New venues for offshore powerboat races don’t just happen—they’re the result of months and, in the case of Elk Rapids, Mich., years of work. One of a dozen races on the 2021 Offshore Powerboat Association schedule, the inaugural Elk Rapids Grand Prix is slated for August 20-22. Though organizer Matt Soper received the go-ahead from the Village of Elk Rapids to “obtain sponsor funding and continue working with the community and village managers” last night, he has been working on bringing an offshore race to the area for years.
In 2018, he produced the inaugural OPA-backed Traverse City Invitational Poker Run. It was the organization’s first foray into the poker-run world.
A 2020 Offshore Powerboat Association world champion, Matt Soper is well on his way to bringing an OPA event to his hometown next year. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
“We did the first-ever OPA poker run to ease into this type of thing up here in Northern Michigan, and it went off in first-class fashion without a hitch,” said Soper, a third-generation Elk Rapids resident and offshore racer who earned an OPA world championship this year. “Elk Rapids is a ‘harbor town’ and is perfect for our race event—we looked at many other potential places in the area and chose Elk Rapids as the most beautiful and would benefit as the best fit.
“Rehabilitation of locals business due to COVID-19 was a hot topic to make this event happen,” he continued. “The race gives huge economic impact in a positive way to an area like this.”
From now through January, Soper will be working on logistics with Elk Rapids Department of Parks and Recreation, as well as holding workshop with the Chamber of Commerce and other business and community groups, to address public comments and concerns. All entities will report back to the Village Council in February.
For Soper, the Elk Rapids event is a labor of offshore racing love, history and nostalgia.
“Races in these waters were legendary back in the late ’80s early ’90s,” he said. “Bobby Kaiser and all the big boys raced here and loved it. It’s past time to bring it back again.
“It’s pretty humbling to have won a world championship this year—and the next year bring a race to your hometown,” he added.