According to new research 682,000 adults in the South East (8.4% of the local population) took to water by one or more of 12 boating activities1 in 2014. Meanwhile in the region, participation in any watersports activity in addition to the 12 core boating activities2 stands at over 2.8 million (34.4% of local adults).
Though these figures reflect a slight decline in participation in the South East, a decrease of 0.8% and 2.6% points from 2013 respectively, they reveal significant growth within certain demographics and boating activities.
The Watersports Participation Survey is conducted annually by a consortium of leading marine bodies including British Marine Federation (BMF), RYA (Royal Yachting Association), Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), British Canoeing (BC) and Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
Gender: nationally female participation in ‘any boating activity’ continues a steady increase since 2010 and is now at the joint highest (6.2%, 2007) it has been since the study began in 2002. Males are more likely to be enthusiasts than females with 28% participating more than six times per year, compared to 17% for females.
Age: nationally participation in ‘any boating activity’ amongst those over 55 has been steadily increasing since 2011 and it is now at its highest volume since the survey began; the volume increase since 2002 stands at 66%. For the 16-34 and 35-54 age groups, participation rates have remained fairly stable over the past 6 years.
Activity: with 84,000 people in the South East participating in power boatingthe region’s power boating participation rate (1% of the local population) rises above the UK average (0.8%) for 2014. Other boating activities to see a rise in local popularity are small sail boat racing and yacht cruising with increases of 0.4% and 0.1% from 2013 respectively.
Casual v enthusiast: following a UK rise last year in ‘casual’ participants in boating activities (less than six times), there has been a shift this year with a slight fall in ‘casuals’ and a corresponding rise in the proportion of ‘enthusiasts’ (more than six times a year), returning closer to previously seen levels at 77%.
Boat ownership: with 110,561 households in the South East owning one or more boats the region’s boat ownership rate (3.11% of local households) is above the UK average (2.69%) for 2014. This includes over 8,069 power boats owned by local residents.
The figures form part of a national picture which saw 3.5 million adults take to the water in core boating activities, matching 2013 at 7.1% of the total adult population in the UK.
Howard Pridding, Chief Executive of British Marine Federation said: “The figures for the number of people participating in boating and watersports are encouraging but there’s also plenty of room for growth. Getting out on the water is a hugely enjoyable pastime whether you’re a casual participant or much more of an enthusiast, and the marine industry is in great shape to provide plenty of opportunities to enable this.”