by 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 just a Frisbee’s throw offshore builds unparalleled energy and excitement for race fans lined on beaches, and in spectator boats and private beachside condo balconies. After a decade of racing, Thunder on the Gulf has become one of the top powerboat racing events in the U.S. and this year will be no exception.
Held over a long weekend August 21-24, the event has expanded to include racing in both Orange Beach, Alabama, and nearby Pensacola, Florida,—now billed the Flora-Bama Shootout Grand Prix Championship. The legendary Flora-Bama bar straddling the line between the two states is famous for their mullet toss and is hosting the kick-off party on Thursday, August 21st. John Carbonell of Key West is the premier race official and Super Boat International is the sanctioning body for this race weekend, which is 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 Friday the 22nd in Orange Beach and Sunday the 24th off Pensacola’s historic downtown waterfront at the Plaza de Luna.