According to new research, there has been a massive growth in the number of people participating in watersports during the pandemic. 

The annual Watersports Participation Survey 2021 shows that approximately 11.7m people took part in one or more of the boating activities* more than once in 2021. This number has risen by almost double since 2020. The number of people taking part more frequently in on water activities (3+ times) has also increased slightly.

RYA Director of Sport Development Rob Clark said: “During 2021, more than ever leisure time was being spent outdoors and with the severe restrictions on international travel, lots of people headed to the coast to make the most of the good weather.

“Although the report tells us that the number of regular participants has remained almost static, we have seen boating organisations, marinas and retailers remaining busy during the pandemic as they accommodate newcomers to the sport.”

The activities which showed the biggest growth included personal watercraft, paddlesports and dinghy sailing.

The survey covers participation from October 2020-September 2021. A full year when the UK was dealing with the pandemic.

Read the Watersports Participation Survey 2021

Rob concluded: “The survey highlights an opportunity for us to capitalise on the fact that people have been trying new activities afloat. Hopefully by supporting our clubs and centres we’ll be able to create opportunities for newcomers to get back on the water and hopefully become regular participants.

“The research also supports the work with our affiliated venues to highlight and promote the diversity of activities they offer their customers.”

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

To find all the information you need to get out on the water this summer visit

* The core boating activities include small sail boat racing, other small sail boat activities, yacht racing, yacht cruising, power boating, general motor boating/cruising, canal boating, canoeing, rowing/sculling, windsurfing, water skiing and wakeboarding and using personal watercraft.

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