Meet Michael Powers, Tsunami Ranger and Amazing Captioned Photo Creator!

by Nancy Soares on April 3, 2017

At 76 Michael Powers is the oldest Tsunami Ranger. He became a Ranger in 1990. For almost 30 years he has been the unofficial Tsunami Ranger photojournalist, filming and photographing the Rangers and their adventures all over the world. He’s had his own share of adventures as well. Michael enhances many of his photos using various techniques, but my favorite is the captions he chooses for so many shots.

Sometimes silly, sometimes sublime, Michael’s captions are always entertaining. For this post, I decided to showcase some of Michael’s best captioned photos. Most of these photos were taken by Michael himself, but some were taken by friends or associates. I included the others because they illustrate Michael, the Rangers, and their ethos so well. The captions are all his own. Enjoy!

In the foreground of the selfie below we have Michael yukking it up on the Northern California coast. Behind him is Tsunami Ranger Dave Whalen. The thing I love about this photo is that it shows how the ocean and the Tsunami Rangers can bring together two very different people in a kayak as a team and still everyone has a good time. Or at least the fuzzy-headed liberal is happy. Hey, can’t we all just get along? 

Michael and TR Dave Whalen - Can't we all just get along?

This next selfie is a great action photo and was taken by a camera mounted on Michael’s deck. He uses this photo on some of his business cards for Ocean Studios, an alliance of adventure writers, photographers, filmmakers, and composers who in their own words are working together to nurture a deeper understanding and empathy for the natural world.

Michael in whitewater action

Michael took this photo of TR Tim Sullivan by a sea arch on the Tsunami retreat led by TR Deb Volturno at Cape Flattery in 2008. 

TR Tim Sullivan at Cape Flattery

Every year at Christmas, Michael sends out his beautifully photographed cards to friends and family. Here he is with his lovely wife Nani Venegas, celebrating on the beach outside their amazing hand-crafted home in Half Moon Bay.  

Here is Michael and his friend, Mark Fraser, an adventure filmmaker and member of Ocean Studios (check him out at www.thegoodfightthe on an expedition to the Svalbard Islands in 2008.   

Michael often captions his photos with quotes from famous writers. This is one of my favorite stanzas from Rumi, the Sufi poet. Pictured are from left to right, Tsunami Rangers Steve El Rey King, Captain Jim Kakuk, Dandy Don Kiesling, Commander Eric Soares, Scott Becklund, and Dave Whalen.  

Tsunami Dancers

This next photo is from a trek in Chilean Patagonia in 2007. Michael and his companions filmed the trip to raise awareness for Patagonia’s wilderness areas to help protect the environment and promote the great opportunities for ecotourism in that region. This trip was in fact the first multi-sport traverse of Chilean Patagonia.

Michael has made many trips to Norway, one of his favorite adventure kayaking destinations. He is also a huge Viking enthusiast.

This is one of my favorite photographs, captioned or not. The shot illustrates the kind of vision you can experience when you get away from it all with a small group of trusted friends on a beach on a coastline inaccessible to all but those in small boats. Amazing!

Here’s Michael on yet another of his adventures, this time in Nepal. He and his group hiked to Base Camp on Mt. Everest on this trip. Love those mountains!

Here’s a great shot of Michael after his knee surgery, kayaking on the reef at Pillar Point near the infamous Big Wave at Maverick’s. Michael got both knees done and was out messing around in boats 30 days later. That’s a Tsunami Ranger for you!

The photo below was taken at the after party at one of the Tsunami Ranger Extreme Sea Kayaking Races. People are encouraged to dress up as pirates, Vikings, or sea gypsies for the party, and Michael and Nani always have great costumes. The A-frame in the back is one of the buildings constructed by Michael himself at his compound on the beach. Over the years Michael has created an amazing space, much of it using a chainsaw, including the A-frame, a dome, a small guest house made out of a fishing boat, offices for Ocean Studios, and of course, Michael and Nani’s private residence. 

Here are the Tsunami Rangers getting really ridiculous on retreat. If anyone can match the names with the butts, I will personally come up with a prize. 

This is another great photo Michael took off Miramar Beach in front of his house: a lone surfer against a brilliant sunset. I love the caption.

Michael isn’t always running around in far off corners of the world or sea kayaking with the Rangers. He’s a whitewater kayaker as well. Here is a photo he took on the south fork of the American River in Northern California before shooting the Whitewater Hall of Fame Event in 2011. 

I wish I had a nickel for every shot of Michael striking the pose below. I’d be a rich woman. Here he is lovin’ it at 17,000 feet in Nepal. Nothing can even throw a shadow on this man’s spirit. 

Check out the caption below. Well, would you? As those who have paddled with him know, Michael has had many, many “interesting” experiences in kayaks, not least getting lost in the fog on the Northern California coast because he insisted on leaving a Tsunami retreat early since he had promised his wife he’d get back at a certain time. But Michael’s never say die spirit always manages to prevail. The man leads a charmed life, and we’re all in awe. Like the Energizer Bunny he just keeps going, and thank God for that!

