Editor’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.  

Cate disappears over the face of a pour over

Cate disappears over the face of a pour over

Deb: We agreed on the rendezvous location, “Thunder Cove”, one of the Tsunami Rangers’ favorite secret destinations on the northern California coast. As the tribe arrived, extra anticipation filled the air, as this day would be Cate’s ritual rite-of-passage to become a full ranking officer in the Tsunami Rangers.

The tribe launched from two different locations to meet at Thunder Cove to support and bear witness to Cate’s “Test”. The day was gray, visibility was poor, and the wind gnarled the sea surface blowing from the South, while the ocean tried to settle from the 10′-12’ swell the day before.

Our pod of four arrived first: Deb, Steve, Scott and Cate. We set up camp and prepared for the rest of our tribe to arrive. As is our tradition, we began to gather debris on the beach. For others this debris was merely flotsam and jetsam that randomly ended up on this beach from the cluttered world around us, but for the Tsunami Rangers, these objects would be erected into our beach totem to greet wayward seafarers to our camp.

Tsunami Rangers and totem

Tsunami Rangers and totem

While the four of us constructed an elaborate totem with child-like enthusiasm, actual hours of time passed waiting for the others. Hunger set in, and anticipation grew as we knew our tribe must be arriving soon.

It became obvious that the four of us needed to resolve a plan of action independently of the collective. It was Cate’s day after all! Commander Deb and Lt. Commander Steve would be administering Cate’s “Test”, and Lt. Commander Scott would bear witness, so we could officially kick into action. Cate’s ceremonial rite of passage must begin – even without the rest of the tribe.

Where the heck were they anyway? Attempts to reach them by radio failed. Visibility came and went, while the winds held steady at 10-15 knots outside the turbulent rocky reefs, directly in the face of our paddlers still at sea.

The waves were not small that day.

The waves were not small that day.

Steve: When Deb asked me if I would participate in Cate’s Tsunami Ranger test I was honored and a bit nervous. Seeking to test Cate’s overall ocean kayaking skill was sort of like seeking to assess the ability of a whitewater river to flow. Cate uses a kayak and a paddle as if both are extensions of her body; it is a pleasure to witness. So testing Cate was more like an Ocean play date with a master and it was a blast. It was among the most enjoyable hours I have had paddling on the Ocean. We are fortunate to have her as part of our Ocean tribe. It’s even more wonderful that she’s a teacher who is turning people of all walks of life into rock garden kayakers, showing then how to play and be safe in the magical marine environment. In that way Cate is an Ocean Ambassador. The glory of the Tsumani Rangers is enhanced by having her part of the team! 

Deb: On the ceremonial agenda is a lunch feast provided by the cadet, perhaps the most critical part of the Tsunami Ranger “Test”. As a point of historical interest, the “feast bar” seems to be raised with each Officer welcomed into the tribe, while John Lull securely holds the basal bar with his sardines and captain’s biscuits!

Let the feast begin!

Let the feast begin!

Cate served her feast before we even got on the water – perhaps a first. The “Test” begins! The good news is that the feast was ALL OURS, because the others still hadn’t arrived. Let your imagination run wild with gustatory visions…. our palates were divinely pleased with this feast!

Steve: For lunch, Cate offered guacamole, smoked fish, cheese, and chocolate. Did I mention tequila?

Deb: And then out of the gray two paddlers emerged! But wait, the first paddler is towing the second! They unclip and make their way through the surging channel to the beach. The four of us finish our mouthful of luscious lunch and jubilantly welcome the completely haggard Donny Danger and Jon as they land. The rest follow in a fatigued flotilla not far behind. Haggard is an understatement! They arrive exhausted, dehydrated and hypothermic.

The image that says it all is that of Nancy arriving on the beach, pulling her Tsunami X-15 up as far as she could, and then face-planting spread eagle on the beach – motionless!

Hypothermia treatment in the form of food, fluids, and dry clothing were administered to the shivering arrivals with due haste. The ritual greeting of a tequila toast would have to wait for their recovery. We would celebrate many things later that evening.

Cate’s “Test” continues! She held the focus and energy, so following the feast, the formal requisite shore-based “Test”, and the salute to the Sea Deities, we finally launch. The four of us that had arrived earlier make up the pod for the “Test”. Conditions have improved, wind has lessened, visibility has opened, and the moderate swell has become somewhat more organized and predictable, although some prodigious sets are still heaving with gusto.

Steve: Each Tsunami Ranger test is unique, and there was more tequila during this testing phase then I recall seeing before. Great quality as well, setting a new standard for testing. 

