Krazy Kayakers – A Komedy of Errors on the High Seas

by Nancy Soares on December 3, 2018

Editor’s note: Every year about this time we like to post something light-hearted in honor of the holidays and to brighten the darkness of year’s end. This article was written by Hilary Atherton, a friend of the Rangers and a very funny writer. It’s a madcap tale of three women and their misadventures on the Sonoma coast with kayaks in extreme conditions. We hope you enjoy it! Caveat: this story contains politically incorrect humor and is in no way intended to promote or encourage irresponsible kayaking… Merry Christmas!

Three women and some kayaks - the intrepid adventurers prepare to embark...

Three Krazy Kayakers! Still laughing!

Such a lovely day to kayak! Two seasoned souls and one adventurous, non-seasoned soul set out… the day was beautiful. Two owned kayaks, one needed to rent one. Then came the Kranky Kayak Lady, who rented me my kayak. She was insistent on a Serious Kayak Konversation; the two seasoned ones turned her down. The unseasoned one didn’t. Mistake #1. 

Okay, it wasn't quite like this but you get the point!

Okay, it wasn’t quite like this but you get the point!

They set out… all happy, with a picnic on a gorgeous day! The two seasoned kayakers did not follow the in-service route, how could they, they did not attend the Serious Kayak Konversation. Mistake #2.

Paddle, paddle!

Paddle, paddle!

Paddle-paddle, look, smile, laugh… oh, yes, we are hungry! Pull up for a nice little picnic. Drink wine, laugh some more… oh, but wait, the wind is coming up! Better get going, serious wind! One of the seasoned kayakers told me, “Gotta ramp it up and kayak against the wind!” My adrenaline kicks in; I am scared, but ready! We start to head out against the wind. Mistake #3.

Steve Sinclair storm skiing by Will Nordby. And no, it wasn't this bad, but who stops to take pics when you're paddling in wind???

And then the wind came up… Steve Sinclair of Force 10 kayaking on a stormy day. 

Almost immediately two of us are forced back to shore: “TOO DANGEROUS!”  Number Three kayaker gets caught in the wind, her kayak overturns and she ends up looking underwater at the bottom of her lovely kayak. Gotta abort this trip! Damn, a kayak filled with water is heavy, almost too heavy for three very strong ladies. Kayaks on the shore, now what? We are far away from where we put in. Aha, problem solved! We will hitch-hike back to the Kranky Kayak Lady’s Kiosk and have her help us. So across a ranch we hike, one dripping wet from head to toe. We cross fences and gates and land on Highway 1. Mistake #4.

Sopping wet Sara after a change.

Sopping wet Sara after a change.

The one with the healing broken wrist and a floppy thumb tries to wave down cars yelling, “Help, help, help!” Finally someone stops. They are Russians, and hardly speak any English but head in the direction we need to go. How ironic, Russians on the Russian River! Geez, it has been fifty years since we hitch-hiked! We arrive at the Krazy Kayak Rental Lady’s kiosk and she is there… fuming. I assured her that I had her rental kayak, was within the two hour rental limit, and that no-one was hurt and that her kayak was just down, over there, well not exactly close… then came the bomber…”You did not leave your kayaks and walk across that rancher’s land did you?” Well, we did. Mistake #5. 

Hitch hiked with Russians on the Russian River from this spot to Jenner.

Hitch hiked with Russians on the Russian River from this spot to Jenner.

Okay, so we needed to borrow her van to haul my kayak and the two seasoned souls got their Subaru to haul their own kayaks. We proceed to the Highway 1 turnout, stop, and a photographer asks if he can help. Great, an easy escape with two young men to help us! We were supposed to climb the fence to walk across the ranch to get our kayaks but the young men now helping us opened the gate… Mistake #6! 

Yeah, 2 kayaks retrieved! The other one went in the Kranky Kayak Rental Lady’s Van.

Yeah, 2 kayaks retrieved! The other one went in the Kranky Kayak Rental Lady’s van.

