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Boating activities hit highest levels since 2002

The Watersports Participation Survey results for 2017 indicate that Watersports participation increased by 3.4% on last year, reaching the highest volume since this survey was first undertaken

Canoeing and motor boating saw the largest increases in participation, with increases of 345,000 and 186,000 respectively.

The other core boating activities remained steady. The popularity of stand-up paddleboarding is also holding strong, with an additional 190,000 participants over the last year.

According to the latest research a record 3.96m UK adults (7.4% of the UK adult population) participated in one or more of 12 core boating activities1 in 2017, the highest volume recorded since this research initiative was first launched in 2002.

And despite challenges to consumer confidence and an unsettled economy in the wake of Brexit negotiations, boat ownership has also increased, with more than 690,000 boat owning households in the UK.

In total, over 16.3 million people participated in any water-based leisure activities.

With an increase of over 2 million more participants in 2017, it is the highest volume of participants recorded since the survey began in 2002.

It includes participants of the 12 core boating activities and growing watersports activities, as well as activities such as sea angling and coastal walking.

Key findings of Report:

The impact of an ageing population:

It is well documented that the UK's population is getting older as people live longer. The survey shows that the peaks between the different age profiles are getting smaller year on year.

2017's survey highlights a trough between the age of 10 and 15, meaning there are fewer children to get into watersports than there were 10 years ago.

This could have implications for participation levels in future years.

At the upper end of the age spectrum, participation rates for over 55s have returned to the 2014 high of 4.3% of UK adults (over 55 years old) and the volume of over 55s participating is the highest since the survey began (758,000).

Domestic participation still reigns vs. abroad:

With the exception of 'Using Personal Watercraft', participation levels for all activities are greater in the UK than abroad.

The UK share of participation in power boating saw a 4.5 percentage point increase on the previous year and the popularity of canal boating in the UK remained strong, up 0.1 percentage point on 2016 and up 4.5 percentage points on 2015's figures.

Yacht Racing abroad has seen a significant jump in participation rates over the past two years, with the overseas share of participation increasing by 19.9 percentage points since 2015.

Boat ownership on the up, but more boats being kept abroad:

After a downward trend in the number of households owning a boat, 2017 saw an increase.

More than 1.18m boats were recorded per year on average for the years 2015 to 2017. A small, but welcome increase of approximately 38,000 boats on the earlier three-year period (2014 - 2016).

While the majority of these boats (94.9%) are being kept in the UK, this is down on the previous three-year period (95.5%).

Small sailing boats (-4.0 percentage points), sailing yachts (-3.6 percentage points) and RIBs/Inflatables or sportsboats (-1.1 percentage points) all saw a decline in the share of these boats being kept in the UK.

The impact of Brexit negotiations and Sterling depreciation has led to an increase in brokerage sales to the EU, which is the main reason behind this change.

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