Tsunami Rangers co-founder Eric Soares. Photograph by Michael Powers.

By: Conor Mihell

A key component of the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium will be missing when the annual gathering of intermediate and advanced paddlers begins this Friday in San Francisco. In past installments, the late Eric Soares, co-founder of the Tsunami Rangers, coached rock garden clinics and captivated audiences with compelling presentations about the history of rough water kayaking on the California coast. When Soares passed away two weeks ago due to complications following a ski accident, the Golden Gate Symposium—and sea kayaking in general—lost a legend.

But the show will go on. Director Sean Morley says this year’s event will commemorate Soares’ contributions to the kayaking community, including a moment of silence to open the weekend and a slide show and poem reading from photographer and fellow Tsunami Ranger pioneer Michael Powers, one of Soares’ closest friends. Soares’ Ten Commandments of Sea Kayaking will be printed and put on display. Indeed, this comprehensive list highlighting safety, judgment, paddling skills and respect for the sea should be incorporated into the organization delivery of paddling festivals everywhere.

The Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium

It’s telling that in his last blogpost, Soares highlighted the virtues of events like the Golden Gate Symposium. “There has been a welcome trend over the last half a decade of increased numbers of symposia for intermediate and advanced sea kayakers,” he wrote. “[This has] opened my eyes to the possibility that sea kayakers want more from a symposium than looking at the latest sea kayaks and taking introductory classes on basic skills.” To this end, Morley and event manager Matt Palmariello have assembled an international array of instructors, including distinguished British Canoe Union coach Gordon Brown. Adventurer Jon Turk, fresh off the first-ever circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island in the Canadian arctic, will be the keynote speaker on Saturday night.

Certainly Soares would’ve loved to participate in this year’s gathering, and there is no doubt that attendees will miss him. Yet they’ll also feel the weight of his spirit. “We feel saddened by his untimely passing, and humbled and honored that he considered our symposium worthy of his support,” says Morley. “Eric and his Tsunami Ranger comrades were pioneers, exploring the boundary between ocean and earth, inspiring and educating us through their films and writing. Eric’s wisdom and spirit will live on.”

When: Feb. 17-19, 2012
Where: Horseshoe Bay, Sausalito, Calif.
For more info: ggsks.com

Eric Soares. Photograph by Michael Powers,