After 66 Years, Live TV Hydroplane Racing at Seattle’s Seafair to End

KIRO images are from various years noted at the Seafair hydro races.


Wave goodbye: Live Seafair hydroplane-race TV coverage sputters out after 66 years
Another local tradition falls as KIRO and Seafair are ready to ink a contract ending live TV hydroplane coverage and replacing it with a Sunday evening wrap-up. It ends 66 years of live television coverage of the event.


By Eric Lacitis
Seattle Times
Originally published March 25, 2017


At the Active Auto Care shop in Auburn the guys don’t just talk engines, they also talk hydroplane racing. They’re locals, you know?

Rich Matkin, 61, Newport High class of 1971, who went to his first hydro race at age 4 or 5, is one of the guys.

They’ve been hearing something disconcerting. KIRO is going to stop live, real-time broadcasting of the Seafair hydro races on Sundays.


Read More HERE



  1. This is sad news, most every year since being a kid going back to the 1970’s I spent an August Sunday afternoon watching Seafair’s hydroplane races and airshow on t.v. First it was KING T.V. then when KIRO carried exclusive coverage, them.

    I think it’s a big mistake not to have local live coverage of the hydroplane races. They are one of the biggest t.v. events locally for Seattle and area on an otherwise hazy, lazy Sunday in Seattle. I would hope they would reconsider this bad decision.

  2. I agree with Les. Not only did we watch the races but my dad would drive us down to watch Muncie et al race. They even came North to Kelowna one year.
    Seattle always struck me as being a place that knew how to put on a show. The cancellation of the TV coverage will hurt their image and hurt the tourism industry as well.

  3. I recall those annual Seafair weekend ‘casts of Seattle’s Thunderboat races fondly. Yes,they did come to Kelowna one y ear, after a long absence . I was doing a Regatta remote from the Park for CKOV, and remember having to turn the mic off in the middle of a couple of cut-ins,as the roar of the Hydros pinned the needle on the mixer when they blew by on the Lake.

  4. It’s a sad thing for local fans. The city must think they can make more money by selling more tickets. Maybe Seattle should try to make it easier to participate. Parking 2 miles away and a three hour drive back to *Renton isn’t easy. lol

  5. As we were planning our celebration with my parents (age 76 and 80) in my air conditioned home, as the heat on the lake is not good for them – we were stunned to read that we wouldn’t be able to watch the hydros live. I agree with all those who have said why bother to watch KIRO if they don’t support the local tradition of showing the hydros live. Years ago it was shown on multiple stations and KIRO out bid other stations for the competition to be the only one showing this event- now they ruin it by failing to show it at all. Shame on KIRO.

  6. I agree it is about money nothing about experience. Way to make Seattle bland it is not just Kiro it is about all the stations not one of them picked it up.
    Sad this weekend.

  7. Hi Friends,

    This year, for the first time in decades, NO Seattle television station will be broadcasting the Seafair Hydro Races. KIRO Channel 7, who has done the broadcast by itself for years, is broadcasting golf. I repeat – GOLF! The singly, most boring sport to watch on TV other than poker! (And it’s almost a tossup there…) Nearly every one I’ve talked with had no idea that this huge summer tradition was being abandoned. Used to be that all of the Seattle stations broadcast them – channels 4, 5, and 7. Then the $$$ kicked in and the biggest bidder won the opportunity. We need to let KIRO Channel 7, and Seafair know that dropping this tradition is a huge mistake. The only way they will respond is a hit to the bottom line. So let’s organize a 24-hour boycott of KIRO. I suggest Sunday, August 13th. If they lose a substantial viewership, it hurts their sponsors. In turn, their sponsors will pay less for their programming spots.

    Let’s try this. Forward this to your friends, and ask them to do the same. We need to bring this Seafair tradition back. If enough of us do it, it WILL work.


  8. SHAME on KIRO. Seafair races were the highlight of a true Seattle resident’s summer. If we were able we went down and claimed a spot on the shore. Then we were fenced out and had to pay to get a space on the shore. Then we couldn’t get in until a certain time and no coolers allowed. All that was just for our safety, but to discontinue home coverage from a local station with this many years of history, we counted on you and you let us down. Home parties watching KIRO have been tradition. It’s always about the freakin money, well, find an other sponsor, you find sponsors for everything else.

  9. I can’t believe that Seattle/KIRO/others would allow this time-honored tradition to cease and we are reduced to a recap of an event that holds so many memories for fans everywhere. I have watched the hydros ever since Slo-Mo 5 made its run on Lake Washington decades ago. What a disgrace to stop something so great. I wonder what all those involved who started this and whom have passed on must be thinking. Many of us are now the seniors who used to sit on the shores of Lake Washington and support this sport. And due to age, finances, disabilities that keep us from attending at this stage in our lives we have now lost one of the most treasured sports events shown on television. The aerial views were priceless and we have also lost the Blue Angels show too. I always enjoyed the trivia shared between heats. Seafair Sunday was the big event for the summer. No thanks for pulling the plug KIRO. You have amputated a very important part of Seattle from its fans. Hope you feel proud of yourselves!

