Greatest Hits “And Misses” of the Tsunami Rangers!

by Nancy Soares on April 4, 2016

By 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 to the blog post.


Surfing, Soares style

The Greatest Hits was edited in 2003 from earlier films of the 80’s and 90’s with extra footage added in. Most of it I still like but some segments seem out of date to me now. Be sure to stay tuned for the sea story at the end of the film, my favorite part. Trying to pick out the greatest hits and misses with the Tsunami Rangers posed an interesting question. I do not have favorites but can think of a few that fit the description. Thinking about and trying to remember all the adventures and then rating them is hard, probably not even possible as each adventure had its own merit. Some of the most interesting times were in the beginning when we were trying to gain skills on our own and find ways to explore the exposed coast without getting creamed. Hence, my stories are from the early days.

Captain Jim and Commander Eric, 1987

Captain Jim and Commander Eric, 1987

Greatest Hit: Dreamer Island, Oregon 1985. Eric and I discovered this place on our way to the Port Townsend symposium. There is not one best time there, but Dreamer Island is a remote coastal area that for over 30 years has drawn us back many times. Nancy and Barbara talked about this in the last post. Returning to something you know always brings with it memories of earlier times. On Dreamer Island we have had lots of adventure and excitement, with plenty of time dreaming and scheming. The story at the end of the Greatest Hits video took place at Dreamer along with heaps of other escapades and skullduggery.

The biggest “hit” (literally) was during filming more than 10 years later. A big wave washed over the rocks and lifted Eric and his X-15 up and into the bow of the X-3 paddled by Allison and Gordon. This collision punched a hole through the hull and deck and broke the handrail of Eric’s boat. Eric, sitting in the cockpit of the washdeck, got a bruise on his thigh when the bow point came through, but was able to bail out quickly. He was lucky, as were Allison and Gordon.

Allison, Bill, and Eric laugh it up after the incident

All in a day’s work – Allison, Gordon, and Eric laugh it up after the incident

Greatest Miss: Channel Islands, California 1986. I had just finished the first three working boats from the X-1 series and Eric and I decided it would be a good idea to test them in a paddle to the Channel Islands off the coast of “Santa Barbaria”. It was Eric’s idea of course… but I agreed. Before we left Eric had asked permission but the Channel Island authorities said we had to have toilets on board. Well, without a yacht to escort us and stow our shit we could not land… and it seemed the appropriate answer was to stealth it. If caught we would just say we did not know and had paddled over for the day, oh and it got late so we had to stay… lucky thing we had our sleeping bags and food!

The crossing we chose was from the Gaviota State Park campground. We got a campsite, left the car, and with a little food and gear we headed out with great big plans. Alan Hillesheim, a new recruit, joined us on this miss-adventure and after a day’s drive from the Bay Area we were paddling across the Santa Barbara Channel headed for Santa Rosa Island – after all we could see it just across the way. Cutting through one of the busiest shipping lanes on the coast in small kayaks did not seem to concern us… we would just avoided the juggernaughts when they came through our path!

The Channel Islands

The Channel Islands

We quickly packed our boats and ate a bite. Alan had a sandwich. Eric had concocted a super protein drink which he and I consumed before pushing off into the unknown. We left the beach early under the cover of darkness, in camo gear with black paddles so no one would notice our departure. We followed a line of sight to the dark outline of the island some 30 miles away. It is worth noting that we had never done anything like this before and had no idea how far 30 miles on the open water really was. Of course the wind picked up half way there in the middle of the shipping channel. The wave bounce started to work on our bodies and senses and if you’re a kayaker you know what I am talking about. We stopped and ate something, usually a good thing, but not this time. Eric threw his PBJ into the water with the emphatic statement, “This tastes like shit”! Alan did not feel so bad so we reasoned that the super food drink was making Eric and me sick. The one smart thing we did on this trip was to turn back and head for the mainland before it was too late.

Look what we missed!

