At 76 Michael Powers is the oldest Tsunami Ranger. He became a Ranger in 1990. For almost 30 years he has been the unofficial Tsunami Ranger photojournalist, filming and photographing the Rangers and their adventures all over the world. He’s had his own share of adventures as well. Michael enhances many of his photos using various techniques, but my favorite is the captions he chooses for so many shots.

Sometimes silly, sometimes sublime, Michael’s captions are always entertaining. For this post, I decided to showcase some of Michael’s best captioned photos. Most of these photos were taken by Michael himself, but some were taken by friends or associates. I included the others because they illustrate Michael, the Rangers, and their ethos so well. The captions are all his own. Enjoy!

In the foreground of the selfie below we have Michael yukking it up on the Northern California coast. Behind him is Tsunami Ranger Dave Whalen. The thing I love about this photo is that it shows how the ocean and the Tsunami Rangers can bring together two very different people in a kayak as a team and still everyone has a good time. Or at least the fuzzy-headed liberal is happy. Hey, can’t we all just get along? 

Michael and TR Dave Whalen - Can't we all just get along?

This next selfie is a great action photo and was taken by a camera mounted on Michael’s deck. He uses this photo on some of his business cards for Ocean Studios, an alliance of adventure writers, photographers, filmmakers, and composers who in their own words are working together to nurture a deeper understanding and empathy for the natural world.

Michael in whitewater action

Michael took this photo of TR Tim Sullivan by a sea arch on the Tsunami retreat led by TR Deb Volturno at Cape Flattery in 2008. 

TR Tim Sullivan at Cape Flattery

Every year at Christmas, Michael sends out his beautifully photographed cards to friends and family. Here he is with his lovely wife Nani Venegas, celebrating on the beach outside their amazing hand-crafted home in Half Moon Bay.  

Here is Michael and his friend, Mark Fraser, an adventure filmmaker and member of Ocean Studios (check him out at www.thegoodfightthe on an expedition to the Svalbard Islands in 2008.   

Michael often captions his photos with quotes from famous writers. This is one of my favorite stanzas from Rumi, the Sufi poet. Pictured are from left to right, Tsunami Rangers Steve El Rey King, Captain Jim Kakuk, Dandy Don Kiesling, Commander Eric Soares, Scott Becklund, and Dave Whalen.  

Tsunami Dancers

This next photo is from a trek in Chilean Patagonia in 2007. Michael and his companions filmed the trip to raise awareness for Patagonia’s wilderness areas to help protect the environment and promote the great opportunities for ecotourism in that region. This trip was in fact the first multi-sport traverse of Chilean Patagonia.

Michael has made many trips to Norway, one of his favorite adventure kayaking destinations. He is also a huge Viking enthusiast.

This is one of my favorite photographs, captioned or not. The shot illustrates the kind of vision you can experience when you get away from it all with a small group of trusted friends on a beach on a coastline inaccessible to all but those in small boats. Amazing!

Here’s Michael on yet another of his adventures, this time in Nepal. He and his group hiked to Base Camp on Mt. Everest on this trip. Love those mountains!

Here’s a great shot of Michael after his knee surgery, kayaking on the reef at Pillar Point near the infamous Big Wave at Maverick’s. Michael got both knees done and was out messing around in boats 30 days later. That’s a Tsunami Ranger for you!

The photo below was taken at the after party at one of the Tsunami Ranger Extreme Sea Kayaking Races. People are encouraged to dress up as pirates, Vikings, or sea gypsies for the party, and Michael and Nani always have great costumes. The A-frame in the back is one of the buildings constructed by Michael himself at his compound on the beach. Over the years Michael has created an amazing space, much of it using a chainsaw, including the A-frame, a dome, a small guest house made out of a fishing boat, offices for Ocean Studios, and of course, Michael and Nani’s private residence. 

Here are the Tsunami Rangers getting really ridiculous on retreat. If anyone can match the names with the butts, I will personally come up with a prize. 

This is another great photo Michael took off Miramar Beach in front of his house: a lone surfer against a brilliant sunset. I love the caption.

Michael isn’t always running around in far off corners of the world or sea kayaking with the Rangers. He’s a whitewater kayaker as well. Here is a photo he took on the south fork of the American River in Northern California before shooting the Whitewater Hall of Fame Event in 2011. 

I wish I had a nickel for every shot of Michael striking the pose below. I’d be a rich woman. Here he is lovin’ it at 17,000 feet in Nepal. Nothing can even throw a shadow on this man’s spirit. 

Check out the caption below. Well, would you? As those who have paddled with him know, Michael has had many, many “interesting” experiences in kayaks, not least getting lost in the fog on the Northern California coast because he insisted on leaving a Tsunami retreat early since he had promised his wife he’d get back at a certain time. But Michael’s never say die spirit always manages to prevail. The man leads a charmed life, and we’re all in awe. Like the Energizer Bunny he just keeps going, and thank God for that!

