Dragboat-racing legend Greg Shoemaker is being inducted into the Dragboat Hall of Fame.
The honor is being bestowed by Fire on the Mountain productions. For the past five years, its organizers, Scott Blevens and Blaine White, have been mounting the nostalgic Blast from the Past event in Bakersfield, CA—home of decades of dragboat races. This year’s event will be held Oct. 31, when the Hall of Fame award will be presented.
Shoemaker, the owner/founder of Southern California’s GS Marine, was the originator of the Jet Tech column in Hot Boat Magazine from the 1980s to the late 2000s, and continues writing the column for Speedboat Magazine.
He launched his boating career in 1976 as a rigger for Eliminator Boats. During this time, he got a chance to race a 19′ Daytona jetboat, and never looked back. He was soon winning races and even breaking records, which he continued to do through the 1970s and 1980s. He was known for racing in circuits such as the International Hot Boat Association (IHBA) and the National Jet Boat Association (NJBA) in Comp Jet class, which allowed 470-c.i. engines in virtually any hull. “That’s where the 19′ Daytona really got its start, in NJBA,” he says. “Prior to that, nobody had really made the 19′ Daytona work. Eliminator founder Bob Leach had invested a lot of money in the hull, but it never proved to be beneficial to anybody. Then I took a Daytona up to Needles Marina, to a family get-together, and raced a boat. Nobody on the West Coast had run 100 mph with a carbureted engine, and in my first time out, I ran 98 mph.” After Shoemaker convinced Leach to swap the engine for an aluminum motor, he took it to Bakersfield for a National Drag Boat Association (NDBA) race.
“My first pass down the track, we broke the record by 7 mph,” he recalls. “We ran 107, almost 108.”
After racing the 19′ Daytona for several years, Shoemaker eventually raced in an AR Ford-powered Cole in Blown Gas Hydro class. By this time, Shoemaker was building jetboats for his customers at GS Marine, including installations for Leach at Eliminator. After campaigning the Blown Gas Hydro, Shoemaker drove a Kurtis hull called Showtime USA, another Blown Gas Hydro. (Shoemaker and Norm Grimes later purchased the Kurtis 501 molds from Arlen Kurtis, son of the famous Indy car builder Frank Kurtis.) Shoemaker ended up driving Top Alcohol Hydro on the IHBA circuit until retiring in 1996, after winning many races and setting numerous records in the class.
“Shoe,” as many of his friends call him, also spent three years as the color commentator for the IHBA dragboat racing series that aired on ESPN 2.
Speedboat salutes Shoemaker for his years of passionate devotion to the sport, and for the many years of racing and building engines.