Arts and Entertainment

Silverdale Thunder brings summer fun amidst the wakes and ruckus

Hydroplanes are back on Dyes Inlet again this weekend for Silverdale Thunder.  - Jesse Beals/Staff Photo
Hydroplanes are back on Dyes Inlet again this weekend for Silverdale Thunder.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photo

Silverdale Thunder hydroplane races are back, hitting the water Aug. 9-10 on Dyes Inlet, pre-party Aug. 8.

In a festival-loving county like Kitsap, it would seem that two days chocked full of hydroplane speed boat racing isn’t quite enough action for one weekend.

Enter: Kitsap party-thower-extraordinaire John Miller, a man of many festivals and fireworks displays.

Unlimited Light Hydroplane races — or for the layman those really fast boats that come to town and make a ton of wake and ruckus and good times for one weekend out of the summer — have been somewhat of an institution on the Silverdale waterfront since 2005 when the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce invited the Unlimited Light Hydroplane Racing Association out for the Quiksilver races.

After a few years of less-than-formidable revenue-generating success, the chamber decided to cut its losses and step away from the partnership in 2007. The event cost upwards of $60,000 each year to put on, and though the races did bring tourists to the area, the chamber said it wasn’t seeing quite a good enough return.

“I was then aware of the downfall and the shortcomings and was asked if I could come in and help out,” Miller noted. “And I said, ‘Wow, this seems pretty easy because hydros are hot’ ... hydro planes are the hottest thing in Kitsap County right now.”

So he jumped into Silverdale Thunder, community members and partners rallied behind the event, and Miller says, “We are going to rock.”

Miller began his festival organizing career as a kid when he would organize events and parties for family and friends. His first real job in that vein came at a go-kart race track before he moved on into the world of local fireworks displays and eventually Kitsap festivals.

Now, as he’s lined up three different entertainment stages along with a carnival and a beer garden featuring race-viewing flat screens to augment the main event hydro races, it would seem his organizing talents have all come together for this event.

“It’s about passion,” Miller said. “I have a passion for getting into festivals and having fun ... I give back to the community by doing these festivals.”

He said he’s put thousands of his own dollars into Silverdale Thunder, giving back to the community and gambling on its success. But given the illustrious history of hydroplane racing in the Northwest it would seem Miller’s odds are pretty good.

Before the Sonics, before the Seahawks or Mariners, speed boating was Seattle’s first pro sport.


David D. Williams — author, racer and director of the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Kent — lays out the history of Northwest hydroplane-mania in his 2006 Images of Sports book “Hydroplane Racing in Seattle.”

He was writing the book during the 2006 season when the Seahawks went all the way to the Super Bowl and Seahawk-mania had invigorated the city to paint its face blue and green. He likened the frenzied atmosphere at Seahawks stadium to the crowds that used to gather for Gold Cup hydroplane races on Lake Washington in the 1950s.

The crowds were enormous, the hydroplane drivers were household names. Some say the sport captivated Seattle like no other sport has before or since.

Long before Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck, even before Griffey and Payton, Seattle’s superstars back then were guys like Stanley Sayres and Bill Muncey drivers of the “Slo-Mo-Shun” and “Miss Thriftway.”

In the years following the end of World War II, Sayre’s “Slo-Mo-Shun” boats captured the city’s imagination. In 1950, the “Slo-Mo-Shun IV,” driven by Sayres, set the new world record for a speed boat, reaching 160.32 mph, shattering the former mark — 141 mph, set in England in 1939.

A few months later the “Slow-Mo-Shun IV” lapped the competition to capture the Gold Cup (akin to the American Cup in sailing) and went on to secure the Triple Crown of Unlimited Hydroplane racing, winning the Hamsworth a month later.

Wrapped in success, Sayres wanted the next year’s Gold Cup race to be hosted in Seattle. Which it was. And that became the basis for the now-annual hydro event — Seafair.

Last week, What’s Up caught up with Unlimited Hydroplane Light driver Will Muncey (son of Bill) by cell phone, while he was parking his boat in the pits at Seafair, to talk a little about the hydroplane tradition and the upcoming Silverdale Thunder.

Muncey’s dad is regarded as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport. The elder Muncey and Team Thriftway were the first to challenge and defeat the seemingly unstoppable “Slow-Mo-Shun” back in the early 50s. The younger Muncey, now 55, has been racing with his dad since the age of 5, racing on water since the age of 8.He’s also the marketing director for the ULHRA and has been to the Silverdale races ever year since they began in 2005.

“Every year the event gets a little more sophisticated,” Muncey said of Silverdale races, noting the ULHRA is growing each year as a whole. “Silverdale Thunder will have all the same UL boats that are here at Seafair, and actually more.”

Silverdale’s Dyes Inlet has taken on the reputation as a tough track, Muncey said, noting that last year alone, six boats sank on the course.

For more on the this year’s races, including in depth schedules, a list of entertainers, tickets and more visit

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