• Howard Pipkorn, Creator of Legendary HydroStream Boats, Passes Away

    A Visionary Innovator of Performance Boats

    Howard Pipkorn, the creator of HydroStream, one of the most recognizable and legendary series of performance boats, has passed away.

    Pipkorn began HydoStream back in 1968 to produce high-performance race boats with design attributes that would become the genesis of his line of ultra-high performance outboard-powered hulls. He took a different approach to design, eschewing contemporary trends of hard angles and flat surfaces to experiment with sweeping, complex concave forms that were as revolutionary as they were beautiful.

    Howard Pipkorn and his wife Susan at the HydroStream Power Tour in his Virage. Image: Janna Knueppel

    It has long been said in the aviation industry that a sound airframe design will always be beautiful, because proper aerodynamics will always produce the functional form of elegant design. I believe much the same could be said of boat design as well, giving the properties of hydrodynamics and aerodynamics the lead-in to bridge the genius of Pipkorn’s vision of what a single-outboard race hull should be capable of.

    What separated Pipkorn’s designs from many other performance boats of the day was the functionality of his form-meets-function design philosophy that was represented in nearly every aspect of all HydroStream models. That timeless, curvaceous and futuristic design that embodies the deck designs of the classic HydroStream models is equally matched by the flowing lines of the bottom, creating an overall picture of a boat that is simply beautiful and sexy, while the famous HydroStream ‘hooked beak’ gives a slightly sinister look.

    Mark and Janna Knueppel's HydroStream Viking/V-King demonstrates the unmistakable silhouette of Pipkorn's design.

    Growing up, I would see those metalflake HydroStreams glistening in the sun at a dealer that was right near my house, appropriately named Muscle Boats. The daydreaming in school was endless. A HydroStream was like a Ferrari of outboard boats. No other boat looked like it, and very few boats could perform like it.

    In capable hands, Howard’s designs were world-beating record-breakers.
    Today, 100-MPH boats are not rare, but in the 1970s and 1980s, it was a much different story. 80-MPH was considered very fast for an outboard-powered boat, and 100-MPH was analogous to breaking the sound barrier. So you can imagine the impression that that Wayne Weeks made on performance boat enthusiasts when he would exceed 110-MPH in his HydroStream Vector in 1978! The Vector was one of Pipkorn’s earliest designs, and this was not some one-off race boat - it was a model you could buy at your local dealership.

    From the very beginning, HydroStream boats demonstrated incredible performance capabilities and became the choice for top racers. Over 40 years later Pipkorn's designs are still modern in performance and style.

    Right up until HydroStream closed its doors in 1991, Howard Pipkorn would continue with innovations in hull design, creating the now-legendary YT, XT, and ZT tunnel hull designs that were (and still are) unlike any other tunnel boat design created. These hulls were all fantastic performers, and demonstrated HydroStream's design mastery with multiple disciplines of boat hull design. They were all uniquely HydroStream in both performance and visual excitement.

    At the HydroStream Power Tour in 2017, you can imagine just how incredible it was for me to see Howard Pipkorn arrive at the beach, behind the wheel of a HydroStream Virage, which was one of his last and most stunning designs. Howard Pipkorn was not just the creator of the boats we love, but he was one of us. We sat down with Howard later that night and listened to his recollections of specific design decisions for HydroStream models in complete amazement. He knew the specifics of every detail to questions we asked about differences in his boat models. It was a fascinating experience, and that is an understatement!

    The Power Tour was an experience unique in my life, and I am forever grateful for experiencing it.

    Pipkorn continually experimented to refine hull designs. Pictured is the radical HydroStream V-Wing being piloted by Chris Bush in 1981. Image: Fred Cotey

    There are many incredible performance boat designs available today, and it would be very difficult to determine the impact that Howard Pipkorn and HydroStream made in shaping the industry. There is little doubt that it was, and still is far-reaching. The man gave us all a gift that will continue to create excitement for generations to come. He created performance boats that can hold their own against the most modern designs today. And on top of that, he created a community of owners and enthusiasts that I consider my family. I also cannot overstate the gratitude I have for the HydroStream Owner's Group, Inc., for bringing us all together.

