As the owner of M2 Production Services, Mike Massey has spent a lot of time perfecting his performance boat driving. His skills were integral to Harris’s 2021 premium boat photo shoot both as a camera-boat driver and as an on-camera performance driver. We caught up with Mike to learn a bit more about performance driving.
How can new boaters ensure safety when driving a boat?
The first step is to verify that the driver wears a working PFD and safety lanyard, all passengers are in a safe position, and all involved are well informed as to what will happen next. I also visually verify that the surrounding area is clear of debris and other boat traffic. Once these are all in place, I start the maneuver at a slower speed and work my way up to full speed.
What are some good tips for boaters just learning to drive?
You should really try maneuvers without any passengers as you are getting started. You really want to become proficient before adding passengers so they can have a fun, safe experience.
What places do you enjoy and recommend for boaters practicing to advance their skills?
Calm lakes are fun because I can be very precise and repeat maneuvers consistently. Offshore rough waters are exciting because it takes such concentration, and no two runs are the same. My least favorite place to drive is on a crowded lake due to constant boat wakes and other boaters not paying attention. This can make the mission quite difficult and frustrating.
What features on the Crowne stood out from a performance aspect?
I spent one session on the Crowne with twin Mercury Racing 450 HP engines. This really was a smooth and responsive boat. It handled very well at top speed and felt solid and safe on the three 27-inch tubes. Performance turns were simple and enjoyable because of how well the tri-toon rolls in and out of the turns. The addition of the twin Mercury racing engines to this hull gives it all the power any boater could ask for, plus some.
What’s your best advice for boaters who want to enhance their driving skills?
Staying within your limits and at your experience level is the most important thing here. If you are going to try something extreme for the first time, do it without passengers, and work your way up to proficiency. On a more technical side, harmonizing your throttle inputs and speed control with maneuver entry and exit is crucial. Also, your hand position on the throttle is one of the most overlooked aspects of driving. Proper hand position can make the difference between a smooth boat driver and one who throws their passengers around unexpectedly. It’s important to be in full control of the throttle regardless of how the boat may be turning, sliding, or jumping.
What are the benefits of practicing more advanced driving skills?
Understanding the limits of your boat and your individual skill are crucial when it comes to providing a safe, fun, and enjoyable day out on the water. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation with an oncoming irresponsible boater, you can perform an evasive maneuver with confidence. If you have some thrill-seekers onboard, you can give them a fun ride they will appreciate without turning it into a dangerous one.
How did you get started as a performance driver?
Most of my boat driving experience has revolved around photo shoots. I started driving custom tower boats for photo/video productions across the country when I was 17. Sometimes there are requests to get the subject boat in a position or angle that our hired talent doesn’t have the experience to do, so I will hop in the driver’s seat for that portion of the shoot. This has allowed me to drive various categories of boats and attempt things the average boater probably would not incorporate into their typical boating day.