By 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”. 

paddled like hell up the face, barely making it over, only to be confronted by another wave, and another, until I finally broke free

Eric Soares breaking the wave barrier… “I paddled like hell up the face, barely making it over, only to be confronted by another wave, and another, until I finally broke free.”

Greatest Hit: On a late Summer afternoon way back in the early ‘90s, I pulled into a coastal coffee shop for a double espresso on my way to a Tsunami Ranger multi-day kayak camping trip on the southern Oregon coast. Our general plan was to launch the next morning and paddle several miles south to a secluded cove near “Dreamer Island” and set up camp. Several people in the shop were discussing the strong wind blowing out of the northwest. I overheard the following comment: “I sure wouldn’t want to be out on a boat today”. My thought was these people don’t know anything about the seaworthiness of a kayak, so what do they know? At least that’s what I tried to believe. Once back in the car I started to worry that my boat might blow off the car rack as I headed to our rendezvous. I was hoping the wind would die by the next morning. Wishful thinking.

Dreamer Island on a flat day - yeah, right!

Dreamer Island on a flat day – yeah, right!

The next day eight of us began packing kayaks on a windswept beach. That’s right, the wind didn’t die; if anything it increased in strength. The damp sand was blowing waist-high, sandblasting our kayaks and gear while the waves roared out on the ocean and the sky was full of mist. Not a good sign. Dave Whalen produced a weather radio and we listened to a description of the conditions (which we could very well see for ourselves): NW wind to 35 knots with stronger gusts; seas 10 to 12 feet. A passing tourist eyed us warily and finally shook her head telling us we were out of our minds. Inwardly I couldn’t help but agree, but then again we’d be getting a free ride going downwind. What could possibly go wrong? So of course no one voiced the idea of aborting the mission.

It gets windy there...real windy.

It gets windy there…real windy.

It was true that we could run with the wind once out at sea but first we had some obstacles to overcome. After crossing the lagoon, we would have to transport heavily loaded kayaks fifty yards through the sandstorm across the beach, launch into a substantial surf zone, and get past the rocky gauntlet to the south where we could see huge waves crashing in a welter of whitewater over and through the jagged rocks. Worst of all, we would have to perform these tasks in howling wind with little or no chance of communication once on the water.

After floating our kayaks across the lagoon, we stumbled our way across the beach with the kayaks, took a breather, and stared out at the raging maelstrom in front of us. The surf zone stretched out a long distance with several rows of large breakers. Foam was flying everywhere off the tops of the waves. We discussed two strategies. The first was to fight our way straight out through the surf until we reached the open sea, then turn south and paddle around the rocky point. The second was to stay inside the surf zone, in the “soup,” working our way south, then look for a sneak route through the rocks and out to sea. We decided on the latter because it would be easier to deal with any problems close to shore where we could land quickly. We launched one by one in a predetermined order. Eric Soares and Michael Powers were paddling Tsunami X-2’s (double washdeck kayaks) single-handedly; Jim Kakuk and Bill Collins were on an X-2 together; Bonnie Brill, Dave Whalen, and James Brooks were paddling X-1’s (single washdeck kayaks), and I was paddling my nimble Mariner Coaster. The order swiftly turned to chaos once we were on the water. There is something about strong wind and breaking waves that foil the best laid plans. In 35-knot winds you have to be able to take care of yourself.

Wind-sculpted sand dunes

The wind-sculpted sand dunes

After launching into the surf I realized that, as usual, the waves were even larger and more powerful than they looked from on shore. I followed Eric and Bonnie along shore, fielding the breakers as best I could. Bonnie capsized and swam a couple of times but valiantly remounted her kayak and continued on. Eric and I stayed with her and provided moral support as the rest of the group passed us by. Luckily I only had to roll once; not my favorite activity in a heavily-laden sea kayak in the wind and surf. Jim, Bill, and James continued on south toward the rocks and breakers. Dave paddled a bit farther out into the surf, blew south, entered the rocks, and we lost sight of him. Michael disappeared altogether. We didn’t see him again until evening when we found out he had simply decided to get the hell out of the surf zone by paddling straight out to sea (the option we had decided against doing), so he was on his own.

