‘Thrill of a lifetime’

Mike Gridley knows powerboats.

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Mike Gridley knows powerboats.

But the host of PowerBoat TV had his eyes opened last August when he took to the water with Dale Whiteside, owner of Outlaw Eagle Manufacturing Ltd.

Gridley and a film crew spent two days on the North Saskatchewan and Red Deer rivers, producing an episode for PowerBoat TV that aired March 12 on Global TV.

In it, a half-dozen jetboats — supplied by Outlaw Eagle and a few of its customers — navigated twists and turns, and negotiated sandbars, rocks and logs, while travelling at high speeds. Gridley described the experience as the “thrill of a lifetime,” including his white-knuckle ride in Whiteside’s own racing boat — which reached a speed of 175 km/h.

“Which is quite slow for my boat normally,” said Whiteside, who has coaxed his vessel up to 205 km/h.

But it was fast enough to get Gridley’s attention.

“I was not prepared for the sudden acceleration of a thousand horsepower being fed into the jet pump.”

Outlaw Eagle and its Burnt Lake Business Park shop were featured prominently, but Whiteside said his motivation for participating in the production was to raise awareness about the sport he loves and is a two-time world champion in.

“What we wanted to showcase was riverboating in general, the sport of running shallow rivers with jetboats. It’s a real western Canadian thing, which we’re trying to grow.”

He explained that many powerboaters elsewhere in Canada and beyond believe that they’re restricted to lakes.

“Most of the world just assumes that rivers can’t be boated. But with some of the boats that are built in Western Canada and other parts of the world, they’re very boatable.”

Outlaw Eagle sells most is its riverboats in Western Canada, but also ships to the United States, Mexico and New Zealand. Whiteside is optimistic PowerBoat TV , which is carried by several networks in the United States, will help make more people aware of riverboating.

Gridley and his crew from Ontario were certainly impressed by their Alberta experience, said Whiteside.

“They were pretty stunned and blown away by it all.

“They were surprised by how shallow we could run and how rocky, shallow rivers and logs didn’t seem to bother our boats.”

Whiteside was pleased with how the program turned out, even though smoke from British Columbia forest fires obscured the scenery.

“That was a little disappointing.”

The PowerBoat TV episode featuring Outlaw Eagle and riverboating in Central Alberta will be rebroadcast on Global on June 11, Sept. 10 and Dec. 10. It can also be seen online at http://www.powerboattv.com/view-content/20/2011-Episode-10.html.

Outlaw Eagle is the only whitewater race boat manufacturer in North America, and produces boats for a variety of other recreational and commercial uses. It was created from the amalgamation of Outlaw Marine and Eagle Powerboats in 2004.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com