We love Michael so much. Without his photographs and videography much of what the Tsunami Rangers have accomplished over the years would be lost to history. To contact Michael or Ocean Studios, please go to We hope you have enjoyed these images.

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Review by Nancy Soares

Editor’s note: Susan is an adventurer, writer, educator, and speaker. Her tenacious exploration by sea kayak has fueled her stories and images of the natural world for decades. Her articles and photographs have appeared in Sea Kayaker, Canoe and Kayak, Adventures Northwest, and Figure magazines.


Magic and gratitude. That’s what comes through in Susan Marie Conrad’s sea tale of her solo kayak adventure through the Inside Passage from Anacortes, Washington to Juneau, Alaska. For people like me who love adventure and kayaking but will probably never undertake such a major endeavor, it’s wonderful to read stories like Susan’s.  For one thing, there’s the mental eye candy: the beauty and mystery of the Tongass, the fjords, the wildlife, the ice. There’s the excitement: the bears, the unruly weather, the people, “learning experiences”. Susan’s book is an entertaining, enjoyable read.

But wait, there’s more! Like many who travel solo, Susan was looking for something. In a way, in all great journeys from myths and legends (think Jason and Odysseus), to modern times (think Cheryl Strayed), when people sojourn in the wilderness the outward journey inevitably parallels the inward one. This is especially true for solo journeys because the first thing such journeys do is challenge you so you get to find out what you’re really made of.



When we encounter Nature in its original state on an extended solo trip like Susan’s, we allow Nature to envelop us; we live by her rhythms and suffer pain and pleasure at her behest. We get about as close as we can get to who we are and what life is about. Susan isn’t the first person to turn to the wilderness to seek understanding and healing, but her story is unique. Two major themes that weave in and out of her narrative are magic and gratitude. Guided by the nonverbal coaching of the great teacher Nature herself, Susan learns how to take the path of least resistance:

Dealing with challenges on the water, I had learned, is about approach and perspective. Finesse and strategy, more so than brute strength and power, are the keys to managing spirited water. It’s about finding the path of least resistance, much like water itself does. – p. 108

Later she connects that lesson learned from the paddling life to the default world of modern society.

More magic

More magic

When she embarks she tells us, “If a crystal ball had appeared on the beach that day, foretelling my feelings, along with the adversity and hardship I would be encountering I would have smashed it to smithereens. Uncertainty was part of the adventure and I wasn’t about to water down the magic of it all.” Often when we seek wilderness adventure we want to shuffle off the coils of “civilization” and surrender to uncertainty because in doing so we sense we’ll find Magic. Going out becomes a form of going in, to our heritage as humans who evolved on this planet and to Mother Nature whose womb is still our home. The world becomes alive and magical. We are transformed. Susan notes that when we are solitary we don’t have to protect ourselves. This allows us to experience our true selves, if we’re willing, and thereby experience wholeness and bliss.

38 days at sea and still smiling

38 days at sea and still smiling

For example, Susan learns about pushing versus letting go. Impatient to clock some miles, she makes a judgment call to keep paddling in deteriorating conditions. Luckily she gets off the water before the shit hits the fan. But the incident engenders some soul-searching:

Why was I taking such risks and pushing so hard? If you’re trying to prove something, Susan, the only thing you’ll fucking prove is that you know how to kill yourself. I berated myself, both fearful and infuriated. Fearful that my inability to listen to my voice of reason and to relax would render me dead. Infuriated because I didn’t know why I did this, why I always felt time was of the essence and that I must always be on the go.

The sea was teaching me patience – and I still had much to learn. – pp. 116 – 117

Over and over the theme of gratitude punctuates the narrative: to friends and well-wishers, to the sea and to Nature for the support and the lessons, and for a sense of budding faith in herself and in something else out there. After her close shave, gratitude and magic come together in a moment of transformation on the water:

I began to have strange sensations in my body, and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I choked back tears that came out of nowhere. I thought about the extreme fortune I’d had over the two-week journey thus far, and how I had come to an uneasy truce with these waters.

Suddenly I felt that I was part of a much bigger thing; that this unfolding trip was a part of a much bigger thing. Perhaps more expansive than just myself in a kayak on the Inside Passage, I sensed a timelessness about it, an internal feeling of free-floating like something magical was carrying me through on this adventure, a feeling that I thought I could ride into eternity. I felt profoundly protected, as if angels were watching over me. Tears slid down my face and mixed with the sea water on my cheeks. Layers of selfishness were washed away and replaced with a heightened sense of gratitude, humility, and awe. –  p. 118

That’s pretty big stuff. But even catharsis is just part of this book. It’s also interesting to read about Susan’s prep work for the expedition: how she puts together her food, how she trains, what she uses for gear. She had the great good fortune to be coached by her mentor Jim Chester, and to be able to use Jim’s charts, annotated by himself as well as Audrey Sutherland over previous journeys. The campground chores and the navigation requirements provide a structure, an anchor that grounds Susan in the mechanical universe as she explores her inner world.

