In 2002, as Brad Rowland’s boat idled, drifting in the channel around the 21-mile marker, pontoon boats came roaring by at incredible speeds. Rowland was sitting in the middle of a boat race. The speed of those boats reminded Rowland of his early years in moto-cross and demolition derby competition. He thought, “I can do that.”

In 2002, as Brad Rowland’s boat idled, drifting in the channel around the 21-mile marker, pontoon boats came roaring by at incredible speeds. Rowland was sitting in the middle of a boat race. The speed of those boats reminded Rowland of his early years in moto-cross and demolition derby competition. He thought, “I can do that.”

Rowland and family live and boat on Lake Shelbyville, an 11,000-acre Corps of Engineer lake on the Kaskaskia River in central Illinois. He is also a homeowner at Lake of the Ozarks. On both lakes, Rowland’s boat of choice is a pontoon. He believes the advantages of a pontoon for general pleasure boating such as cruising with a large number of people on board plus the added ability to pull a skier make the “toon” a top choice.

In Rowland’s experience, a family boat like a tri-toon is just as useful for the challenges of big-time racing. In 2003, Rowland’s first year racing in the Shootout—the first year he claimed the honor of Top Gun in his class, Rowland was driving a South Bay boat rigged for speed in the original configuration with two 300HP Mercury Outboards, with a third added later. He has been winning every year since that first race.

Rowland’s boat, the “Tooned In” has posted the fastest speed in its class every year thereafter. The closest anyone came to beating him was in 2009 when Ken Goudy tied Rowland, both posting 100 mph speeds over the one-mile course. Brad’s best speed of 114mph in 2016 is still the record for a tri-toon, and Rowland, along with his boat, are listed in the Guinness World Records as the fastest tri-toon in the world.

Rowland credits a lot of people and companies for his continued success. Family support and a huge cheering section of friends are critical. Current sponsors include both boating and non-boating entities, but the biggest company support from the first days, he says, was and is South Bay Pontoons built by Forest River. He raced his first boat from 2003 through 2014 when Forest River custom-built another South Bay for his use in 2015. Although new features top-side give it an up-dated appearance, Rowland insisted on the same log configuration as his 2003 boat.

Rowland says he is so “Tooned In” to the handling characteristics of trim and balance--so aware of the subtleties of little things--that he would be at a disadvantage learning to feel a new set of characteristics and wringing the last few miles per hour out of his boat at the finish line. So, he now races down the course, running against the radar gun, in the “Tooned In Two” and continues to amaze spectators and win Top Gun awards.

Rowland and his family are almost locals here. They own a house near the old Shooter’s 21 location. In fact, before the race moved to Captain Ron’s, he could idle out from his dock, make his run, and idle back home to watch some more racing from his own yard. He admits to an excessive number of trips to Lake of the Ozarks each summer. He just tells his wife he has to “go mow the lawn” because the grass always keeps growing.

Rowland says he is so proud to have been inducted into the LOTO Hall of Fame and he believes the best way of celebrating would be to set a new world record speed at Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in 2019.