PARTICIPATION rates in the South West for boating and watersports activities surged in 2013 according to research released today by a consortium of marine organisations1 ahead of National Watersports Month2 in May.

A total of 402,000 adults living in the South West (9.7% of the local population) took to the water across a number of activities, with small sail boating, and canoeing proving particularly popular. This reflects an increase of 26,000 people (7%) in the number of participants from 2012.

Meanwhile, 1.4 million adults in the South West, just over a third of the local population (35.1%), took part in the wider group of boating, watersports and coastal related activities4 which include cliff climbing, spending time at the beach and outdoor swimming.

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 figures form part of a national picture which saw 3.5 million adults (7.1% of the population) take to the water in core boating activities. This reflects an increase of 23% in the number of participants from 2012 when 2.8 million adults (5.8% of the population) took part in at least one of the activities.

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. This is great news for the sports, giving an opportunity to welcome these newcomers.

In particular, female participation in core boating activities continued to increase. The number of women involved has steadily risen since 2010 by 40% to 1.4 million. Older age groups (55+) have also swelled numbers, growing by over 50% since 2002 to 650,000.

Howard Pridding, CEO of the British Marine Federation, commented: “This valuable research undertaken by the consortium proves how popular and vital the leisure marine industry remains to the South West, with over 400,000 adults taking to the water across the region 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 in the South West through the promotion of enjoyable and safe boating and watersports.”