I was stunned last evening to see a message that extreme sea kayaker, Eric Soares passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Wednesday, February 1, 2012,. He was only 58 years old.
For those of you who may be relatively new to paddle sports or are not familiar with sea kayaking in particular, Eric Soares was a co-founder and commander of the Tsunami Rangers, an elite group of kayakers based near San Fancisco who pioneered equipment and techniques for paddling in challenging conditions like sea caves, rock gardens, and large waves. Along with Michael Powers, he authored the book, “Extreme Sea Kayaking” and more recently wrote an autobiography of sorts, “Confessions of a Wave Warrior” along with many magazine articles and letters to the editor. In 2003, Soares nearly died from an aortic dissection and underwent several surgeries to save his life. While he was eventually able to return to an active life, in the end it appears that he died of complications related to this underlying heart problem.
While some would argue that Soares and the Tsunami Rangers are a bunch of crazy risk takers, most of us in the sea kayaking community know better. For as long as I have been paddling (which goes back over 20 years), Eric Soares was a staunch advocate of personal responsibility and safety who strongly encouraged kayakers to dress for the water temperatures in full wetsuits, develop their skills and practice regularly, use safe equipment appropriate to the environment, and to paddle in groups with other skilled kayakers. The Tsunami Rangers were some of the first sea kayakers I ever saw regularly wearing helmets to paddle.
Certainly most of us will not be flying out to California to attend any memorials, but I would encourage all sea kayakers to take the time to read Eric’s two books. While the two are very different, they are both worthwhile reads. In taking the time to remember Eric Soares, It is fitting that at the end of the chapter entitled, “Take Heart!” in “Confessions of a Wave Warrior”, he leaves us with this lesson learned, “Don’t take your life for granted. Go for it, now!”
Bon voyage, Eric.