Seafair Racing – Circa 1978

Seafair is here again. Folks who didn’t grow up in Seattle probably don’t understand the appeal of Hydroplane races, or the fact that this wasn’t always so commercialized. I remember when the Log Boom around the course was first-come a and free, and there was a lot less monitoring, I also remember when the boats were "thunderboats" due to the noise of the engines, before they all went turbine-powered.

As a kid here the big event in the neighborhood would be when all the kids would gather, and show up with their bikes, each bike having a plywood hydroplane tied to the back of the banana seat. We would spend days before making and painting our boats. The secret was to drive a few big nails through so when you dragged it behind your bike, sparks would shoot out the back. Everyone would race around the block, elimination came when your string broke or got tangled. Taking a corner too fast would swing the boat too wide and flip, it was a tricky process that took much practice.

The real thunderboats were loud enough that we could hear the race from my house miles away from the course, and that formed the soundtrack for our own races.

I don’t see kids doing this anymore. The appeal of the races may not be what it once was, or there may be so many new folks living here that those traditions never got passed along.