According to a new study released by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), an estimated 142 million Americans went boating in 2016, representing 36% of all US households.
The 2016 Recreational Boating Participation Study, released in partnership with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and Discover Boating, showed that of the 142 million individuals who went boating last year, half were children under the age of 18, and 17 million individuals were first-time participants.
“The results of the new Recreational Boating Participation Study illustrate the breadth of recreational boating in the United States and the opportunity for our industry to get more Americans on the water and ultimately buying boats – exploring emerging markets such as Hispanics, reaching younger boaters, and encouraging those already active in boating to pursue boat ownership,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “The study makes clear what we all know as boaters—the more time spent on the water, the more likely someone is to become a boat owner. As an industry, it is our job to help people spend more time on the water and facilitate the boating and boat-buying process—whether that’s through lobbying for improved access and infrastructure, nurturing active boaters through marketing, or providing more accessible ways to try boating through such things as classes or rental opportunities.”
Other key findings of the 2016 Recreational Boating Participation Study include:
• On average, active boaters spend an average of 71.5 hours boating per season. First-time boaters spend much less time – an average of 23 hours.
• Active boaters are economically diverse. The majority (62%) have household incomes under $100,000 per year.
• 58% of first-time boaters were renters compared to 25% of active boaters.
• First-time boaters were more likely than other active boaters to use personal watercraft (PWC), suggesting that PWCs are a gateway to boating.
• 86% of PWC owners also owned a powerboat, while 21% of PWC owners owned a non-motorized boat.
• There is a strong connection between fishing and boating: 83% of active anglers were also active boaters.
• The mean age of the first fishing experience was 10; 90% of anglers and 94% of active anglers had their first fishing experience before age 18.
• Boating is a social pastime. Almost all active boaters say they spend time with friends or family while boating (95%). Enjoying nature (94%) and relaxing (93%) are also nearly universal boating experiences.