Even though we’d lost sight of the others, Eric, Bonnie, and I stayed together until we saw that Jim, Bill, and James had landed on the beach just inside of the rocks. We soon joined them, thinking this might be our campsite for the night, and had a pow-wow regarding what to do next. There were two narrow passageways out through the rocks. The only problem was the interaction of strong surge-induced currents, vicious wind, and most of all, the large unpredictable waves crashing through. Then we saw Dave standing high on a bluff to the south, waving to us and giving us the thumbs up sign. If he could make it, so could we!

Pounding surf

Pounding surf… and rocks. All in a days’ work for the Tsunami Rangers.

Eric and Bonnie went first. I launched right after them. Eric paused and was trying to decide between the two passages when a huge wave closed out and crashed through the left passage. That made my decision easy. I headed for the right passage. I heard Eric yell at Bonnie to follow me. As I fought my way out, climbing up and over progressively larger walls of water, I realized this would be a very bad scene if one of these foaming monsters decided to break. Just then I looked up about fifteen feet to the crest of a huge curling breaker. It was starting to break just to my left so I angled right and paddled like hell up the face, barely making it over, only to be confronted by another wave, and another, until I finally broke free.

Now out on the open sea, I breathed a sigh of relief. All that was left was to clear the point in over-steepened, chaotic twelve foot seas, then ride the wind south to our destination. A sudden thought occurred to me: What about Bonnie, Eric, and the rest? They were right behind me and had to break the same wave barriers I did. I looked back and to my relief saw they had made it out, but soon lost sight of them as I returned my attention to the task at hand. I finally turned downwind and rode the waves past the end of the point. I still remember the exhilarating sensation of surfing those huge seas downwind with the spray flying against the backdrop of high rocky cliffs to the east, sea stacks ahead, and the wild open ocean to the west. It’s something you have to experience to appreciate.

All's well that ends well... a typical Tsunami camp at peace

All’s well that ends well… a typical Tsunami camp at peace

After rounding the point, I spotted Dave in the relatively protected waters on the lee side. We all regrouped there, except Michael who had continued on his own to our destination (or so we hoped at the time), then flew south with the wind. Thus began a week of kayaking, camping, and revelry.

Feel free to add your own greatest “hit” or “miss” in the comments below!


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Adventure Kayak – Not Just For Sea Kayakers!

by Nancy Soares on May 2, 2016

Editor’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.

The Green Issue of Adventure Kayak Magazine

The Green Issue of Adventure Kayak Magazine

After Sea Kayaker Magazine shut down I was excited to receive my first edition of Adventure Kayak. What a cool magazine! Great photography, interesting articles, and a positive, inclusive vibe. With regard to photos, I like that they showcase stills with captions from a variety of locations. The messages conveyed are variously uplifting, thoughtful, or humorous and show the sport of sea kayaking over a broad spectrum. I appreciated the message in that first issue about the editorial shift from service to stoke: why we paddle is more important than how or where. I couldn’t agree more.

In that issue I was interested in the article about kayakers who help scientists with research in order to understand ecosystems in aid of stewardship. One of the things I love about kayakers that most of them take stewardship seriously. Many of us clean up the environment regularly as an aspect of our sport. Check out PacOut Green Team as one prime example.

I was really happy to learn about the Ladies of the Lake Symposium. I’d never heard of it even though it’s been around for 10 years. The event reminds me fondly of Reef Madness’ sea gypsies and pirates. I love people who don’t take themselves too seriously. The Tsunami Rangers don’t take anyone or anything too seriously, including themselves. Just check out this one from our archives:

I enjoyed reading about the first Bay of Fundy Sea Kayak Symposium. It was great hearing about the challenging conditions: Paul Kuthe doing “a series of cartwheels that had onlookers cringing at the audible thuds of his bow and stern striking submerged rocks”. Yeah, baby! It was also good to know there were a variety of classes and conditions so not everyone got creamed. And as with the partnership between kayakers and scientists, it made me happy to hear about another opportunity for the kayaking community to help others as the Fundy area is socioeconomically depressed and the organizers of BOFSKS hope to reinvigorate the region’s tourist industry through the symposium.