  10. It’s all about money ,The one day a year when folks ( yes I refer the word “folks”) sit down on a Sunday morning ,afternoon in August to watch the Seattle Hydro races on television as they had for years. GENERATIONS have been doing such a feat ,no mostly middle age on up were depending on this ,but I guess some young “millennium college educated idiot” looked at the numbers on his or her IPAD and decided to halt the televised races…Would rather watch woman’s PGA golf on channel 5 ,or Men’s PGA golf on channel 7 ,Do that many people watch golf on Sunday morning?

  11. This is a disgrace we live in one of the most amazing city’s anywhere and we can show the torchlight parade the prelude to the race’s at the beach. This was how a lot of us spend our Sunday morning waking up with coffee (coffee in Seattle what a thought) and Steve Raible welcoming us to the shores of lake Washington and the Stann Sayers pits. this is crap all the money we have in this area (hay mister coffee guy or you with the glasses and the under ground lair also on the shores of lake Washington) how about some sponsor ship you know the Starbucks cup or Microsoft cup. want to say god bless Paul Allen Go Hawks you get it.

  12. I am very disappointed to find out we would not be able to see the race I have been watching for thirty seven years . the last time I went to the race I got a sunburn and did not see much of the action . much better coverage on television .

  13. I’m a baby boomer and always remember the hydroplane races on all weekend. Was so exciting, because we couldn’t walk there…we didn’t own a car. Am so ashamed of channel 7 for not covering the race’s father and mother was so disappointed that they couldn’t watch this annual event.they are in their 80’sand have watched everyone of them.they always counted on watching them. What the heck were you all thinking?

  14. I too, have been watching the races on the tv. Shame on kiro for not telling people. It is a seattle and outlying areas tradition to watch them and the blue angels. I too, will not watch channel 7 news any more.

  15. BOOOOOO. Shame on you Kiro. This is a long standing tradition in Seattle. Please bring it back! Next stop sponsors…..

  16. Shame on you this is a part of Seafair. Why would you do this so many have watched year after year. SHAME on you!!!!

  17. This was a summer rite of passage…at one time, as I’m sure has been mentioned above, it was carried live on KOMO, KING and KIRO…and to me Keith Jackson long after he became the voice of college football was still the voice of the unlimiteds to me…Bill Muncey, who had a great radio career, was my favourite driver, at the wheel of Miss Thriftway…I have watched recently but, as is often the case, it just didn’t hold the same excitement for me as it once did.

  18. I started watching the Races in the early 50’s as a little boy. That start-up noise from those piston aircraft engine’s and all the engine troubles to boat crashes are what is was all about. Guy’s would buy a boat with friends helping out and off they would go. For year’s the same teams would be forever trying to finish a race and then pow the engine would blow, great Racing, it will never be the same. I was really looking forward to this years race, we had the best weather except for the smoke from Canada, but it still could have been awesome. TV coverage for next year needs to be talked about in the new Mayor’s office on day one!!!!

  19. This was very upsetting for me. I watched Seafair every year ! My Dad started the tradition. I used to go to the races but about 10 years ago I had a botched spine surgery that left it impossible for me to get out to the races or much of anything else. I watched the races on tv every year since. I”m 67 yrs old and loved Seafair. I don’t have much of a life now or much to look forward to except Seafair in the summer. ON TV. It’s really tough for someone like me and I’m sure I’m not the only one who was shocked by this . And hurt by it. Thanks for making my boring life even more boring . I so loved Seafair. Why not tell us WHY you did this KIRO????

  20. A reboot, and a sign of the times. Media dollars undoubtedly contracting at an alarming rate due to the internet. From NW to Seafair we get less and less every day. Probaly isnt any way to turn back time . If you ever got to see these boats race live its a spectacle that you would never forget.
    The thunder and roar would vibrate inside of your being. Sort of like being in the Pacific Coliseum when Jimmy Page hit the first few notes of Good Times Bad Times.
    Somehow NASCAR has managed to keep itself live on TV. I wonder how long until they become a 10 second sound bite on the 11pm news.

  21. Yes a sad state, year number two of no live TV coverage of the Hydros and the airshow at Seafair. For me going back to being a kid on the 70’s the August weekend of hydro planes racing at Seafair on TV was a hi-lite Sunday. It set me up for the weekend to come at the Abbotsford Airshow. This duo in mid summer especially as a kid on summer holidays was just fun. Not seeing a Sunday full of hydro plane racing on TV now for two years is sad. KIRO 7 doing it for many years and I remember KING 5 doing it before KIRO got the contract was a fun TV spectacle on a summery Sunday for me.

    It would be great for one of the Seattle local TV stations to require the broadcast rights but alas I fear it’s all hydro plane displaced water under the bridge… Sad to see this life long Northwest TV tradition end.


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