Look what we missed! A peaceful cove on Santa Rosa Island…

After many agonizing hours we landed on a beach close to Point Conception, north of the campground on a stretch of private property known as Hollister Ranch, or as the locals call it, “The Ranch”. There were houses on the hills above but it was late in the day and we found a beach that looked uninhabited. After choking down some sardines and laying out our sleeping pads, we fell into a sound sleep for the night. Early the next morning we were accosted by a private security guard, a skinny smart-ass kid full of his own authority. He ordered us to leave or he would call the sheriff and have us cited for trespassing. Alan was being the diplomat holding back Eric’s tirade. When the argument of “We don’t see no stinking private property signs!” did not hold sway, we packed up and headed slowly down the coast with the private dick following us in his little white pickup on the road above. When we landed once to piss, the kid beeped and signaled us to keep moving. Eric was steaming and shouting in battle language all the way back about the rich Herbert Republicans that live on this stretch of land hoarding it for themselves and keeping real people, like us, from touching it. Arriving back at the campground we were met with more verbal abuse by the local park ranger, who obviously had been informed of our pirate’s pursuits. Alan and I ignored the punk but Eric, as expected, had a very heated exchange and told him to get back to his piss-ant duties as campground servant and leave us alone.

$2.6 million will get you this house in Hollister Ranch

$2.6 million will get you this house in Hollister Ranch

On the long drive back we decided that Southern California was not Tsunami Ranger country. Later in 2001 we did return to the Channel Islands and this time took the ferryboat over and stayed in a legitimate site in a campground on Santa Cruz Island for a week. Two days after arriving 9/11 happened and for the rest of our stay we had the entire island to ourselves… but that’s another story.


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kasey April 4, 2016 at 7:32 am

Hey Nancy and Jim,
These stories made me want to watch my copies of the greatest hits DVDs all over again!
I could picture my dear Uncle Eric through your words, and it made me giggle.
Love you all!!


Nancy Soares April 4, 2016 at 7:46 am

Love you too, Kasey! Glad you enjoyed the post. I watched the first 15 minutes or so on YouTube just for fun – I didn’t have time for more just then – and OMG so fun! Talk to you soon. Thanks for reading and commenting!


Jim Kakuk April 4, 2016 at 8:19 am

Thanks Kasey. It is fun to write about the early times and what we have learned since then. Look for more adventure tales in this series from other Tsunami Rangers.


Jake Soares April 6, 2016 at 10:33 am

Hi Jim,

Thank you for sharing these stories! I particularly enjoy the “stealth” missions.



Jeff April 7, 2016 at 5:14 pm

When paddling the West Coast of California and Baja California, I have many times asked ” what would the Tsunami Rangers do?” Today I am stoked to be part of the new chapters. Thank you. Thank you.


Nancy Soares April 11, 2016 at 8:58 am

LOL Jeff, I’m not sure that’s the most productive question to ask, although I’m sure it would give rise to some interesting concepts. Still, the greatest experiences come with risk and I believe with enough enthusiasm people can pull off miracles, on the water and in life 🙂


Scandella April 11, 2016 at 6:17 am

Vous êtes superbes ! Merci beaucoup et on partage de tout cœur de kayakiste ! José


Nancy Soares April 12, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Ravie que ça vous ai plu et merci de votre commentaire! I had to ask my niece who lives in Paris how to respond, but she helped me out 🙂


Moulton Avery April 21, 2016 at 5:36 am

This was a great post, Jim! A lovely reminder that great things have humble beginnings and that wisdom is earned. Bailing out of the plan “before it’s too late” is often mentally difficult, but as you know only too well, doing so has a proven track record of “saving your ass” from a really nasty encounter with Mother Nature. Sharing that decision in your post was really sweet. I also loved the vignettes of Eric’s low tolerance for mindless rules enforced by witless minions – truly a man after my own heart in that regard. I was mentally yelling “Ass Monkey!” as the officious little twit tooted his horn.


Nancy Soares April 21, 2016 at 7:15 am

Oh Moulton, I love you! “”Low tolerance for mindless rules enforced by witless minions”… you are the greatest. It’s always so good to read your comments 🙂


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