I told them to close the gate and it looked closed so off we went to bring back our kayaks. Mission almost accomplished. My kayak, the rented one, was hauled over ranch lands, through the now seriously blown down opened gate (that could let a whole herd of cows onto Highway 1) to the waiting kayak van, yeah! The other two kayakers made a second trek with the two young men to get their kayaks… and as they approached the ranch gate, one of them said, “Oh, f***, it’s the rancher!” Busted!!! Here they are… in a truck, his head is adorned with a big Texas Cowboy hat, lady and dog in tow, maybe a hunting rifle too. They were seething… I tried all my tactics, the locals I knew, that I was once married into an Italian ranching family… yikes… they are going to sue us, hate kayakers, what if the cows got out… on and on!!!! Mistake #7.

after a stiff drink and feeling blessed!

After a stiff drink and feeling blessed! 

When we were apologizing over and over again, saying our “sorries” repeatedly, I thought to myself, “Well your damn broken down gate is a Portugee gate anyway!” This is an Italian joke where Italians call funky things Portuguese. The rancher’s wife was so mad that as she stormed off I asked the cowboy if his wife was Portuguese… she was! The day winds down… the two seasoned kayakers head home and I return my kayak to the Kranky Kayak Rental Lady and do the utmost in therapy to calm her down because now the ranchers are threatening to sue  her!!! The three of us Krazy Kayakers rendezvous, have a stiff drink and I announce, “I love kayaking but I want a mini motor for when it gets too windy!” A story (true) … Hilary, Susan, Sara…  all in the senior prime of their lives and adventurous as hell!

Lessons learned: what I/perhaps “we” learned… #1 Listen to the area kayak authority, even if you do not like them. #2 Do not let wine, a picnic, and a sunny day ruin one’s sense of safety. #3 Never underestimate nature. #4 Senior hitch-hiking is not cool. #5 Trespassing is a disorderly offense. #6 Always close gates. #7 Remember kayaking is a serious sport and can be dangerous but a damn lotta fun!!!

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Editor’s note: Thanks to TR Captain Deb Volturno for contributing some of the photos in this post. And thanks to everyone who participated in the Surf Sirens gathering this year. I love this group! 

Surf Sirens Unite!

Surf Sirens Unite!

The third annual Surf Sirens gathering at Hobuck Beach on the Makah Reservation in Washington State was a big success this year. On the first day, Friday, September 21, sixteen women showed up for some rollicking ocean whitewater play, an impromptu rock garden paddle. It was a soft, drizzly day with relatively flat conditions but a fair amount of wind.

Esther Ladwig enters the elevator

Esther Ladwig enters the elevator

We paddled out from Neah Bay to Waadah Island and around to the northern side facing the San Juan de Fuca Strait. There we found some nice features: pour overs, slots, and a nifty little spot like an elevator where you paddle through a crevice as the water rises and falls with the ebb and flow of the sea.

Checking out the outside

At the tip of Waadah – Sirens outside

It was cool to watch the paddlers disappear down behind the rocks and then rise again to go shooting out the back side when a good wave pushed through. I sure wish I had gotten a photo of Jo Ann Moore riding her wave; I’ve never seen anyone look so stoked!

Lunch break!

Lunch break!

We took a break for lunch on the rocks and then messed around some before heading back to set up camp at Hobuck and get dinner. This year I opted for a cabin. It was pricey, and I’d slept in the truck last year which is my normal M.O. but I had the feeling it was going to rain this year, and it did. It was nice to have a warm room to come back to and to hang the wet suit up to dry. I spread out the gear, ate a light dinner, and fell asleep in a comfortable bed within sound of the sea.      

Instructors Alison and Deb practice a rescue

Skill development: instructors Alison Reinbold and Capt. Deb practice a rescue

On Saturday, seventeen women showed up for surf kayak instruction. Eight of us (almost half!) chose to be in the short boat group, with surf kayaks, whitewater kayaks and waveskis. I chose to be in this group. I really enjoyed the long boat surf instruction I got last year, but this year I’ve been playing around with river kayaking and paddled my first Mamba, and I wanted more.

