by Tsunami Ranger Steve King
Forget about The Hunger Games and women’s Olympic beach volleyball! Here we describe the myriad beach games undertaken on most Tsunami Ranger retreats. One can train for these games anywhere and anytime but the true heat of competition and glorious victory only takes place when competing against one’s fellow paddlers on remote beaches. In some cases beach games become a form of martial arts training (see “Sea Kayaking as a Martial Art?”) and also help clean up beaches of Oceanic Garbage such as the plastic bottles used in Beach Bowling. The Rangers collect plastic bottles that wash up on the beach and deploy them as pins on an “open beach alley”. We often find round balls that were part of fishing gear to use in the game. Once a victorious bowler is crowned, we jam all the plastic we can into our boats and paddle it out for proper recycling.
One of my favorite games is the combined Knife and Hatchet Throwing Competition. We use standard hatchets but there are throwing hatchets out there as well. In the case of knives we often use throwing knives. Or sometimes shuriken. Each year the winner of the throwing competition gets the prize as well as the responsibility of taking the knives home and bringing them back the next year.
One related and unusual throwing contest is the Short Machete Throw. I have spent a fair amount of time in rainforests with people who really know how to handle a machete but I have never seen one being thrown into a target. Needless to say, it is not an easy task!
On a recent retreat Captain Jim Kakuk brought along a beautiful saber which was put to the test in multiple ways. The Thin Slice Bullwhip Kelp Game required both finesse and accuracy. We played this game after a wonderful day of riding waves and paddling in and out of sea caves. As the sun set thin slices of bull kelp rolled off the log and I believe it was Deb Volturno who was the victor.
We also practice Martial Arts Drills. These games, often led by our beloved Don Diego Red Dog Eirikur de Ashlandia (he goes by many names) are intended to hone our reaction time and ability to handle a potential attack by a knife or gun-wielding assailant. We have enough handguns and knives to allow for everybody to practice disarming their opponents. In these games we partner up and practice the techniques taught us by Eric, who was among so many other things a black belt in jujitsu.
In these drills, timing and awareness is key. Just as paddling surf and rock gardens, wave riding, or entering or exiting surf do, beach games cultivate one’s awareness of how to act in a spontaneous but highly focused manner and how to recognize the decisive moment for action. The link to big wave open ocean paddling is obvious: always be aware of your surroundings and be prepared mentally, physically and spiritually to make whatever move you need to help you survive and thrive.
It must be said however that the primary goal of these beach games is fun and camaraderie. The physical and mental skills developed are an added benefit. I have both been victorious and lost many a match. I think my favorite challenge was throwing a delicate Thailand ornamental hatchet and sinking it deep into a log. I wagered that I could do it and Don Diego took the bet. On my first throw the hatchet hit and snapped, the handle somersaulting into the woods. At first Eric was elated to not lose his bet (but not as happy about the hatchet). Upon closer inspection it became clear that the hatchet head was sunk deeply into the trunk, a victorious throw!
A last mention must be made of Hacky Sack. In some of the old videos of the Rangers you’ll see Jim and Eric warming up for a day on the water by playing hack. It’s a great outdoor game that develops quick reflexes and good hand-eye (or foot-eye) coordination. It also teaches you how to be relaxed – you can’t be uptight when you play hack. Looseness of limb and the ability to react promptly to rapidly changing conditions are key in playing the game. It’s even lightly cardiovascular if you get a good game going. It’s not really for large groups: usually 3 to 4 people is just about perfect.
We are always collecting new beach games, so please share with us any games that you have enjoyed by clicking below.