Lake of the Ozarks Shootout & Shootout Offshore 2024

Shootout & Offshore Racing 101

by Christy Wagner, Editor

Photos Courtesy of Retired Osage Beach Fire Protection District Chief Jeff Dorhauer, the Lake Ozark Fire Protection District, george denny photography ©, Daniel Carnahan, Jr., and Jeff Helmkamp with

The History of the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout–Shootout 101

The Lake of the Ozarks Shootout was established in the summer of 1989 as an unsanctioned boat race officiated by four local fire departments. In the past 3.5 decades, it has since grown into the largest unsanctioned boat race in the entire world.

The Shootout takes place annually during the third week of August, although its many fundraising events occur throughout the course of the year and at different locations across the Lake of the Ozarks. Shootout events include treasure hunts, poker runs, golf and trapshooting tournaments, vendor stations, street and stereo sound-off parties, and, of course, the main races themselves.

The races themselves take place on Saturday and Sunday of each year, where personal watercrafts and sanctioned kilo runs have their own block of time to utilize the course. The remainder of each race day sees boats of all makes, sizes, and speeds take off from the 40-mile-per-hour-restricted Start Box (a grouping of buoys with volunteers flagging race boats while conducting speed checks via radar from the Start Boat) to the finish line at the end of the ¾-mile racecourse near the Hurricane Deck Bridge.

“As the racers get ready to participate, they check in with Race Control on the radio and then they are assigned their spot in the lineup and told when they’re on deck,” explained Justin Martin, a firefighter and paramedic for the Lake Ozark Fire Protection District and 22-year veteran volunteer as the captain of the Shootout’s Start Boat. “We then advise the racers via marine band radio when to enter the warmup area to take the course. The volunteer flaggers at the bow of the boat will hold the green flag steady if the course is clear while the racer approaches the Start Box, and then they will drop/wave the flag once the boat is clear to fully accelerate. The flagger will hold up a yellow flag to warn the racer if they’re approaching at a high rate of speed with use of a radar gun, and we also have a real-time speed display for the racers to see. The flagger will hold up a red flag to stop the racer from continuing, or to signify that the course is closed. In the past, closures have been caused by adverse weather conditions or unforeseen emergencies.”

True story, Martin is also married to none other than Leah Martin, Executive Director of the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout and now, Shootout Offshore. He says that he used to be a big deal.

“For the first year that the Shootout ran in 1989, the funds that were raised didn’t actually go back to the fire departments,” explained retired Osage Beach Fire Protection District Chief Jeff Dorhauer. “For the first several years, the Shootout worked in a similar manner as it does now, where funds are donated to local charities and it operated under the original name of the Shooter’s Shootout, because its host location was at Shooters 21 at the time. After about four or five years, four local fire departments–Osage Beach, Lake Ozark, Gravois Mills, and Mid-County–took care of everything from fundraising within our own jurisdictions to setting up and maintaining the racecourse.”

“When the Shootout first started, what has now become a weeklong event only occurred over a period of one to two days,” explained retired Lake Ozark Fire Protection District Chief Mark Amsinger. “I became involved as a volunteer in the mid-90s when the fire departments were responsible for their own advertising sales, and whatever money was raised came back to our own departments. It wasn’t until the Shootout grew to such a point in 2008 that the four departments met and agreed that it had become its own entity, and proposals were received from local businesses to host the event. After receiving several proposals, it was then moved to Captain Ron’s and the West Side community on a trial basis. They did so well that first year, it was obvious that we made the right decision for everyone.”

“It was a really big deal when racers first broke 200 miles per hour,” continued Amsinger. “Callan Marine broke the 200-mile-per-hour mark first in their turbine boat, and then their speed was conquered by Miss Budweiser’s hydroplane boat. The Spirit of Qatar clinched the all-time highest speed on the 1-mile course of 244 miles per hour ten years ago, and American Ethanol has since held onto their Top Gun title for a number of recent years.”

“When the Shootout was transferred over to the West Side, they, along with a small army of volunteers, really blew it out of the water and helped take it to what it has become today,” Dorhaurer said. “Because of everyone’s determination and effort, the Shootout is now an internationally recognized and copyrighted 501©(3) organization. We never would have expected the Shootout to become all that it has if you would have asked us firefighters in 1989.”