The waveski gets a good ride

Kelley gets a good ride on the waveski

It was so much fun! The instruction was great, as always. Jameson Riser and Melinda Moree were the instructors for our group, and were really good at helping us in our attempts to master the admittedly shitty surf. However, I always maintain you can have a good time and learn stuff regardless of conditions. In fact, paddling in challenging conditions makes you that much better on nicer days.

Tsunami Rangert Paula Renouf drops in

Tsunami Ranger Paula Renouf drops in

We stayed out till we were all pretty thrashed. The waves were choppy and droppy. Before class, I watched the few board surfers out there braving the rough conditions. Boards and bodies were flying. Almost no one was getting rides. Rather than try to catch the waves on the outside I decided to spend the day playing in the aftershock. Out and in, out and in, catching a few short rides and getting dumped a fair amount. Lots of face enemas, but fun and a really good workout. Finally I was getting tired so I started waiting for something resembling a good ride before boldly springing into action. It was a good day for boat control.        

Esther's great edge!

Esther’s great edge!

That night we regrouped for another fantastic potluck – yum!  The bar keeps getting raised. Everyone contributed and we had a massive spread of healthy, nourishing, and REALLY GOOD food. Barbecued ribs, yummy soups, fruit, bruschetta, salads, desserts, all kinds of delights for hungry stomachs.

Diana Sorus breaks the wave barrier

Diana Sorus breaks the wave barrier

Here’s what Surf Sirens Co-Founder and Tsunami Ranger Deb Volturno had to say: “Saturday was an extraordinary day for surf play!  Great to see the fun and excitement with everyone out in the waves shredding it up.  I think almost everyone got out for some wave time!”

Tatoosh Island

Tatoosh Island

Before I left, I made time to drive out to Cape Flattery and take the short hike out to the tip of the cape where I was rewarded with amazing scenery and a view of Tatoosh Island. It was great to stretch my legs after sitting in a kayak all day the day before and before the long drive to Vancouver, WA, my next stop.

The trail runs through some of the last remaining old growth

The trail runs through some of the last remaining old growth

I really enjoy this surf camp. I like the way it’s set up so participants can take advantage of anywhere from one to three days of instruction. Days One and Three are unofficial paddle days; some of the instructors come along and are available for questions and a little coaching but the official day for instruction happens on Saturday. That’s the day you really don’t want to miss.

Instructor demo with Jameson Riser and Melinda Moree

Instructor demo with Jameson Riser and Melinda Moree

When I saw at the waves Sunday morning conditions had improved drastically. The waves looked small and well-regulated and the sun was making a fitful appearance. I would have liked to have stuck around but duty calls. Last year I paddled one day, this year I paddled two days, so probably next year I’ll arrange it so I can do three. Why not make the most of the long drive? Plus it’s a beautiful place to paddle. And may I say, the cabin was totally worth it!       

The beauty and the splendor and the wonder of Hobuck

The beauty and the splendor and the wonder of Hobuck

Everyone did well and had a good time. Instructor Jennifer Yearly joined us this year from down California way and it was great to have her. She wasn’t in my group but I know she was appreciated. It’s wonderful that we have so many fantastic women kayak instructors who together offer us students umpteen years of combined experience.

No butts on the sand - team building with squats on a tow rope

No butts on the sand – team building with squats on a tow rope

Here’s one more comment from Deb: “I love this event, and always feel energized by the level of commitment and enthusiasm of all who participate!” I second that emotion!   

Breaking the wave barrier

Kelley breaking the wave barrier

Join us for the fourth annual Surf Sirens Kayak Surf Camp in 2019 coming Sept 20-22!!! You don’t want to miss it. And check us out on Facebook at for photos and comments regarding this event. 


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