Interview: PWC Chain Gang’s Mike Missak & 5th Annual Chain O’ Lakes Ride


Some people ride to relieve stress.  Some people ride to break records.  Some ride for an adrenaline rush.  Some enjoy to ride for the community. On the Fox River Chain O’ Lakes in Fox Lake, Illinois there is a Facebook group by the name of PWC Chain Gang and on August 21st, 2022 they hosted their 5th annual group ride.

As the date approached, many people were concerned it would be rained out.  With 48 hours until the start of the ride, the chances of rain reached 84%. People from different states were looking forward to participating, but began to fall out stating the weather as the primary factor; 24 hours out and the “all-knowing” meteorologists were now stating at least 50% chance of rain; 12 hours out and it was down to 42%.

At 9am there was coffee, doughnuts, T-shirts, stickers and other goodies provided at no charge, as well as many raffle give-a-ways including life jackets, anchors, discounts on new machines at Nielsen Enterprises in Lake Villa, Illinois and much more. At 9:30 began the rider’s meeting and we were able to corner Mike Missak between announcements for a few questions.

The Watercraft Journal:  How did this group ride event come about?
Mike Missak:  Steve Nielsen and I thought that having a group to ride with would be enjoyable – so we started a Facebook group called the PWC Chain Gang.  This was intended to be a spot where other local PWC owners could share their rides or even use it as a tool to get together with other riders.  Once the page was created we thought let’s get a group together and make a loop around the chain.  Needless to say the 1st time we did this we had a much larger showing than ever expected.

WCJ:  Who is the official host?
Missak:  Myself and Steve Nielsen are the official hosts of the event and the page.  Having said that we lean to our sponsors to make the event better and better every year.

WCJ:  What is the purpose of this ride?
Missak:  The original intent was to get a handful of local PWC owners out on the Chain O’ Lakes together.  We thought this would be a great way to have a fun day, and maybe meet some new faces.

WCJ:  That first year, did you intend for this to become an annual event?
Missak:  When this 1st ride occurred we were not looking long term, or intentions of making this an annual event – it started more as a loose gathering to get some PWC owners together.  After the 1st event was complete, there was a huge buzz.

People were asking “when is the next one.” It was at this point we decided to make this an annual event within the group. We also do other smaller rides throughout the year, as well as encourage other members to create their own rides and gatherings too. As he answered the last question, it was almost 10am the group was off!  The route was simple, but beautiful.

The two lead boats, a 2022 Yamaha 255X E-Series and a 2004 Formula 353 Fastech took off with everyone following.  This group started off at the Lakehouse going through Pistakee Lake, into Nippersink Lake, into Grass Lake, through Lake Marie and then Buff Lake, the long channel through Spring Lake, into Fox lake, back through Nippersink Lake and Pistakee Lake ending back at the Lakehouse.

Not only did the average Sea-Doo, Yamaha, Honda, Polaris and Kawasaki make it out, but if you were a bystander, you would have seen a number of stand-ups, Kawasaki X2’s, custom made machines and even what many call a go-kart jet ski!

There were about a half a dozen skis that went down for one reason or another during the ride and a few people fell off of their machines when getting caught in the giant wake of the lead boats.  Probably the greatest sight of the entire ride was to watch other enthusiasts surround each person in distress to make sure they were safe by alerting oncoming riders.  This is what it means to be in a community – make sure everyone remains safe and no one gets left behind.

Group rides can have a bad rap as many inexperienced riders tend to show up, but the 5th Annual PWC Chain Gang Loop The Lakes ride should be the epitome of a great community group ride.

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