Sometime in the early 2000s, I made my first pilgrimage to the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Central Missouri. Back then, the aquatic top-speed contest was held on a one-mile course behind a waterfront establishment called Shooters 21. The place was a total dump.
How a man-made lake in the Midwest became the center of the high-performance boating universe. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
But there was something totally compelling about a grassroots event that encouraged mostly amateur go-fast powerboat drivers to see how fast they could get their V-bottoms and catamarans to go from a standing start in 5,280 feet. And the consistent lump in the water near the end of the course made it even more exhilarating, as least for the thousands of spectators in the fleet that lined the course.
For the competitors, it surely produced a healthy mix of dread and terror.
When Powerboat magazine began covering the Shootout, there wasn’t much to do at night. So our staffers took it upon themselves to get ejected and blacklisted from every go-kart track in the area. According to the likes of Shootout Hall of Fame member Jeff Dorhauer, Powerboat’s coverage propelled the event itself into national recognition.
Still, that alone wasn’t enough to hear “Lake of the Ozarks” mentioned in the same breath as the Florida Keys, Lake Michigan, the 1,000 Islands area and other better-known waterways at the time. Nor were some of its more famous locals such as legendary offshore racer Bob Morgan, the founder of the lake’s Big Thunder Marine dealership, and his fellow offshore racer and multi-time Shootout Top Gun David Scott.
So what happened? How did the Lake of the Ozarks rise to prominence in the go-fast boating world?
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