Water sports at Lake of the Ozarks
We launched our Lake of the Ozarks water sports getaway with a leisurely afternoon cruise aboard a rented state-of-the-art pontoon boat. Shaded by a convertible canopy and well stocked with food and drink, it was a classic party boat affair for four friends. With the bright sun glinting off the water, listening to some Jimmy Buffet and taking the occasional plunge for a swim around the boat was what we had in mind for the first day’s physical activity. Everything was going according to plan...until we saw a Flyboard in action.
Flying on Water
I had seen Flyboarding on YouTube, but this was the first time any of us had seen one in reality, and it made our jaws drop. Remember that James Bond movie where 007 made his exit using a personal jetpack? Well, a Flyboard is like a jetpack for your feet that uses powerful streams of water to generate thrust. It turned out that the same outfitter who supplied our pontoon boat, Iguana Watersports, also rents Flyboards, and we were seeing one in action.
We soon learned how it works. You strap your feet into what look like ski boots that are permanently attached to a pair of thruster nozzles. Pressure hoses over your shoulders and down your arms power smaller thrusters attached to your hands. The nozzles under your feet provide levitation; the smaller hand nozzles produce a lesser thrust for stabilization, with the apparatus powered by a single hose attached to a watercraft. And the best part: you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to do it! When we discovered that average people can master the basic maneuvers in 20 minutes or less, we were eager to give it a try.
My heart was pounding as I strapped on the harness of hoses and swiveling nozzles. It took a few spills to get the hang of it, but once I did, it was more exciting than a roller coaster. With the main power hose acting as a tether, I could levitate up to 15 feet above the surface, then dive underwater, rocket through the water like a torpedo and burst skyward again. We all loved it, and after watching experienced Flyboarders explode from the surface into amazing spins and flips, we agreed there would definitely be more Flyboarding in our futures.
My love for Lake of the Ozarks as a water sports destination began when I was a student at the University of Missouri Columbia, just 90 minutes away and ideal for a quick weekend getaway. Back in our undergraduate days, my college roommate, Gerry, and I had great times water skiing behind his family’s speed boat and partying on the lake with our friends. Incidentally, we both met our wives at one such weekend, making this lake all the more special. Sally and I were delighted when Gerry and Jen called last winter to suggest that the four of us meet at the Lake for a vacation the following summer. With that much notice, coordinating our schedules was a snap, and the game was on.
With the Flyboarding adventure as a reference, we realized that water sports had taken an evolutionary leap in the few years since our quartet had last been together. Our curiosity about other new advances was more than satisfied by the two 125-horsepower Jet Skis we rented the next day, provided by The Getaway, a Jet Ski and boat rental establishment located at Kirkwood Lodge, where we stayed.
After being advised on safe practices, we strapped on our life preservers and hit the water. Once outside the no wake zone, it was a genuine thrill to open the throttle and feel the wind and spray on our faces. I’d been on a waverunner before, but it wasn’t like this! This was like flying as the sleek, aerodynamic craft shot over the water. With agility and power, we saw the lake as we’d never seen it before, with more freedom of maneuverability than I’d ever experienced. When I looked over at Gerry and Jen, the expressions on their faces said it all: fun!
In addition to the exhilaration of racing across open water, our PWC rides were great for sightseeing, too. We explored the ever-winding shoreline finding one pleasant surprise after another in the innumerable little coves and hideaways, sometimes pausing to watch golfers on one of the several lakeside courses.
With 55,000 acres of surface and a serpentine shape, Lake of the Ozarks is big enough to include basically everything anyone could want in water-oriented activities. The main channel of its Osage Arm runs 92 miles from end to end, a vast stretch of clear water that includes popular areas where people love to congregate as well as extensive open spaces where you can race your boat or power watercraft for all its worth without fear of disturbing anyone else’s fun. About 1,150 miles of winding shoreline includes an endless variety of hidden inlets and mini-coves that could take a lifetime to fully explore.
Come midday, we docked our Jet Skis at a restaurant for lunch.
Shoreline accessibility is one of the aspects that sets Lake of the Ozarks apart. Because it was originally created by private investment rather than government funding, businesses and private property owners can develop without excessive restriction. Among other benefits, it means that when your stomach starts growling, you can step off your craft right into a restaurant, just as we did.
The next day, we rented a streamlined powerboat, skis and a wakeboard and went mid-channel to see if the techniques we’d honed in college were still intact. I managed to get up on the water skis the first try and was doing pretty well until I noticed Gerry shooting video. I took a hand off the towline, hamming up to wave at the camera, and—SMACK!—down I went. No harm, no foul. It was just another part of our good time.
Next, we all took turns on the wakeboard, seeing who could catch the most air, and getting more daring with each attempt. Despite Gerry’s good-natured objections, Jen was the clear winner.
We got cleaned up and reconvened for a sunset cruise to Backwater Jack’s, a waterfront bar & grill where we enjoyed their “coastal cuisine with a Midwestern flair” along with live music from a great cover band.
After our meal, we ventured back to the upper deck to take in more of the lake that we had come to adore. Though we’d been here many times before, this trip was like no other. This spot was like no other. The forested Ozark Hills rise up at every bend, creating the most majestically framed sunsets you’ll ever see. After the sun slips away, the stars light up the night sky in high-definition.
It’s not just my sentimental side talking. Lake of the Ozarks is a recreational mecca that welcomes water sports enthusiasts of every sort, serious fishermen to weekend anglers; occasional skiers to powerboat professionals. Considering its world-class marina services, live and let live attitude, and enduring natural beauty, it’s no wonder 1,000 Missouri travelers said Lake of the Ozarks is the best lake in the state for water activities.
Experience water sports like never before at Lake of the Ozarks.