Published: August 2014 – Southern Boating
© 2014 Troy Gilbert
The emerald waters and white sands of the Northern Gulf Coast are normally a tranquil vacation spot – except for one week in late August when a who’s who of powerboat racing storms onto the coast. The growl of high-octane engines screaming a frisbee’s throw offshore frightens off even the biggest sea predators, but the energy and excitement for race fans on the beaches, spectator boats and at private parties on beachside condo balconies is unparalleled . After a decade of racing, Thunder on the Gulf has grown up to become one of the top powerboat racing events in the United States and this year will not be an exception.
Held over a long weekend between August 21st-24th, the event has been expanded to include racing in both Orange Beach, Alabama and nearby Pensacola, Florida and is now billed as the Flora-Bama Shootout Grand Prix Championship . The Flora-Bama, the legendary bar straddling the state line between the two states and famous for their mullet toss, is hosting the kick-off party on Thursday the 21st. John Carbonell of Key West and Super Boat International are the premier race official and sanctioning body for this event which was listed as a top event by the Southeast Tourism Society.
With race villages and wet pits set up in each location, race fans can tour these monster super-boats in a festive atmosphere the day before the races, which run on Friday the 22nd in Orange Beach and on Sunday the 24th off Pensacola’s historic downtown waterfront at the Plaza de Luna.
Billed as an entire race week experience, food and live music will be featured at each event site including the Marshall Tucker Band at the Wharf in Orange Beach. Further there will be a golf tournament, the well attended Thunder Motorcycle Run, an offshore fishing tournament and two bikini contests. A final awards ceremony in Pensacola is followed by a massive street party, boat parade and fireworks display on Palafox Street and on the adjacent pier. All events are staggered and timed to chase the race boats as they transition from Alabama to the Florida Panhandle. VIP packages are available.
Depending on your taste and energy level, there is something for all race fans whether you don’t want to miss a minute of the onshore and offshore events in both cities or simply would prefer to set up your beach chairs with a cooler along the 6.5 mile liquid race course in Orange Beach. For those that are new to super-boat racing, this is a perfect chance to time your family vacation and delight the kids with what is in effect a NASCAR-type event on the water.
Detailed event listings, VIP and accommodation packages are all available on their website thunderonthegulf.com.