USSBA Racing Series History

Written by Jim DeFord & Jeff Schlagel


Man, and yes, woman, have been racing for many thousands of years. We won’t get into religious or Darwin’ish semantics here, but humans have been racing anything and everything since their existence. You can be sure when that first wheel was invented, once of the first activities was to see how fast one could get it to go down a hill. Yeah, I can picture dinosaur races too. I'm sure you can also...

We race up mountains and down mountains. In the sky, in and on the ocean. Asphalt, dirt, grass, cars, bikes, motorcycles, lawnmowers and yes, boats.

It is said that the grass roots of Sprint Boat racing, or Jet Sprinting as it’s known in its founding country of New Zealand, spawned from Marathon river racing, which began in New Zealand in 1970.

Marathon river racing is an endurance type of racing that usually takes place over several days on a river. This type of racing come over to North America in the 1980’s, mainly in Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

The early 1980’s saw the formation of yet another form of jet boat racing develop once again in New Zealand. The late Brian Scott, father of Konrad Scott, who is the CEO of Scott Waterjets—maker of the jet pump you see on the majority of the racing boats—and four of his mates had been watching an automobile rally race one weekend when they came up with the idea of doing that type of racing with their jet boats with the navigator directing the driver. They had the thought that they could lay out a track around some of the islands on their local river and have time trials around it. It seemed to them is would be lots of fun for them as well as the spectators. They thought that because unlike the marathon boats that go racing by and are gone people would be able to sit and watch each boat run its complete course.

Jet sprinting was a success. The sport quickly took off in New Zealand and then to Australia. In Australia the sport took on a new look. Lacking the shallow braided rivers to run in that were found all over New Zealand and the fact that the fishermen and others were also trying to use the rivers for something other than racing, the Australians came up with the idea of digging a track.

They found some flat ground and dug channels about 3 feet deep and 12 feet wide and filled them with water. In the early days they would many times dig the track directly off the river, and then channel the water into the track from the river. After the race was over, they would move the dirt back and the track was history.

The fun really started then and the boats took on a new look. Racing in such close quarters meant that one little mistake and you were out of the water in a hurry. That also meant that you were probably going to roll your boat over, so roll bars became mandatory on all sprint boats.

1990 saw jet sprinting first brought to the US. At first, racing was held in ponds and lakes, and the boats raced on a track setup with floating buoys. This was when the United States Sprint Boat Association (USSBA) was formed as a club. In 1997 the first in-ground track was dug in Marsing Idaho along the banks of the Snake River.

Here in the US jet sprint racing now consists of three classes, Superboat, Group A-400 and Super Modified. The USSBA has now transformed from a “club” to a true sanctioning racing body that sanctions and promotes Sprint Boat racing in the United States.

The engines in the boats range from 500 horsepower to well over 1,000 horsepower in the Superboat class. These boats approach straight-line speeds of up to 80-plus miles per hour and with their incredible turning capabilities can pull 3-7 g’s in the tightest corners.

Right out of the box your breath is taken away as you accelerate off the start line. As your pilot comes to the first corner you see the bank get closer and closer and you wonder when they are ever going to slow down for that extremely sharp corner that you can barely see! And they do not slow down! You grit your teeth and exhale hard as you experience the incredible g-forces and it’s that way through every straight and every turn. You’ve heard the term: Racing like your hair’s on fire. This type of racing is exactly that.

Your lap is over in less than a minute and you’ve hardly even breathed. Your adrenaline is maxed out, your legs are weak and your hands are shaking. You will never forget this moment. If you can ever swing a ride in a sprint boat, do it. You will not regret it.

There are no less than four hull manufacturers with Shotgun Sprint Hulls and Scottcraft F1 Sprint Hulls being the two latest from Canada and New Zealand, respectively. Dave Pfeiler also manufactures hulls and there is also the American Slipstream hull by Custom Sprint Boats.

So, stay tuned! This is going to get big! See you at the track.

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