Fraser Valley Drag Boat Association – Wet and Way Wild!
Of the many groups, I got to hang with and photograph, without-a-doubt, the wildest and craziest were members of the Fraser Valley Drag Boat Association.
Based out of Mission Raceway in the 1980s, well before the drag strip was completed, this small group of competitors put on quite a show wherever they ran.
Formed from a group of casual cruisers and racers who ran on the Fraser River, this motley crew grew into a professional organization that lasted nearly two decades, staging events on both sides of the border.
I spent nearly ten years as the club photographer/videographer/media rep and in that time learned more about fast boats than I ever had before. The racers came from as far east as Alberta, Montana and as far south as Oregon. They brought everything from pro-level Top Alcohol Hydros and Flats, F1 type circle boats to crazy fast outboards and jets. Everything ran brackets except for the unlimited class that featured heads up, hydro against flatbottom competition.
It was, however, after hours when this group attained a rather infamous reputation for outrageous ‘fun’. It wasn’t out-of-the-question to be at a local lake and see guys and bikini-clad ladies cruising around in blown flats and alky hydros like ‘regular’ boaters did in outboard powered runabouts.
Even though their after hours reputation was a little out there, once race day came they ran a very good program. Constant upgrades in the timing system, safety boats, and other related equipment made for a very safe racing program that saw relatively few serious incidents. This coming at a time when the sport of drag boat racing was experiencing a number of serious accidents and fatalities.
Perhaps the most well-known crash came in 1984 when Victoria’s Keith Hagadorn was testing a circle boat in hopes of purchasing it. Unfortunately for him, he flipped the craft resulting in a photograph that was published around the world and won the Canadian Press Sports Photo of that year. No word on the purchase.
And there were some rather unique moments such as the time a racer was sitting in staging and a Salmon jumped right into his boat. He made his run and brought home dinner!
Today the group stays in touch, a few still run in the northwest U.S. – There is also a rumor they may well try to reform the club and run again. Needless to say most of the members are not quite as youthful as they once were, but it doesn’t stop a number of them from continuing on a tradition that actually started the club. Each New Years Day, often in bitter cold, they’ll do a run or two up the Fraser River just for old time sake!