Editor’s note: This is the next in our Meet the Rangers series. Enjoy! And thanks to all the Rangers who contributed photos to this post.
Vice Admiral Jim Kakuk: Jeff is a blend of kayaker, explorer, teacher and great camping companion. A natural in his kayak and a good diver and fisherman, you can count on Jeff to bring in the catch. A great team player, always there when you need a hand on the water or around the camp, Jeff is also a clever conversationalist, full of energy with a big smile and a pleasure to be around.
Lt. Commander Jeff Laxier answers some questions:
1. How long have you been kayaking? I kayaked in 1983, but that was survival and a lesson in kayaking a flooded creek and rescue. I dabbled in the sport at a resort I lived at and also had the opportunity to sea kayak for work in the USMC. In 1996 I had the opportunity to learn and teach sea kayaking. Then in 2001 I was introduced to whitewater of the sea, performance surf kayaking, and advanced sea kayaking.
2. How did you get into kayaking? My buddy Mike Stivers and I were bartenders. He also taught kayaking. He encouraged me to join him assisting his classes. Two weeks later he offered me his job. That was my start.
3. Who were/are your teachers and coaches? Mike Stivers, Ryan Levinson, Greg Knight, Jen Kleck, Eric & Rebecca Gideons, Nigel Foster, Gordon Brown, Cate Hawthorne, and many many others including my many students.
4. Best/worst experience kayaking? Best: 2 runs on the Grand Canyon, Channel Islands solo crossings, rock gardening Baja ‘n’ Mendocino, so many surfs on the West Coast. Worst: Folding a sea kayak in the rock gardens and the injuries that came with it.
5. How did you get into the Rangers? I think it was a 1996 Sea Kayaker article on the Tsunami Rangers. I was just out of the Marine Corps and this group of paddlers was playing hard as a team. That really spoke to me! It wasn’t until 2007 that I was drawn in though. Out of the fog came this bright group of paddlers on X15’s. Right away I knew by sight Eric Soares, Jim Kakuk, and Michael Powers. Eric, Jim, ‘n’ I locked eyes, had a short meaningful conversation and then parted ways. I found their camp and enjoyed an evening with like minded people. Later I was invited to a retreat with nothing more than an idea of the location. I snuck away from Liquid Fusion Kayaking for 48 hours and found the Rangers. I was welcomed on that hidden beach with open arms of love and adventure!
6. What other sports/skills/interests do you enjoy? Time outside. ’71 – the day was rainy, I sat ‘n’ banged on the glass door, yelling “outside, outside, outside…” I like to be out in nature, my inspiration.
Lt. JG Nancy Soares: Jeff Laxier is a teacher, coach, kayaker extraordinaire, team mate, veteran. He’s smart, strong, brave, funny, adventurous, kind, and compassionate. On our retreats Jeff can forage for food, paddle anywhere, lead or follow, and hang by the campfire all night long.
Jeff’s a real hero. In 2016 on retreat we launched into extreme conditions. Big swells, strong wind, current, everything was against us. When it became necessary to tow two of our guests, Jeff hooked up to one of them and cheerfully towed him about 6 miles until we reached our destination. At the same time, when Jeff saw me slogging along with a dour look on my face, he chatted happily with me to distract me from the ordeal.
Jeff is also a joker. I’d told him about the time during a class when one of Eric’s students got stuck on a rock after getting wiped out by a sneaker wave. Eric tried to coax the guy off the rock but finally had to threaten to climb up and throw him off to get the student to self rescue.
Thanks to Jeff, that story came back to haunt me. During my Tsunami test the team and I were standing on the beach when suddenly Deb called out, “Swimmer!” It was time for me to perform a rescue. Jeff was swimming fast toward a big rock out in the cove. I hopped in my kayak and took off after him. Jeff climbed onto the rock and crouched down in an imitation of Eric’s student. I paddled up and started coaxing him off. He crouched lower, eyes wide, shaking his head, saying, “No no no!” in a tremulous voice. I circled around trying to convince him to self-rescue till I realized that he was simply not going to cooperate. This of course was the challenge.
I hopped out of the boat and climbed up onto the rock, still trying to talk Jeff down, but he continued to cower. Finally, knowing he was ready to stay there all day unless something drastic happened, I punched him in the jaw so he lost his balance and then hip-checked him off the rock. He fell into the water where he promptly rolled onto his back in an excellent impression of an unconscious floater. I jumped after him, grabbed his PFD at the shoulder and started sidestroking in. He started gasping, choking, and thrashing so I let go of the PFD, embraced him in conventional rescue mode, and continued to swim to the beach as he twitched and shuddered dramatically. Rescue accomplished. Thanks, Jeff. That was fun.
Jeff’s been a wonderful addition to the Tsunami team. His kayaking skills are beyond reproach but he also challenges those around him to step up and be better. And he’s entertaining as hell. Kayaker, coach, funny man, consummate waterman. That’s our Jeff.
Lt. Steve El Rey King: Words that describe Jeff for me: teacher, mentor, warrior, smooth as silk on the water, playful, beat poet, irreverent, fearless, lover of tequila, loyal, supportive, explorer, lover of nature, seeker of ever higher levels of kayaking expertise, fisherman, ab diver, wanderer and beloved Tsunami Ranger.
I would also say I have never met a person with such deep passion for kayaking both on the open ocean and on rivers. Observing him teaching sea kayaking to students I realized that he is an extremely dedicated, serious and patient teacher. Jeff has a calling to share his love for Oceans, Rivers and Nature with as many people as he is able. I have deep admiration for Jeff and I am so happy to be able to call him my Tsunami brother!
We hope you have enjoyed this intro to Tsunami Ranger Jeff Laxier. As you can see, Jeff is deeply admired and appreciated by all of us. We love you Jeff!
If you have questions or comments about this post, contact us by clicking below. You can contact Jeff and Liquid Fusion Kayaking in Ft. Bragg for rentals, lessons and tours at https://liquidfusionkayak.com/ Thanks!