Editor’s note: This post introduces Steven “El Rey” King, one of our most enthusiastic Rangers. Here is Steve telling the story of how he first met the Rangers. Thanks to Admiral of Vice Jim Kakuk, Capt. Deb Volturno, and Paula Renouf for their contributions!
El Rey: I, like many of my fellow Rangers, found my way into the Tsunami Rangers tribe by being in the wake of Don Diego Cien Fuegos Eric Soares, and Admiral Jim Kakuk.
I met Don Diego in Half Moon Bay in the early 1990’s. Later when my wife Melinda and I moved to Moss Beach, he used to drop by on the way back from hot tubbing at the Youth Hostel (on his way home just about dinner time) and we would hail him and his partner in to share one of the delicious meals that Melinda had prepared. Jim Kakuk sold me a beautiful red prototype of a Tsunami X-0 kayak. I then moved around the corner to a home above the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and would watch Eric, Jim and other Rangers frolicking among the rocks and waves off the bluffs by my house. I wanted in.
I had spent time paddling canoes on whitewater in Ozarks, Maine; West Virginia; and small rivers in the Amazon among other places; sailed a 36′ sloop across the Atlantic with three other people years before; and had also been a captain of a Maine lobster style boat for a person who owned a home on an island in Frenchmen Bay, Maine for several summers in college. I liked being on the water.
So Eric and Jim invited me to join them and some other Rangers to paddle my X-0 on a fairly big day at Mushroom Rock outside of Princeton Harbor. I was in over my head, got creamed a few times trying to ride waves that were way out of my skill set and I was hooked.
Melinda and I had the good fortune to become friends with Don Diego over the years. I had watched the annual Reef Madness Race from the rocks on shore and it was time to jump in. I wrote a letter to Don Diego sharing my water experience and told him I wanted to become a Tsunami Ranger if they would give me a shot. I had to paddle in Reef Madness as part of my “qualifications” and nobody told me paddling an X-0, a boat without a rudder, was probably not a smart idea but I had a plan. In the end I came in 31st out of 32 paddlers and when I sent the race stats to my father who was a lifelong competitive runner and pole vaulter into his 80’s he said, “I can’t believe you beat that other guy”. Fast forward a number of years after becoming a Ranger with my Tsunami brother Compadre Scott Becklund, I paddled a Tsunami double with Scott and we came in first place. It is true that Honorary Ranger Kenny Howell and Ranger Dandy Don Kiesling, who usually won that race by up to 45 minutes or more, were in San Francisco Bay at another race that day but showing up is what counts!
I have to say I deeply respect and love the X-15, X-0 and all the boats that Admiral Kakuk designs and builds. After multi-day retreats like the one on the Sea of Cortez in November I feel a deep connection to and gratitude for these kayaks!
In my day job as an ethnobotanist I have spent the last 30 years researching and working on the development of new drug based on field research with traditional healers, men and women in the tropical forest regions of Latin America, Africa, and South East Asia. Working with medical doctors I and other ethnobotanists had the great privilege to learn about plant medicine used to treat a variety of medical conditions. I helped start Shaman Pharmaceuticals and after a long and winding road (with a few companies formed) we did manage to get the first FDA approval for an oral drug called Mytesi which treats diarrhea that is associated with HIV/AIDS. We have also produced non-pharma products for humans and animals. The past 10 years I have been working with local people and communities in the Peruvian rain forest on the sustainable harvest and reforestation of the Croton lechleri tree from which our current company, Jaguar Health, extracts and purifies the active compound in the drug Mytesi called crofelemer.
Admiral Kuk: Thrashing about in the surf and rocks along the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach sometime during the mid 90’s, Eric and I met Steve King who was observing us in the surf. Steve became curious and was interested in joining us in our dance with the waves and rocks. Steve and Eric both lived next to the Reserve and Eric introduced Steve to the sport and the rest of the Rangers and the story continues.
Steve did not have a kayaking background and as I recall it took some time for him to acquire the skills of handling his boat. He stuck with it and over the years has become confident and proficient. Steve is now an integral part of the team and holds the respectable rank of Lt. Commander.
The Rangers are more than a kayaking team and we share a mutual love of the ocean and the natural environment. Steve is the perfect example of that. Abalone diving with Scott Becklund and myself, the three of us were always going into the wild blue yonder in search of the gastropods along the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts. Diving out of our kayaks in remote areas we found the best places to pluck the tasty snails, back when we could still harvest them.
El Rey, as he is called by the Rangers, has become an important part of the natural order of the tribe. Steve is thoughtful, considerate, smart and funny. Behavioral contagion is the influence one has on a group of people and El Rey is a good example of that.
Oh, and he likes tequila, good tequila.
Lt. JG Nancy: Eric introduced me to El Rey in autumn of ’95. Steve and his wife Melinda were in Moss Beach, where they still live on the edge of the continent overlooking Sniveler’s Row where many of the Rangers’ adventures took place back in the day.
I immediately liked Steve and Melinda. They’re both super smart, well-read, interesting people. I also learned to love their home, where I’ve always been welcome both before and after Eric died, especially the hot tub where you can soak in the protection of the secluded back yard and listen to the waves beat against the shore just a few yards away. Peaceful, if you know what I mean.
That brings me to how I feel about Steve. He’s had a very full life, and not always easy, but when I’m around him I have a sense of peace, of home, that I cherish. Very few people make me feel that way. The Rangers are among the few who do, and it’s no wonder that Eric and Jim made Steve a Ranger. He fits in so well.
Words that describe El Rey: compassionate, enthusiastic, positive, intelligent, curious, dedicated, competent, honorable. His kindness and loyalty know no bounds. He gives unselfishly to his family, his friends, and his work. As busy as he is flying around the world researching indigenous plants and their uses, he still carves out time to hang with the Rangers, host our parties, and go on retreats. I know it was difficult for him to get out of his responsibilities so he could go on retreat to Baja in November last year (it was a 3-week endeavor right before Thanksgiving) but he was an indispensable member of our group and contributed hugely to the experience.
Another thing I’d like to say about Steve: he can go anywhere and do anything and handle it. Maybe that’s partly the result of his global travels, where he’s had plenty of Interesting Experiences, but when we’re out and about nothing ever seems to rattle him… much. Maybe getting chomped by a whale that one time, but even then he just popped a beer and kept on paddling.
Although he’s never to my knowledge had a conventional introduction to kayaking (like many of us, he just got in a boat and went for it) he’s a very strong paddler. I admire his sang froid. Actually, it’s not really cold blood, it’s more of a casualness, a relaxed approach of hey, no big deal that I strive to emulate. I’m pretty good under stress, but if I don’t have enough to eat or to sleep or it’s just been one damn thing after another for a long period of time I start feeling stretched a bit too thin and it comes out in various ways. El Rey always has an easy, relaxed vibe that reminds me to calm down. Somewhere along the line we started calling him El Rey, the King, and it fits. There is a nobility about him that is truly admirable. I consider him one of my staunchest friends. Love you, Tsunami Brother!
Paula: Oh what to say about dear Steve! A gem of kindness, those twinkly eyes, so even keeled, generous .. a delight on and off the water!
Another Tsunami Introduction in the bag. We hope you enjoyed our post on our honored and beloved Steven El Rey King. If you have questions or comments, please let us know by clicking below. We love to hear from you!