UK participation levels in boating and watersports surged to a six-year high in 2013


Participation rates in boating and watersports activities surged in 2013 according to research released today.

The report, which has been produced by a consortium of marine organisations, comes ahead of National Watersports Month in May.
A total of 3.5million adults (7.1% of the population) took to the water last year for activities such as power boating, sailing, canal boating and rowing/skulling.

This reflects an increase of 23% in the number of participants from 2012 when 2.8million adults (5.8% of the population) took part in at least one of the activities.

Within this total, canoeing and kayaking in particular proved popular, recording an all-time high of 1.5million adults (3% of the population).
The number of participants in the wider group of boating, watersports and coastal related activities, which includes cliff climbing, spending time at the beach and outdoor swimming, also increased to a six-year high of 14.1million adults (28.8% of the population compared to 22.7% in 2012).
The rise in participation rates for 2013 could be attributed to the following factors:

  • The warmest summer recorded for six years in 2013 encouraged people to take part in outdoor activities
  • An improving economic picture
  • An Olympic ‘legacy effect’ from London 2012 and GB successes inspired more people to try boating and watersports

The rise in participation rates for core boating and watersport activities has been fuelled by a growth in ‘casual participants’, those who take to the water one to five times a year (the majority trialling different sports once or twice a year).

Casual participants make up more than 82% of those who got involved, the highest figure since the research began in 2002. The British Marine Federation (BMF) say this is great news for the sports, as it gives an opportunity to welcome these newcomers.
In particular, female participation in core boating activities has continued to increase. The number of women involved has steadily risen since 2010 by 40% to 1.4million. Older age groups (55+) have also swelled numbers, growing by more than 50% since 2002 to 650,000.
Howard Pridding, BMF chief executive officer, said: ‘This valuable research undertaken by the consortium proves how popular and vital the UK leisure marine industry remains, with 3.5million adults taking to the water across the country in a wide variety of activities.
‘With initiatives such as National Watersports Month taking place in May this year, we are confident that participation will continue to rise through the promotion of enjoyable and safe boating and watersports.’

BMF members can download the report’s executive summary here.

Find out more about National Watersports Month at

Picture credits: SailLaser Weymouth and the Official Test Centre