Deb: Cate leads us through seething rocky teeth to the first wormhole, where we sit in formation awaiting the scouting mission. Cate signals a “go” and commits first to lead the way, but is instantly thwarted by a stealth set – bouncing her out of position, over the rocks, into a pinball obstacle zone. Keeping her wits, she finds her way back into position waiting to conquer the wormhole. Then, with perfect timing and without hesitation Cate blasts confidently through into the next Neptunic universe. In guarded posture we follow, and emerge to find ourselves in a mysteriously calm rock garden zone!

Quick scouting by the team turns up a unanimous decision to forego the calm zone, and either set up for the next wormhole or explore the outside. The next wormhole is clearly daunting! Cate signals for the outside, and leads us around to a different Neptunic universe – the Zipper Zone! We surf and play there for some time. Cate and I eventually break off and head to a new rocky zone for a seal landing and assisted seal landing. Cate pulls it off like it’s second nature.

Seal landing - check!

Seal landing – check!

Steve: Cate flubbed nada in the test, but she had a few moments of reckoning when we launched off the beach at Elk in moderate surf and her fully loaded boat made her have to take a few evasive actions.

As far as feedback, I think Deb suggested she could get Scott to cooperate on his “rescue” if she pointed out he would be denied tequila if he did not calm down.

Deb: Performance rolling assessment turns to team rolling! Two in synchronized rolling, then three! But before we knew it Cate was on her way to facilitate a rescue. Understated, mild-mannered Cate seriously kicks into taking charge of the situation – Scott is reeled in, comes to attention, and under Cate’s direction, is back in his kayak. Ok, don’t mess with Cate – efficient and effective rescue!

Celebrate! Tequila at sea.

Celebrate! Tequila at sea.

Any good rescue deserves some timely acknowledgement, refection, and of course, a toast to surviving yet another sea adventure. Cate scores high points for the instant accessibility of her flask of fine sipping tequila! Together, rafted in the safe zone amidst the chaos, we four toast the kind and generous Sea Deities, and ourselves – for if we hadn’t been there we couldn’t know the magic the sea holds.

Steve: The flask was an impromptu tequila test to be sure that Cate had a flask and that it contained TSR grade tequila which it did and we verified it several times in that test phase! 

Deb: It seemed like a good time to head back to Thunder Cove, so together we paddled in a relaxed formation, exploring and playing in every possible spot on our way. As we rounded the last corner, with our camp barely in view, we noticed a colossal pour-over. Cate, probably one of the more experienced pour-over aficionados anywhere, signaled that she was going for it. The pod spread into key safety and photographic positions for her launch over the elephantine rock. Without a moment of hesitation, on the biggest wave of the biggest set, Cate committed and literally launched like a rocket over that rock into the maw on the other side – swallowed whole for a moment, she popped up unscathed and unshaken! All the parts came together, and she knew it – seamlessly synchronizing her ride with the chaotic heaving motion of the sea.

The infamous pour over was really working that day.

The infamous pour over was really working that day.

Scott decided to go next. It didn’t go well. His kayak ended up perched upside down atop the rock while he washed down the backside. Jeff joined us from the beach, and gave it a shot. He deftly made it over on a small wave, and after watching for a while longer decided not to go for anything bigger.

Steve: Cate’s finest moment was totally crushing the pour over. Also rescuing Scott who was an excellent panicking “man overboard”, drinking tequila. She floated just outside of the large pour over for a number of minutes and whoosh, away she went making it look like a simple act. I was not inclined to try that one, and Scott biffed with style when he gave it a go! Cate also did well when she made the call not to go through the large cave that leads to the surfing grounds as the conditions were a bit too intense. This was a good call showing good judgment.

Cate firmly disciplines Scott's unruly "panicked paddler" and rescues him in spite of himself.

Cate firmly disciplines Scott’s unruly “panicked paddler” and rescues him in spite of himself.

Deb: What a great way to end a day on the water! The pour-over was a highlight for Cate to punctuate her ceremonial rite of passage with the Tsunami Rangers, the tribe all made it safely to camp, and the Tsunami Rangers welcomed a new officer! Dinner was being prepared as we paddled back the camp. Let the celebration begin!

Bottom line: Cate shone as a leader. She maintains safety, good communication, and understands the complexities of the environment. Her paddling skills are exemplary. Cate’s style is patient, calculating, and committed, and her spirit is intrepid.

Congratulations Lt. Cate Hawthorne! What an honor to welcome you into our Tsunami Ranger Tribe!

Steve: Final words: I would say that Cate has upped the ante on the Tsunami Rangers as she moves in and around rocks, currents, and features like she is a fusion of air, water and sky, um, sort of like liquid fusion (nice name actually!) 