That was my first issue. Subsequently, I have continued to enjoy Adventure Kayak Magazine. Virginia Marshall does a great job as editor and I love her articles. Her prose is simple, clear, and unpretentious. I also enjoy Tim Shuff’s pieces. Articles like “We Don’t Need No Education” and “Finding the Real Florida” really appeal to me, speaking of why we paddle. In fact, I enjoy all the magazine’s writers. One of my favorite issues of the magazine to date is The Green Issue, Spring 2016. I ate it up. From the photo of the Ontario Sea Kayak Centre’s gear cave (so organized!), to Neil Schulman’s piece on “Succession Planning” (that’s an interesting way to think about kayak touring and it was nicely followed up by Charlotte Jacklein’s “Catching the Late Show” encouraging us to go kayak camping), to the story about Nova Scotia’s Islands of Enchantment becoming protected as wilderness, the whole issue just felt so positive. Adventure Kayak’s message is simple and consistent: go out and have fun! See how beautiful the world is! Look how people are making positive contributions to make sure we can protect beautiful places so we can keep going out and having fun! There’s so much good stuff here you don’t have to be a kayaker to enjoy the magazine.

One other thing I‘d like to say about Adventure Kayak: I love that it comes out four times a year. I dislike getting monthly issues of any magazine: it’s just too much and I don’t have time and it kind of bothers me to have to toss them once I’m done. Four times a year in accord with the changing seasons is perfect for me. So that’s my two cents on Adventure Kayak: positive, inclusive, philanthropic, articulate, and timely. Thanks, guys, for all you do!

For more information on Adventure Kayak and Rapid Media’s other publications, check out

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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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The Same But Different: Advantages of Getting to Know One Place Really Well in Your Kayak

March 14, 2016

Shareby Barbara Kossy and Nancy Soares Editor’s note: Thanks so much to Barbara Kossy for her thoughts on this topic and for the great photos of Elba. And thanks to her and to everyone I’ve paddled with at Pillar Point for all the great memories! Barbara: There’s an obsession with bucket lists, bagging peaks, hiking every […]

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Epsom Salt: The Kayaker’s Friend

February 22, 2016

ShareNow I’m retired I spend my time pursuing mostly physical interests. Yoga, martial arts, skiing, hiking, camping, and kayaking are pretty much what I do. In order to keep vigorous and resilient I have a regimen. To stay healthy, I eat right and get plenty of sleep, regular massages, and take at least one Epsom salt […]

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In Memorium Eric Soares August 1, 1954 – February 1, 2012

February 1, 2016

ShareEditor’s note: Thanks to my son Nick for this segment of Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. At this point in the poem, Ulysses (the speaker) is walking to the port, soon to depart. Here he begins his final thoughts before departure as a sort of swan song essentially rounding off his reasoning for leaving again […]

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Kayak Resolutions 2016

January 11, 2016

ShareI was at something of a loss as to what to do for the first blog post of the New Year. It was weird. For nearly four years I’ve managed to keep the blog going to honor Eric’s posthumous wish and it’s been fun. Searching for copy I’ve enjoyed trips to Kauai, Sardinia, and the […]

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The Magic of Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary

December 14, 2015

ShareEditor’s note: This is our last article for 2015. We hope you have enjoyed our adventures! Stay tuned for our next post in January 2016, and have safe Holidays and a wonderful New Year!    Text by Steven El Rey King Photographs by Scott Becklund and Paul Hammond There are many amazing reserves, national parks […]

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Kayak Elba – Your Next Destination?

November 23, 2015

ShareBy Barbara Kossy Editor’s Note: Barbara Kossy has been kayaking the Mediterranean since 1996. She has been to Elba a number of times and it’s one of her favorite kayak destinations. I set up my life so I could travel, and when I travel to paddle I kayak in Italy, paddling the Island of Elba […]

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Sea Kayakers, We Are “Seekers of the Horizon”

November 2, 2015

ShareEditor’s note: Will Nordby, the author of Seekers of the Horizon, began sea kayaking in 1971. He has written for Oceans, Explore, Canoe, Sea Kayaker, River Runner, Small Boat Journal, and Ocean Sports International. He was also the originator of the Sea Trek Paddle Float, a sea kayaking self-rescue device. He worked for KRON-TV in […]

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