We love Michael so much. Without his photographs and videography much of what the Tsunami Rangers have accomplished over the years would be lost to history. To contact Michael or Ocean Studios, please go to We hope you have enjoyed these images.

Please add your comments below! 

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven King April 3, 2017 at 9:07 am

What wonderful and inspirational series of captioned images of Don Miquel Padre Tiempo as he often called! These images are testament to the amazing, energy, spirit, joy, love of the natural world and tribal ethos that part of this our senior Tsunami Ranger. Don Miquel continues to paddle, surf, photograph, hike, laugh and create art in numerous forms. One of the beautiful creations that combines his adventure, photography and writing is one of his more recent books Wild In Spirit which cannot be described but must be viewed to absorb the spirit of this amazing book and his life.

We and I are always in awe of Don Miquels passion for life, his boundless energy, creativity and of course Kayaking skills!

Thank Don Miquel and Nancy!



Nancy Soares April 3, 2017 at 5:49 pm

It’s so funny, I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to do a post for April. I got really sick with flu the second week of Feb., and then got a secondary infection and had to be hospitalized for almost 5 days. I was flat on my back for nearly 3 weeks and hopelessly weak when I finally got home. People were bringing me food and meds for about a week before I could even go out.

Then I started walking to begin the recovery process. One day I decided to do a one-hour uphill hike to push myself a little. While I was trudging uphill I got a flash – do a post on Michael’s photos! He’s got all those great photos with captions, and I’ve got them all in a file! All I had to do was choose the photos, upload them, and write some text to go with. Yay! And I’m so happy it turned out everyone likes it so much! Yay! Miracle Michael comes through again!


Micaila April 3, 2017 at 6:27 pm

Stunning photos! Fantastic captions! Great share!


Nancy Soares April 4, 2017 at 4:14 pm

I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, Micaila 🙂 Love you!


Dani Gorgon April 3, 2017 at 8:43 pm

Beautiful photographs. I wonder how he manages to do both – photography and kayaking – without compromising one the other. @nancy wish you a speedy recovery and thanks for the photos and write up.


Nancy Soares April 4, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Dani, I think Michael’s just a natural. Of course, he would be the one to best answer that question, but to me it’s like photography and kayaking are the fire and water of his universe. I’m not sure he could do one without the other. And he’s so enthusiastic about both!

Thank you so much for the good wishes and I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.


Jim Kakuk April 4, 2017 at 10:07 am

Michale with his camera is good at catching the time, place and spirit of the moment. He is not only a talented photographer and captioner but also a larger than life presence on all levels. He is the definition of an adventure photographer.


Tony Moore April 6, 2017 at 6:45 am

Again, another wonderful article, Nancy! Michael is not only a Tsunami Ranger and an accomplished artist-photographer, but an inspiration to us “senior” paddlers (I’m 66)…he, and others like him, are re-defining what can be done by us older paddlers. It’s not that we don’t have our age-related problems, we do, but we somehow work around them. The example I like is Yoda of Star Wars fame. Yes, he does hobble around, leaning on his staff, but if needed, he’s literally bouncing off the walls with his martial arts. Once I take that first stroke kayaking, I’m whole again, I’m capable again, not hobbling around like I often do on land. The day may come when I may not be able to kayak so easily, but I’m never going to say “I should stop this, I’m too old for this” just because I reach a certain age, without having a good and definite physical reason to stop. I also enjoyed the second photo with Michael and Dave Whalen…this is like my wife (a liberal) and myself (a conservative)…yes, there IS another conservative in sea kayaking other than Dave Whalen. I know, we are very rare birds, I know of only one other out here in New England. But I have no problems, get along with everyone…just mutual respect. Probably it’s easy for me because I know where the left is coming from, as in my college days, I was on the left…the far left (S.D.S.)…I’ve been chased by police using tear gas in New Haven CT at a Black Panther rally, and demonstrated in Washington D.C., etc. Anyways, thanks for putting together this article, and hope you have a speedy and full recovery.


Nancy Soares April 6, 2017 at 8:02 am

Hey, Tony it’s so good to hear from you! What a great comment! I love your Yoda analogy. Yeah, that’s it. As we all get older we turn into Yoda-people with secret Jedi powers 😉

I’d like to add to your thoughts about kayaking as an older athlete: if you’re a swimmer, and I know you are, you don’t just paddle; you also swim. Swimming is very healing and recommended p.t. for many people recovering from various surgeries. When hips, knees, and backs go awry swimming can help. Because there are so many strokes, even shoulders can benefit. I remember when I took Eric to Maui after his open-heart surgeries. Even though he was a fantastic swimmer, at first he could barely dog-paddle. After 10 days he was doing every stroke except the crawl. It was amazing to see his rapid recovery. Paddle some, swim some. That’s how I like to do it.

So glad you enjoyed the post, especially that second photo. I think that one appealed to a lot of people. And who knew you were such a radical in your youth???

Thanks again for reading and commenting, Tony. And thanks for the well-wishes. There is kayaking in my recovery plan. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you 🙂


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