rover South Africa has joined one man's challenge to change the face of South African children. For the next 50 days, the eyes of South Africa will be on Richard Kohler – as he attempts to become the first paddler to navigate the entire South African coastline. Solo. His goal? To paddle solo along the entire length of South Africa’s 2 600km-long coast line and reach the Orange River mouth, the border with Namibia on the West Coast, 50 days later. More importantly, Kohler will be “Paddling for Smiles” - an epic personal bid to raise R1.1-million to pay for life-changing operations for 200 children born with cleft lips and palates.

His task is hurculean. “This will be the first solo, unbroken paddle around the coast of South Africa, departing from the Mozambique border and ending at the Namibian boarder,” he explained. Asked about potential dangers, Kohler said: “Wind, currents, big surf, rocky shores, fog, sunburn, cold water on the West Coast, sharks, whales and jellyfish.”

Along the route, he will encounter:

- The extraordinary natural wonder of South Africa’s full coastline. He will see it first-hand like few others ever before. Look out for his daily reports.
- He will meet a rich array of South Africans of different languages and cultures. Look out for his fireside tales as he connects with South Africa’s coastal treasures.

But his journey will not be without extreme difficulty. “Physically, it will be repetitive stress injuries - wrists, hands, back – that could take the heaviest toll, from paddling around 50kms a day. I have also undergone back surgery so my priority is looking after my lower back,” Kohler warned.

On the shore, in one of the world’s toughest vehicles, a Land Rover Defender 130 Crew Cab, will be Kohler’s lieutenant, Riaan Fourie. As Kohler battles it out in the ocean, Fourie will navigate the Defender through the extraordinary terrain that lines South Africa’s coastline.

At a send-off hosted by Green Catering of Cape Town, Kohler and Fourie said of the Land Rover Defender: “This sponsorship is a big weight off our shoulders. We now have a 4x4 that can handle any possible situation – from the remote areas of KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast, to the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast through to the diamond fields of the West Coast,” said Kohler.

 “We welcome anybody wanting to support our efforts. In fact we would like to be in touch with anybody that would like to paddle with Richard as he heads out at any of the stop-overs, or even those who would like to provide us with a hot shower along the way and most importantly those wanting to help us reach our quest of R1.1 MILLION for 200 smiles," says Fourie.

Paddling for Smiles is on Facebook but we urge everybody to join our newsletter group (URL: so that we can stay in touch with you.   
* 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 funds to “give a smile back” to 200 children.

Who Is Richard Kohler?

Born in 1970, Richard started sailing when most of us were still playing marbles. Fast-forward a couple of years and he was competing in the America’s Cup (as part of the Shosholoza crew), the Port Elizabeth to East London Surf Ski Challenge (four times) and the Berg River Marathon (six times).  Richard’s next adventure isn’t about winning trophies or awards, but about smiles.

Route description 2600 km

- Longest compulsory day = 90km (Crossing Nelson Mandela Bay).
- Max distance from shore = 28km (Crossing Nelson Mandela Bay).
- 50km per day at five to 10 hours paddling per day.
- Camping most nights.
- Riaan Fourie, driving a Land Rover Defender 130, is Richard's support crew.
- Support only from the shore.
- Safety = live tracking (website to be announced) plus a Personal Locating Beacon that is linked via satellites to rescuers.
- Pass four major cities = Durban (day 8); East London (day 18); Port Elizabeth (Day 22); Cape Town (day 37).

Richard's watery route draws a beaming smile around South Africa's coast.

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