Be sure to check out Cate’s blog Woman on Water at http://womanonwater.blogspot.com/2016/06/journey-of-heart.html and the Liquid Fusion Kayak website at https://liquidfusionkayak.com/https://liquidfusionkayak.com/
















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The Seal and Me

by Nancy Soares on December 5, 2016

by 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 older ones. This particular essay is about the connection between human and marine mammal that can take place under optimal circumstances in the ocean. At a time when Peace on Earth becomes for some of us more than just an abstract concept and we do our best to lessen the division between “us” and “them” in our daily lives, we do well to lend an ear to voices that remind us we are One. Not just you and me, but all of Nature. May all beings be free from suffering.

Maya with the Tsunami Rangers and others at Eric's memorial tribute at Pillar Point in 2012

Maya (in the middle in the blue PFD) with the Tsunami Rangers and others at Eric’s memorial tribute at Pillar Point in 2012

Human beings live in the realm of nature; they are constantly surrounded by it and interact with it. Individual humans experience a moment that can affect them in some way emotionally or physically. Many of these instances which occur are called “phenomena”. In many of my encounters, I have discovered wonders much too precise to explain in words. My most memorable miracle however was being invited to swim and play with a seal. This was the first time I felt myself as a creature, and in a way I knew I was able to connect with the seal on the same level. This memorable phenomenon of mine occurred on a family trip in the Galapagos during the spring of 2015. The connection I had with nature on that trip and during one particular moment expanded my inner childhood laugh in a way that thrilled me.

Maya (on the right) swimming with a naturalist and schools of fish in the Galapagos

Maya (on the right) swimming with a naturalist and schools of fish in the Galapagos

The situation unfolded while I was snorkeling and exploring new and wonderful things. This seal that wanted to play with me was about 4 to 5 years old and loved having fun. Most animals known to man usually show some type of fear or anger when letting humans near them. In my experience, the creatures in the Galapagos are gifted with the intelligence and curiosity that humans who visit are not always harmful. Connecting with the seal gave me a feeling in my stomach as if popcorn were popping. This seal kept swimming around me, bolting in every direction he went. I had noticed him noticing me, and the repeating movements that the seal was doing, that he wanted to play! Amused by his cheerful movements, I slowly joined, giving the message of peaceful interaction. Shortly after I joined him in a game of circle chase. Playing with that seal was almost like playing with a puppy; it had livened me up in a way that is not comparable to anything. At first playing with him, it felt like it was a test of whether or not I would be able to handle being a seal. This made me a little anxious because I didn’t know completely how to address the situation without offending the seal. But after a few minutes my body language got the flow with the seal’s body language and we were performing! I could tell he was relishing the moment but not so much that he let his precautions go.

Playful Galapagos seal

Playful Galapagos seal

As I played with the seal, I watched and saw how much life he possessed. He was a very young and playful seal who enjoyed sharing this moment of chase with me. Even though the chase did not involve a specific moment of discussion between the seal and me, it gave me the intuition that the seal knew I was a friend to him. As he gazed at me with his big black eyes, I knew he saw right into me as a person and a creature. He saw me as a fun, childish, cheerful, and beautiful person, as well as a ferocious, curious, protective creature.



I am very lucky to have experienced this playful moment with a seal. I doubt that I will ever find myself in a moment just like this one again. In this moment, which was so rare, the connection was a spiritual discovery of nature and myself. Participating in a spiritual instance with the seal created emotions that I have never felt before. These emotions are indescribable for many reasons because I know that a moment like that this might only happen once in my life. Experiencing this phenomenon taught me also that every creature out there has an individual spirit that can be shared. We humans can choose to share that spirit with the creatures. We let ourselves be aware of nature and our true connection with it.

Maya and a friend on Surfer's Beach, Half Moon Bay

Maya and a friend on Surfer’s Beach, Half Moon Bay

How have you connected with marine wildlife, or any wildlife, in your life? Tell us your story below!

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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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Greatest Hits “And Misses” of the Tsunami Rangers Part II – The Launch

June 6, 2016

ShareBy Tsunami Ranger John Lull Editor’s Note: This is Part II of a multi-part series, Greatest Hits “And Misses” of the Tsunami Rangers. In this post, TR John Lull gives us his “Greatest Hit”.  Greatest Hit: On a late Summer afternoon way back in the early ‘90s, I pulled into a coastal coffee shop for a double […]

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Adventure Kayak – Not Just For Sea Kayakers!

May 2, 2016

ShareEditor’s note: This post is a follow-up to The Last Sea Kayaker which appeared on this website on March 17, 2014. I’ve been receiving Adventure Kayak for almost two years now, and it makes me very happy. After Sea Kayaker Magazine shut down I was excited to receive my first edition of Adventure Kayak. What a […]

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Greatest Hits “And Misses” of the Tsunami Rangers!

April 4, 2016

ShareBy Captain Jim Kakuk The following stories go along with the YouTube release of the full-length version of the Tsunami Rangers Greatest Hits. You can still buy the DVD on this website but now it’s free to download! At the end of this post click on the link and be sure to add your comments […]

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