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Inside SOTW Mag: Herding Purebred Cats

Skaterfest has to be the high-performance boating world’s most contradictory celebration of brand. On one hand, the Detroit Metro area-based happening is a loosely organized collection of Skater Powerboats catamaran owners who come and go as they please. Nothing about it, from Thursday night’s casual welcome dinner to Saturday’s fun run, is pressured—much less mandatory.

As it has for 10 years, Ron Szolack’s Skaterfest set the standard by which all brand-specific powerboat events will forever be measured. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

On the other hand, it could be the go-fast boating realm’s most cohesive event, a brand-driven love-fest full of belly laughs, big hugs and fine old times off the water combined with two days

of casual boating—in some of the finest cats ever created by the Douglas, Mich., builder.

“For me, Skaterfest is like a big family reunion,” said Pete Boden, speedonthewater.com’s

chief photographer, as he drove me back to organizer Ron Szolack’s waterfront home in St. Clair Shores after Thursday night’s joyful welcome dinner. “Everyone here is family. And everyone comes back every year.”

Among those returning visitors was New York’s Chris Ryder, who brought Crisis Management, his Skater 368 catamaran to this year’s 10th annual official happening. Ryder hasn’t missed a

Skaterfest since Szolack, the unmatched wheel-dealer of Skater cats, kicked off the event 11 years ago. During last year’s pandemic- altered unofficial version of the happening, Ryder dropped to a knee on the deck of his 36-footer and asked his then- girlfriend Sam Hanna to marry him. They’re tying the knot in December.

“I wouldn’t miss it, ever,” he told me before we headed out for the Thursday night dinner. “Plus, Ronnie is saying this is the last one.”

Ryder’s longtime friends Don and Amanda Gardner, who recently purchased a 36-foot Skater cat and are currently updating its interior and repowering it with outboard engines, came all the way from their home in Cape Coral, Fla., to join Chris and Hanna for the weekend.

“We’re so happy to be here,” said Amanda Gardner during dinner. “It’s going to be a great weekend.”

She wasn’t wrong.

To enjoy the complete Skaterfest feature and more, subscribe to Speed On The Water digital magazine.