Young Brits look to the South West’s coastline and waterways to enjoy physical pursuits on a regular basis

According to new research, over 360,000 people across the South West (8.3% of the local population) participated in one or more of 12 core boating activities¹ in 2016, a rise of approximately 42,000 more participants.

Across the UK, 3.5 million people (6.7% of UK adults) went boating in 2016, the highest volume recorded since 2009 (3.534 million). An additional 668,828 (1.3% of UK adults) took part in growing watersports activities², a rise of approximately 95,000 more participants. Overall, a total of 4.16 million people (7.9% of UK adults) enjoyed boating and watersports in 2016.

In total, over 14.3 million people (27.3% of UK adults) participated in any water-based leisure activities³. With an increase of 2 million more participants in 2016, it is the highest volume of participants recorded since pre-recession (14.4 million in 2007).

In the South West alone, over 1.6 million people (38.8% of the local population) took part in water-based activities in 2016. This includes the 12 core boating activities and growing watersports activities, as well as activities such as sea angling and coastal walking.

The research also found a substantial increase in the number of younger people (aged 16-34) classed as boating ‘enthusiasts’. All participants are looking for opportunities to get active on the water throughout the year, with increasingly popular pursuits including small sailboat activities, yacht cruising and stand up paddleboarding. This appetite for manageable and flexible pursuits is reflected in boat ownership trends with households across the socio-economic landscape downsizing or taking up ownership of smaller boats or watersports craft.          

The launch of this new research coincides with an inspiring, fun-filled event at Medway Watersports, Gillingham attended by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, Tracey Crouch MP. The Minister said: "With our glorious coastline, rivers and canals, the UK is one of the best places in the world to get out on the water.

"Activities such as rowing, windsurfing and canoeing are great ways to keep fit and have fun.

"Our marine organisations and businesses are helping to drive up participation rates and I am particularly pleased that so many young people are getting involved and taking part in watersports."

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).