Everything You Wanted to Know About Boat Rental in Okoboji But Were Too Afraid to Ask | Recreation

The first thing to know about renting boats and other water equipment in the Okoboji area is that there are many options. Even a quick Google search for places to rent yields over 10 options on or near the lake.

Okoboji Boat Works, which has been in business since 1890, has one of the most diverse rental listings in the bunch. They have pontoons, speedboats, WaveRunners, kayaks, canoes and paddleboards for small fares, and then nine fleets of “private tour boats” which include cruisers, houseboats and yachts, for the big stuff.

According to Tara Messerole, cruise director for the company, the smaller cruiser, “The Jezebell,” will cost aqua enthusiasts $295 for the first hour and $195 for each additional hour. At the other end of the spectrum is “The Fish House” which requires a two-hour minimum for $1,995 and $895 for each hour thereafter. “Right now we have that one rented 15 times for this summer,” she said.

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As for more personalized craft, Messerole said people have to check in with the harbor master who gives them maps and tells them where to stay clear. “They’re on a good crash course,” Messerole said.

The In-Convenience Store at Okoboji Boat Works has everything you need for a day on the lake, Friday, April 8, 2022, in Okoboji, Iowa.

Jesse Brothers Sioux Town Diary

Okoboji Boat Works

Okoboji Boat Works apparel is sold at the In-Convenience Store where boats can be rented, Friday, April 8, 2022, in Okoboji, Iowa.

Jesse Brothers Sioux Town Diary

These lessons do not always mean that things come back in perfect condition.

“There were damaged props due to low water levels,” Messerole said. If a boat ever breaks down, which she says doesn’t happen often at all, tenants call Okoboji Boat Works and staff come on site to help.

Allison Waltman, who operated Make-A-Wake Watersports with her husband, Dustin, for 16 summers, said the most common calls come from people who don’t know the lake and get lost in it. According to Waltman, it’s more of a weekend trend. More than once she said people will be right outside the business and won’t know where to go and have to make a call.

“We’re on the left side of the lake, and you can’t see (us) when the sun goes down,” Waltman said.

The Make-A-Wake fleet includes: kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, Maui mats, floaties, wakeboards, jet skis, pontoons and speedboats. Guests can purchase a certain number of rental hours from the company, located at the Village West Resort & Hotel, and then use them throughout the summer. With the boats, Waltman said she won’t soon forget the times staff had to help someone start theirs because they had the key upside down.

At Extreme Water Sports, owner Tim Marler is clear about what happens if renters don’t feel obligated to follow the guidelines.

“We don’t rent to them if they don’t follow the rules,” he said.

If anyone gets stuck, Marler said staff will bring them back. As for where to go, Marler said guests get a map and a recommendation to stick to the western part of the lake because it’s “deeper, cleaner and safer.” Much like some others, what is rented at Extreme Water Sports must be back by closing time.

Having to rent, train and tow people throughout the summer means that many of the staff at rental locations in Okoboji tend not to have much time to enjoy the water themselves. “Our job is tourism,” Messerole said. “We’re after hours,” Waltman said.

Marler’s response: “We are very busy all summer.”

This bustle doesn’t bother him though because of what working on the lake offers in terms of memories. “We get people who came when they were 15 and are now coming back with kids. So we have fun.”

Okoboji Boat Works

The Okoboji Boat Works rental store has everything you need for a day on the lake, Friday, April 8, 2022, in Okoboji, Iowa.

Jesse Brothers Sioux Town Diary

Jared McNett is an online editor and reporter for the Sioux City Journal. You can reach him at 712-293-4234 and follow him on Twitter @TwoHeadedBoy98.

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