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New research shows watersports participation is on the rise

by Becky Gilbert-Wood, RYA 16 Apr 19:00 BST
RYA Family Adventure © Emily Whiting

According to new research released today (15 April 2019), more people are participating in watersports, a trend that has continued for the past three years.

The annual Watersports Participation Survey showed that approximately 3.9m UK adults took part in one or more of 12 core boating activities' in 2018. The overall activity rise of around 1.1% on the previous year, is thanks in part to 2018 being the UK's joint hottest summer on record.

This equates to a volume increase of 700,000 people, with the highest participation rates for any activity coming from family groups. The number of young people and women also increased significantly in 2018.

Of the boating activities, canoeing was the most popular, with 2.1m people going paddling at least once a year, in canoes, kayaks or stand up paddleboards. The number of people who own boats has increased by around 800,000, since the beginning of the survey which is in large part due to more people owning canoes and kayaks. However, the most popular activities overall, remain the ones that are most accessible, without the need for any training or equipment.

This is a continued trend for the wider industry and flags an opportunity and need for clubs to diversify their offer and address changing demands. Committed to increasing participation through addressing the current trends affecting boating, the RYA have recently launched the 'Future of Sailing' webinar series.

Aimed at clubs, class associations and anyone who has an interest in the future of sailing, the thought-provoking sessions feature key findings from the Futures Project, commissioned by British Marine, with topics ranging from pay on demand boating and modern communications to the diversification of club activity.

RYA Director of Sport Development, Alistair Dickson commented: "We're delighted to see that there is a continued rise in the number of people getting out on the water and enjoying boating and watersports. It's also encouraging to see more women and young people taking part in regular activity too.

"This is a significant opportunity for RYA clubs and Recognised Training Centres as it shows people are looking to spend more time outside and on the water. However, it also again highlights the need to offer more accessible and low-commitment forms of watersports as a stepping stone into more mainstream boating. There are lots of examples of clubs who have done this to good effect through our Futures webinar series over the winter and we remain committed to helping clubs, centres and class associations navigate through this change."

The Watersports Participation Survey is conducted annually by a consortium of leading marine bodies including British Marine, Royal Yachting Association (RYA), Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), British Canoeing (BC) and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).

An executive summary of the report is available here.

Find out more about the RYA Sports Participation Programmes here or visit rya.org.uk. For more information about the Futures webinars series visit rya.org.uk/go/futureswebinars.

The 12 core boating activities' covers small sail boat racing, other small sail boat activities, yacht racing, yacht cruising, power boating, general motor boating/cruising, canal boating, canoeing, rowing/sculling, windsurfing, water skiing and wakeboarding and using personal watercraft.

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