Editor’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. 

Eric and Misha's sacred tree, Higgins-Purissima trail near Half Moon Bay, CA

Eric and Misha’s sacred tree, Higgins-Purissima trail near Half Moon Bay, CA

Every morning first thing I give thanks to the universe for all that I have and all that I am because I know that of myself I can do nothing. I think of Nature’s support and the support of the people in my life: teachers, friends, family. I think too of the people who touch my life whom I’ve never met, like the people who pick the fruit I eat and those who sew the clothes I wear. Without everyone in the world who has touched my life, I would not be who and where I am today. Likewise, without Eric the Tsunami Rangers would not exist. We pause this time each year to remember Eric, his generosity and enthusiasm, and his short, full life. Eric taught that you could kayak in places that looked bad (scary) but felt good. He distinguished between those kinds of places that made great photo ops and other places that looked good (yeah, let’s go there!) but felt bad (crap, I wiped out). Thus the Rangers were able to go where no kayaker, or at least very few, had gone before, into the caves and rocks in surf.

To a large extent, whitewater sea kayaking is what it is thanks to Eric Soares and Jim Kakuk, co-founders of the Tsunami Rangers. Rock gardening would not be the same without the Rangers’ pioneering activities. Whatever people thought of the Rangers when they were first doing their thing, and there were plenty of people who thought they were bald-ass crazy, rock gardening is mainstream today in the 21st Century.

Thanks once again to my mentor, Eric, and to all the other Rangers for keeping the faith. And thanks to the Ocean for being our inspiration, our playground and our other home.

 

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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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