The outer world leads us in

The outer world leads us in

After reading Susan’s story, I hiked up the mountain behind my house. As I walked it began to rain. Hard. My socks were too thick for my shoes and I thought I might feel the pain shortly. Then I thought about Susan putting one paddle blade in front of the other kind of like my feet pacing one in front of the other. Even though my little two-hour hike was nothing compared to just one day of her trip I thought, I’m not turning around. I’m going to finish this hike no matter how hard it rains, because it’s what I set out to do. I need this hike. I’m not cold, I don’t mind getting wet, and if my foot hurts I’ll turn around. Lo and behold, my sock didn’t bother me and even though I got wet through, my house was nice and warm when I came home and I was happy. That very day some of the lessons from Susan’s experience applied to my everyday life. Courage. Determination. Commitment. And yes, you’ll be protected and it will be all right. We can dance in the rain.

The last campsite

The last campsite

In the end, Susan rises to what she calls the “biggest challenge for all humans”, that of becoming comfortable with the conditions of the mind in the face of unfolding reality. On the sea, as she points out, this could mean the difference between life and death. In fact, this could mean the difference between life and death on land as well. Regardless, we all know how unfolding reality throws nasty curve balls. The layers of civilization and technology belonging to the 21st century make us feel safe, although we’re really not any safer in the urban jungle, perhaps even less so. When we peel those layers away to where there’s no interface between us and Nature, we can start reconnecting with our sanity, and with the world, our true mother, which is immeasurably comforting. So I like the way Susan’s story takes her individual journey and makes it relevant to the reader on many levels. I think Inside is magic, and I’m no end grateful I got to read and review it.  Check it out!

You can purchase Inside by Susan Marie Conrad by going to







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In Memorium Eric Soares August 1, 1953 – February 1, 2012

February 1, 2017

ShareEditor’s note: This is our annual tribute to one of the founders of the Tsunami Rangers. This year we reflect on how we do nothing of ourselves alone; without the earth, air, and water to support our physical bodies and the people we encounter in our lives who support our souls we could not be.  […]

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A New Year, a New Tsunami Ranger – Cate Hawthorne’s Test Debrief

January 2, 2017

ShareEditor’s note: This year’s retreat was brief but packed with action, so we decided to cover it in two posts, the first which came out in October, and this second debrief in order to give Cate her due.   Deb: We agreed on the rendezvous location, “Thunder Cove”, one of the Tsunami Rangers’ favorite secret destinations on […]

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The Seal and Me

December 5, 2016

Shareby Maya King Editor’s note: Maya King is the daughter of Tsunami Ranger Steve “El Rey” King. We decided to make her essay our December post because we believe that seeing the world through the eyes of children is a valuable experience. Young minds are less conditioned and in many ways see more clearly than […]

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THE ORDEAL – Tsunami Retreat 2016

November 7, 2016

ShareHowling wind. Choppy waves. Funky swells. Boomers. Contrary currents. This year the Tsunami Ranger retreat had it all. But we’re a team and we made it! Once again, Rangers and friends overcame all obstacles and had a great time on the annual gathering. Capt. Jim Kakuk and guest Nancy Soares share the story. Nancy: Jim […]

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October 3, 2016

Share To me, it’s all about connection and compassion…Once we lose one or the other, or both, the world becomes a much less pleasant place, and a more dangerous place, to live in. – Jon Turk After reading this book the first thing I thought was Wow. This book should be read. Why? For one […]

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Baleen, Bruises, and Beer; or The Whale That Mistook my X-15 for a Large White Sardine

September 5, 2016

ShareBy Tsunami Ranger Steve El Rey King  Near the end of June and during the first few weeks of July this summer large numbers of humpback whales were seen on a daily basis south of the Golden Gate Bridge, especially close to shore in Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, California. National and local television stations […]

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Sport Taping for Sea Kayakers

August 1, 2016

ShareEditor’s note: Thanks to Taylor Furry for taping my shoulder with Kinesio Tape and taking the pictures. Thanks also to Robert Kendall for photographing the wrist wrap and helping me with that and thanks to Holly Hutchinson for the RockTape. Sport taping has been around for a long time but lately people have taken it […]

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Crescent City Solo Kayak Adventure

July 4, 2016

ShareEditor’s note: This is my second solo kayak trip ever. It was way cool. I decided to write it in the third person. It just seemed like the right thing to do. She started out on a hot, sunny morning. The drive to the coast was lovely. Cloudless blue sky and tall green forests, a […]

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