Experience the “Best Lake for Water Sports in the Nation” at Central Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks

In the summer of 2023, readers of USA Today voted Central Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks the “Best Lake for Water Sports in the Nation.” And that was in addition to the title of “Best Recreational Lake in the Nation” that readers of USA Today bestowed upon the Lake in the recent past. In short, the Lake of the Ozarks is known for having fun on the water.

“There definitely are so many ways to enjoy the water at the Lake of the Ozarks,” says Lagina Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Lake of the Ozarks Tri-County Lodging Association. “You are guaranteed to have fun on the water here. Whether you like boating, boarding, tubing, paddling, fishing or simply swimming, you can do it all at the Lake of the Ozarks.”


With more shoreline than the entire California coast, boaters from around the country have been flocking to the Lake of the Ozarks for more than 90 years.

The Lake of the Ozarks has routinely been recognized by BoatUS Magazine as one of the “most compelling freshwater lakes in the country” as well as one of the “top playgrounds in the country for all types of boaters,” whether on pleasure boats or personal watercraft.

More than 50 marinas dot the Lake of the Ozarks shoreline where boats can be rented by the hour, the day or the week. The Lake’s marinas, along with many of the resorts and campgrounds, rent a variety of boats including pontoons, speedboats, bass boats and personal watercraft as well as paddle boats, canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.

For visitors with their own boats, free public launching sites are available in the Lake area’s two state parks – Ha Ha Tonka State Park and Lake of the Ozarks State Park – as well as at the full-service marinas and resorts around the Lake.

Surf’s Up!

For those looking to make a wave or ride a wave, the Lake of the Ozarks offers a massive and fertile playground.

Wakeboarding and wakesurfing have been popular pastimes among thrill seekers at the Lake for a couple of decades. Most marinas and resorts offer board rentals and some have rental wake boats for maximum wake enjoyment. With wakeboarding (a cross between water skiing and snowboarding) and wake surfing (surfing on the waves created by the boat), it’s as close as you can get to “hangin’ ten” in the Midwest.

The popularity of these sports and this reservoir has resulted in the area hosting multiple amateur wakesurfing competitions each year and also hosting professional wakeboarding tournaments as well. Additionally, three Lake of the Ozarks residents have gone on to be some of the best in the world: three-time Masters World Champion Kirby Liesmann and young, up-and-comers Brody Spriggs, 17, who placed fourth in the world in the Under-19 Open division, and Connor Gatlin, 12, who placed second in the world in his division in wakeboarding and third in the world in his division in wakesurfing. All three developed their skills at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Anyone interested in learning to wakeboard or wakesurf from Liesmann can do so at Kirby’s School of Wake in Lake Ozark. Liesmann offers lessons and camps throughout the summer months for those trying either sport for the first time but also anyone looking to improve or hoping to follow in Liesmann’s footsteps and go pro.

Paddle Your Own Vessel

For a more relaxed and recreational approach to water sports at the Lake of the Ozarks, many choose to paddle.

Whether on paddleboards, kayaks, canoes or paddle boats, there are many quiet coves and no-wake zones around the Lake to enjoy paddling the hours away.

There are multiple places that rent paddle craft and also provide lessons for those new to the sports. Paradise Marina and Watersports in Lake Ozark, Wake Effects in Osage Beach, Sunset Beach Resort’s Adventure Boat Rentals in Camdenton and Super Dave’s Paddle Craft Adventures in Sunrise Beach all make sure to set every guest up for success. Each paddle craft rental comes with personalized instructions for those that need it on how to safely and successfully paddle the vessel of their choice before vacationers make their way out into the quiet coves to enjoy their newly acquired skills. Most find it to be a very enjoyable and relaxing way to have fun on the water.

Additionally, the area’s two state parks — Lake of the Ozarks and Ha Ha Tonka — offer kayak and paddleboard rentals to enjoy the pristine natural surroundings of the Lake. Each has its own self-guided informative water trail that covers multiple miles of cultural history and natural landmarks. The Aquatic Trail at Lake of the Ozarks State Park is nearly 10 miles while the Big Niangua Water Trail at Ha Ha Tonka is 13.5 miles.


The Lake of the Ozarks has been a major attraction for anglers since the Lake’s impoundment in 1931. The Lake’s popularity and notoriety as one of the best freshwater fisheries in the county brings in over 500 fishing tournaments each year, including several of the largest professional bass fishing tournament circuits in the nation.

Healthy populations of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish (blue and channel) thrive throughout the 600 billion gallons of water that make up the Lake. As a result, the Lake of the Ozarks provides excellent fishing opportunities for first-timers all the way up to professional tournament anglers. The thousands of boat docks lining the shoreline of the Lake create plenty of coverage allowing the fish to flourish year after year.

Anglers without a boat can fish from docks, the lakeshore or they can book a local Lake of the Ozarks fishing guide to take them out on the water for a half- or full-day of fishing.

Multiple fishing resorts around the Lake of the Ozarks are set up to accommodate anglers of all stripes with fishing docks, cleaning stations and boat rentals. Additionally, there are numerous locally-owned bait and tackle shops around the Lake that sell all the tackle needed for a successful fishing trip.


Another water activity that is synonymous with the Lake of the Ozarks is swimming. Nearly every waterfront resort, condominium complex or campground has swimming docks for their guests’ enjoyment. In addition, several lakeside resorts and multiple restaurants also have sandy swimming beaches. Beyond that, the Lake of the Ozarks State Park features two popular sandy swimming beaches that are free and open to the public. And, of course, swimming pools abound at the Lake of the Ozarks for anyone that prefers a pool swim as opposed to an open water swim.

Other favorite on-the-water activities include tubing, skiing, flyboarding (essentially a water-powered jet pack) and parasailing. For more ideas on how to have fun on the water and how to enjoy the “Best Lake for Water Sports in the Nation” and “Best Recreational Lake in the Nation” visit www.FunLake.com.

Your Lake of the Ozarks Adventure Awaits

Visitors at the Lake of the Ozarks can choose from full-service luxury resorts, family-owned resorts, charming bed and breakfasts, rustic cabins, campgrounds and RV parks, spacious vacation rental homes and condominiums, as well as hotels and motels to complete the perfect Lake stay.

For more fun vacation ideas, or to learn more about all the year around events, attractions, as well as lodging and dining options available at the nation’s “Best Recreational Lake” and “Best Lake for Water Sports,” call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) at 1-800-FUN-LAKE, or visit www.FunLake.com.

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