The History of Shootout Offshore–Shootout Offshore 101

As for the history of offshore powerboat racing at the Lake of the Ozarks, this story has been threaded together over the course of 31 years, and it has nonconsecutively operated under many different names. The first-ever organized offshore race at the Lake of the Ozarks occurred in 1993 under the name, “Super Boat ‘93 – The Event: First Annual Lake of the Ozarks Race.” Taking place between September 10-12th, 1993, this offshore powerboat race took place at Shooters 21, where the schedule of events kicked off with a dry pit race boat viewing. A wet pit race boat viewing was available to the public on the second day, and the ‘super boat races’ took place on the final day, which happened to be a calm Sunday at noon.

“Back in the early days of 1990’s offshore powerboat racing, the races took place between the Lodge of the Four Seasons and Shooters 21 (where the Shootout was originally held),” retired Osage Beach Fire Protection District Chief Jeff Dorhauer continued. “Offshore racing took place on and off throughout the years, but it never really took consistent hold until it evolved into what is now the 11th Annual Lake Race/LOTO Powerfest/Shootout Offshore event.”

When asked about the growth of this offshore powerboat event over time, Dorhauer’s answer was surprising.

“The number of boats and spectators have consistently been within about the same range, and neither one of those numbers have necessarily grown over time,” Dorhauer said. “With everything that the Shootout is doing this year, however–bringing in Powerboat P1, extending the event, and seeing boats from outside of the U.S. participate–the growth that we will see will likely come this year. Prior to the Shootout acquiring this offshore race event, the mission and vision statement of this race has always been to bring more individuals to the Lake of the Ozarks on an otherwise dead weekend, and to create more national and international exposure to the Lake Area. It takes a lot of money and manpower to pull an event like this off each year.”

“When I started getting involved with Shootout Offshore, it was called the 2004 OSS Series at Camden on the Lake for three to four years,” continued retired Lake Ozark Fire Protection District Chief Mark Amsinger. “During the year of COVID in 2020, Performance Boat Center threw something together with OPA, but it wasn’t a truly sanctioned event that year.”

“Throughout the history of this event, we’ve witnessed Shootout Offshore take place in June right after Memorial Day Weekend, and also in September and October,” Amsinger said. “It was moved to the spring/summer because of how it fell into OPA’s race scheduling. When it was the OSS races, they took place in the fall, because there is far less lake traffic than during the summer months, and it made it much easier to set up and maintain the racecourse while ensuring the safety of the spectators.”

“We were a volunteer organization prior to making these offshore races its own board (so as to continue on with this event no matter who was spearheading it),” explained Tom Abbett, Board President of Lake Race/LOTO Powerfest until 2024 when it fell under the wings of the Shootout and was renamed Shootout Offshore. “Since 1993, the mission of this race has always been to draw tourism to the Lake of the Ozarks. When we picked it back up in 2013, our goal was to bring another big event to the Lake Area on an otherwise ‘dead weekend,’ aka the weekend after Memorial Day.”

“It’s a circus when these sanctioned race events come into town,” Abbett said, in closing. “They pop up their tents and draw in massive crowds, but at the end of the day, they’re all families and they want to go out to dinner and enjoy the Lake, too, which makes Camden on the Lake and Shady Gators perfect for them, because they have it all–pools, restaurants, and more. Everyone thinks that Florida is the country’s high-performance boating destination because of Key West, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale, but the Lake of the Ozarks has become its own identity in the performance boating world due to the freedoms that we have here, and the amount of money that our local businesses like Performance Boat Center, Big Thunder Marine, Waves and Wheels, HP Mafia, and more have invested into the Lake. As a board, we wanted more national focus on this race and now we have international focus with Powerboat P1 bringing in boats from all over the world to come to our beautiful area. So, mission successful–not complete–but successful at taking high-performance boats to the next level here at LOTO.”

“UIM Class 1 World Championship and APBA National Championship Series racing is the pinnacle of offshore powerboat racing, and it brings with it the biggest, fastest, and loudest boats with racers from Australia, Italy, the United Kingdom, and, of course, the United States,” said Thomas Covington, Director of Business Development with Powerboat P1. “Bringing in these international race teams adds an entirely different element to these sanctioned races, and their presence will hopefully bring more national and international attention to watch teams that are only in the United States during certain times of the year.”