The annual Watersports Participation Survey has shown watersports participation is still rising after a pandemic boom saw UK participation rise dramatically


The increase in people participating in watersports in the UK during the Covid 19 pandemic – when restrictions on international travel reduced overseas holiday options – continued to build in 2022 despite those restrictions largely lifting according to a report by British Marine.

The Watersports Participation Survey 2022 has revealed, some 13.2 million UK adults tried a boating activity in 2022, up 3 per cent from 12.8 million in 2021. Over 10 million people took part in one or more boating activities once or twice in 2022, while the number of people taking part more frequently in on-water activities (at least three times) remained similar to the previous year, at 3.2 million.

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).

Anyone who has spent any time on or near the water in the last few years will not be surprised that the biggest growth areas are coastal and inland paddle sports such as stand up paddle boarding and kayaking / sea kayaking.  “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,” said Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine.

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Although the report is generally positive, this popularity in the paddle sports does raise some small concerns. Firstly that the figures do continue to show a clear trend towards more infrequent, experiential participation rather than regular participation, which is unsurprising given the growth comes largely thanks to sectors like paddle boarding for which occasional use is part of the appeal.

Rather more worrying is that this increase in casual paddle sports has seen an associated growth in rescue operations. Samantha Hughes, RNLI Water Safety Partner, says: “We’ve seen a huge rise in incidents to paddle boarders 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 further state that those heading out in a kayak or paddle board should:

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