Rangers’ Retreat – 30 Years On

by Nancy Soares on October 12, 2015

By: Captain Jim Kakuk and Dandy Don Kiesling

TR Deb Volturno discovers a wormhole into another universe

TR Deb Volturno discovers a wormhole into another universe on the Mendo coast


In 1985 Eric and I were on our way to the Port Townsend Sea Kayaking Symposium to do our first presentation, ‘Ocean Survival Swimming‘. On the way we stopped in Southern Oregon at Boardman State Park, and went on a mini expedition to explore a new area and discovered a wild and enchanting place. We decided to make it an annual event for the Tsunami Rangers to work on skills and get new photos for our slide show presentations. Arriving to do our talk we were always fresh with new adventure stories and charged with the power of the ‘Ocean White Water’, our second presentation at Port Townsend.

What can we say???

What can we say???


The tradition continued over the years and with the addition of new Rangers it has always been the best time to discuss the year past and make plans for the future. Getting together at least once a year has been at the source of keeping the team challenged. Camping on the beach, gathering food, sharing meals, drink and blending into the environment is the Tsunami Ranger way.

The after party: sharing food and drink the Tsunami way

The after party: sharing food and drink the Tsunami way

There are daily doses of exciting rock garden kayaking to be had, surfing, exploring caves and taking photos and video. Always a memorable time with close friends and some of our most important decisions have been made about the future of the team.

Deb rocks the rocks

Deb rocks the rocks

We talk about the past and discuss new Tsunami Ranger events, articles, videos, and work on skill sets and team building. We also decide when and where to meet next year and, of course, who brought the best “snake bite medicine“.

TR Scott Becklund, a happy camper

TR Scott Becklund, a happy camper

We have moved the location of the retreat around from the Channel Islands in Southern California to Cape Flattery in Washington but usually we meet on the Northern California coast of Big Sur and Mendocino. We have returned to Boardman many times and during our last time there in 2012 we sprinkled some of Eric’s ashes at our site of recognition.


This year we returned to one of our favorite spots along the Mendocino coast of California. We have been here many times over the last 13 years. Thunder Cove has all the qualifications of being isolated and wildly beautiful with interesting rocks, caves and surf. We call it “Thunder Cove” because the first time we landed there were big seas and the concave cliff made a thundering sound all night.

The camp back in the day. Again, what can we say???

The camp back in the day. Again, what can we say???

On the first day right after leaving our launch beach we lost Michael in the fog … yes, again. Jeff and I turned back and located him, happy as a lost puppy to see us, and we headed to our beach where we started the event with an early dinner of lobster tacos and shots of tequila.

The Master Chef at work

Master Chefs Becklund and Volturno at work

Fall is the changing of the season. A good time to discuss the past and to make plans for the next year. Our Indian summer starts in September and is usually the best weather with the fewest Herberts. There is no cell phone reception, no TV or Internet and no newspapers to distract from the environment. We become immersed in the wild and become tribal like. We also abalone dive and fish to supplement our food, fresh caught and eaten on the beach after a day on the water is the best!

TR Steve El Rey King contributes to the Tsunami larder

TR Steve El Rey King contributes to the Tsunami larder

We always toast the other Rangers that are gone or not present and congratulate each other on the exciting moments from the day, reliving it with each person’s perspective. Often the retreat has been the time to introduce new people to the team and the best opportunity to test candidates for ranking in the Rangers. This year was both, with Michael bringing two guests and Jeff, the rock garden poet, becoming a Ranger. Usually we have to know the candidate for several years, paddled with and camped with them to make sure they are suited to be part of the team. Most important is compatibility and adding to the team spirit.

Newly anointed Lieutenant Laxier adding to the team spirit.

Newly anointed Lieutenant Laxier adds to the team spirit.

There was also the awarding of new rank to Scott Becklund, now a Lt. Commander. This promotion was long overdue as Scott has always been a strong paddler, diver and a major part of the Rangers, a leader on the water.

Scott in whitewater

TR Becklund in whitewater

by Don Kiesling

We met Jeff and Cate of Liquid Fusion Kayaking several years ago, and were immediately impressed with both their skills and their enthusiasm for ocean paddling. Some of the Rangers have had the opportunity to paddle, camp, and instruct with them on several occasions since. Very recently, Jim schemed to invite Jeff to take the Ranger test at this year’s retreat, and only had time to convene a few Rangers for their consent. So to the surprise of many in attendance, and especially to Jeff, he was invited to take his test the following day (less than 12 hours notice!) Unsurprisingly, Jeff accepted the challenge, and plans were hatched and nerves were stimulated.

The test begins

The test begins

Don and Steve were to adminster the test, their first time. The group gathered on the beach and peppered Jeff with questions about kayaking and general knowledge, e.g., “What is your name? What is your quest? What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?!” Jeff’s explanations of the local conditions and hazards were outstanding. Before long, kayaks were launched so Jeff could lead us on a rock garden adventure. Conditions were ideal for probing some of the nearby pour-overs and suckholes. Jeff quickly realized the difficulty of leading a large group of ornery Rangers, but used his leadership skills and delegation to keep us organized and out of too much trouble.

Jeff leads the Rangers in the traditional salute

Jeff leads the Rangers in the traditional Tsunami salute to the sea

After a couple hours of play, we found a secluded beach for lunch. Typically the testee provides lunch, but due to the short notice, Jeff was off the hook and we had a potluck of tasty snacks instead. A few small flasks may have appeared, too! In lieu of the traditional challenge of making lunch for everyone, Jeff was asked for evidence of storytelling skills, and the one he told was a doosey!! After lunch we explored some caves and tubes and other features. Jeff was on the spot with one assisted rescue, so staging a fake one wasn’t necessary.

Jeff demonstrates sea kayaking skills in his own particular idiom

Jeff demonstrates sea kayaking skills in his own particular idiom

After a few more hours we returned to Thunder Cove with huge grins, but asked Jeff to execute a few more skills in the bay before landing. That evening the senior Rangers reviewed Jeff’s performance and agreed to award him the rank of Lieutenant. Gathered around a small campfire, Jeff accepted the rank, and several small gifts, and gave a rousing acceptance speech.

Jeff's speech

Jeff’s speech

back to Capt. Kuk

Keep relaxed and keep moving. Next year we are most likely returning to the far north.

Questions? Comments? Wanna be a Ranger??? Please comment below!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Kakuk October 12, 2015 at 7:56 am

Good times again at the Tsunami Ranger roundup and great to have Jeff as part of the tribe.


Nancy Soares October 12, 2015 at 8:26 am

Congratulations, Jeff, on becoming the newest Tsunami Ranger! I’ll look forward even more to hearing about the TR adventures now that you’re on board 🙂


Lance Smith (PBW) October 12, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Hi Jim & other TR’s, past and present. I enjoyed reading this, articles like these always seem to inspire me to continue my dance between the sea and shore.
Thank you for sharing yourselves and your passion for the precious Taonga that is all around us, if only we dare to go beyond the range of the cell towers and t.v broadcasts.


Nancy Soares October 12, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Hey there, Lance, good to hear from you! So glad you enjoyed our article. Thanks for reading and commenting. Rock the rocks!


Tony Moore October 16, 2015 at 7:43 am

Great account, Jim and Don! Thirty years ago! (I wasn’t even kayaking yet, but was doing a lot of spearfishing.) The Tsunami Rangers have always been my number one inspiration when it comes to kayaking…keep it up, guys!



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