Upon getting back in touch with an old high school friend I discovered a sport that I had never heard of. My friend Graham and I started talking about our passions. Which led to our conversation about Boat Racing NBRA style. I immediately became intrigued. All he told me at first was that he raced hydroplanes in his spare time – obviously I needed more information.
Graham told me a little bit about how he got involved. When he lived up in Michigan his Grandfather used to race all the time. It was only a matter of time before he got involved – he started racing last year. He grew up around lakes and the sport his entire childhood, since he was four years old. The sport lets him get away from his busy work schedule and gets him outside enjoying the fresh air. When he’s out on the water his mind goes silent and he enjoys the nuances of the lake and his hydroplane. He lets go of all the stress from his day to day work life and has fun.
The National Boat Racing Association allows men, women, and children ages 10-70 to participate. If you’re looking for an exhilarating pass time, then look no further! The competitions take place across the United States of America and is separated by “classes”. Classes are determined by the engine type, speed, overall weight and length of the boat. The cost of the boat widely varies. One of the boats they recommend you start with is the C Stock Hydroplane class, the total cost comes out to just shy of $10,000. Which is cheaper than a good Bass boat or Jet Ski – it’s one of the most cost-effective motor sports in the USA. Of course, there are many cheaper options when starting out. The total price to join the association is about $110 (you get a racing number, can compete in events, the rule book and notices are given, and full voting rights). There are cheaper methods of getting a taste for the sport. They have a onetime race fee which is $45 (give the right to participate in one race, after which the full membership must be paid to compete further and no voting rights), and a Non-Racing membership which is $35 (this one gives you periodical news and race notes, NBRA rule book, and voting rights as outlined in the rule book).
Boats for beginners go from 50 – 60 miles per hour. From there you start racing 70 – 75 speed boats. Practice makes perfect, as in all passions; the recommended way to practice and get comfortable with your boat is to go out on the water with more experienced competitors who will be able to give you pointers and help you out if need be. The first race you take part in the referee will make you take a few practice laps to warm up, they will have you do several laps until they feel that they are ready for the competition.
The dangers involved in racing are that the boats flipping occasionally. Racers usually get out unscathed and unharmed, this has to do with the protective gear they wear. However, in case anything does happen there is an emergency medical crew standing by. One race is comprised of two heats (rounds) of three laps. In between the heats or rounds the racers will refuel then go continue for the second round. Depending on what you place during each round you earn points and your position or place is decided when both heat’s points are added. At an event the races are broken up by flights – which is like a quarter in Football or a period in Hockey. In each flight three to four classes will compete and complete their heats. Different classes will compete each flight, so no class goes twice. After a flight there is a break and boats are changed and the next 3 classes will compete.
If you are interested in joining the sport you can read the rules and fill out the forms on the NBRA’s website. They pride themselves on creating lifelong friendships and bonds through the sport, “The competition may only last for three laps, but the friendships made here will last forever”. From my research and interacting with the people who run and participate in the races, they have prioritized friendship and helping others. While I was talking to Graham about the competitions he compared it to a giant family reunion. There are clubs across the country you can join, they frequently have classes about racing, and those who complete ground school get to ride in one of the amazing boats. They welcome newcomers with open arms and want to build the reputation and raise awareness for their sport, so they can grow their family. They have a few races coming up the next one is from the 19th to the 21st (of October) down in Louisiana.
In the end, I find this sport fascinating and the photographer in me will certainly attend a few races to get some epic action shots of the boats! While talking with Graham he mentioned a racer who had severe anxiety about driving cars – but when he got out onto the water it all melted away and felt at home, it was calming for him. With that, I have a huge anxiety over driving due to a major accident earlier in my life, and this sport does appeal to me, of course I probably wouldn’t go past the 50 – 60 brackets, but for those thrill seekers out there… this is for you. I hope this sparks your interest and you check out some of their videos and photos.
Here is a list of the clubs and their presidents:
Lone Star Outboard Racing Association
President: Dennis Burke 972-505-0480
Louisiana Outboard Racing Association
President: Alan Van Weele Sr 337-304-0379
Oklahoma Boat Racing
President: Leonard Miller 918-791-1733
Outboard Drivers Association
President: Jeff Ruth 479-927-2847
Whidbey Island Roostertails
President: Bart Lovric 360-840-3889
Written by Becky Bergman