Watersports Participation Remains Buoyant

Participation in watersports during 2022 was extremely buoyant according to latest Watersports Participation Survey.

Participation in watersports during 2022 was extremely buoyant according to latest Watersports Participation Survey. 

The 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) Canal and River Trust and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).

The survey revealed that in the year, 13.2 million UK adults tried a boating activity in 2022

And the popularity of Stand Up Paddleboarding continued to grow with numbers up by 536K

Participation in watersports during 2022 was extremely buoyant according to Watersports Participation Survey.

In 2021, with severe restrictions on international travel imposed on the population due to the pandemic, many people headed to the coast and inland waters to make the most of the good weather and spend their leisure time outdoors.  Compared to 2020, this resulted in massive growth in the number of people participating in watersports and it appears that the popularity for time on the water did not diminish with the lifting of covid-19 restrictions.

According to the Watersports Participation Survey 2022, some 13.2 million UK adults tried a boating activity in 2022, up 3% from 12.8m in 2021. Over 10 million people took part in one or more boating activities* once or twice in 2022, whilst the number of people taking part more frequently in on water activities (3+ times) remained similar to the previous year (3.2 million).

Paddle sport activities, particularly stand up paddleboarding, which are easily accessible both on the coast and inland waterways, have remained extremely popular with participation figures continuing to rise.

“As anticipated with the international travel restrictions being lifted, we saw an increase in the number of people travelling abroad to enjoy their watersports. But with so many opportunities in the UK we are confident anyone looking to try a new activity or undertake regular boating activities will be able to find just what they need on their doorstep and we would encourage anyone looking to get out on the water to make sure they get the right training and advice before heading out, so they have a safe and enjoyable experience.”

British Canoeing has recently been formally recognised as a National Governing Body for Stand Up Paddleboarding, after receiving confirmation from Sport England, and has appointed a new Stand up Paddleboarding lead for the organisation. British Canoeing Awarding Body SUP safer course for new or novice Stand Up Paddleboarders develops key skills and awareness on the water: https://gopaddling.info/sup-safer/

Samantha Hughes, RNLI Water Safety Partner, added: “We’ve seen a huge rise in incidents to paddleboarders over the last few years and a significant number are to people who have been blown or swept out to sea. If you find yourself in difficulty at the coast, please call 999 and ask for the coastguard.

“The best way to enhance your time on the water is to have a stand-up paddleboard lesson. You will learn useful techniques including tips to help you get back on the board. You’ll also develop your skills and knowledge of how to understand the environment such as wind and tidal information. This will set you up for future paddling.”

The RNLI has teamed up with 12 expert training agencies and National Governing Bodies (NGBs) across the UK and Ireland to develop and promote four key safety messages for paddleboarders, encouraging those heading out on the water to:

  • Wear a buoyancy aid
  • Carry a phone in a waterproof pouch
  • Wear the correct leash
  • Avoid offshore winds

If you’re looking to find watersports opportunities and hire boat operators in your local area then visit onthewater or if you want to give it a go for free then check out Try a boat or Get Afloat at the Southampton International Boat Show or pay a visit to the RYA website for a wide of RYA training courses from sail cruising to windsurfing.

The Watersports Participation Survey covers participation from October 2021 to September 2022, a full year in which the UK was starting to live with the pandemic and restrictions were largely removed. There were still some entry restrictions in some international destinations, which impacted international travel to a certain degree, but people could still get abroad on holiday if they wished.