    And it also has to be stated that Scream And Fly would also not exist had it not been for Howard Pipkorn.

    Rest In Peace, friend.

    Comments 14 Comments
    1. FlowMaxx's Avatar
      FlowMaxx -
      Great tribute, Greg. We would not know you or most of our friends if it wasn't for Howard Pipkorn. We are forever grateful for not only his amazing boats, but, even more importantly, the friendships that have developed because of this man. The impact he has had is truly immeasurable.
    1. rock's Avatar
      rock -
      Nice article. The man truly changed boating for many of us. My third boat was a Viking and it was mainly performance boats after that. Sorry to see one of the great inovators pass. RIP.

    1. Jimboat's Avatar
      Jimboat -
      Truly a legend and visionary in performance powerboat design.
    1. JeffCharger's Avatar
      JeffCharger -
      great article.
    1. 85vking's Avatar
      85vking -
      I sure know much more today than I did in 1986 when I walked into my local boat dealer in Clearwater, FL to buy my first boat. At 27, I wanted the hottest boat around and they offered Hydrostreams! I bought that Valero YT and remember it like it was yesterday. Fast forward to 2014 and I now have my second; a V-king under restoration as I write this. I have the utmost respect for Howard and although I never got to meet him, I knew who he was, even back then. What a remarkable designer and visionary. Rest in peace Mr. Pipkorn.
    1. Hippie459MN's Avatar
      Hippie459MN -
      Excellent article!
    1. JWS's Avatar
      JWS -
      RIP Mr. Pipkorn. You will be missed by thousands of people
    1. LakeFever's Avatar
      LakeFever -
      RIP Howard. Your boats captured my dreams and have been with me for forty years. Thank you for your contributions to our lives
    1. racervboat's Avatar
      racervboat -
      Thanks for the article greg.I knew howard for many years and can tell you he was a very great guy.Had him over the house a few times last year and gary-olboatman flew in for the races and got to meet him.Howard signed a plaque for gary to put on his viper he had just finished.Bill foner and the Johnson boys gordy and tom just finished there vking and had him sign the dash,those signatures will be never forgotten. RIP my friend. Ken durand
    1. 89LASER's Avatar
      89LASER -
      Very well written Greg. Never owned a Stream but always liked the lines.
    1. Groucho's Avatar
      Groucho -
      I enjoyed him, raced with and against. We both shared the same degrees ( Mechanical Engineering ) yet here we both on the shore Balsam Lake WI ready to compete. Plus Terry from Paramount Marine in Shoreview MN. In his newest creation the " Vixen". Tested that boat @ his home on Lake Johanna in Arden Hills MN in 75? Myself w/ Gary Duncanson.
    1. Rich Owen's Avatar
      Rich Owen -
    1. mn808gade's Avatar
      mn808gade -
      Quote Originally Posted by Groucho View Post
      I enjoyed him, raced with and against. We both shared the same degrees ( Mechanical Engineering ) yet here we both on the shore Balsam Lake WI ready to compete. Plus Terry from Paramount Marine in Shoreview MN. In his newest creation the " Vixen". Tested that boat @ his home on Lake Johanna in Arden Hills MN in 75? Myself w/ Gary Duncanson.
      Groucho-plz call me terry 6123902474
    1. stormbringer1's Avatar
      stormbringer1 -
      I will never forget mine. I think they were hands down the most beautiful boats in that class ever designed. I wish Howard would have stayed in it, he was a visionary. I had two Vectors. The second a lightweight that I blew over above 100. Never know how I walked away from that one. There are still a lot of Stream owners and re builders. I wish it could have continued on. May he RIP he certainly made a lot of happiness for many of us and his designs paved the way for many things being used even today.
      Thomas Smith