How to join industry efforts to reach youth

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“We’ve got to introduce young people to boating.” How often do we say that? What we don’t hear much about are the successful programs that are doing just that — introducing young people to boating. Moreover, all dealers can, in one way or another, be part of this industry outreach.

The Recreational Boating Leadership Council met yesterday prior to the opening of the American Boating Congress in Washington. More specifically, the RBLC Youth Task Force focused on several examples of successful initiatives that may not be widely recognized. So, here are some notable examples to make a point:

National Data Base: Do you know there are more than 3,000 youth boating programs? The RBLC Youth Task Force created and maintains a nationwide data base of such programs as part of the industry’s Discover Boating campaign. Listings come primarily from U.S. Sailing and many marine trade associations. But all dealers that have youth initiatives, or support such local efforts, are encouraged to provide listings, too. Get more information at:

US Sailing’s Reach Initiative: As the clear industry leader in developing youth programs, US Sailing’s Reach Initiative was created in 2012 using sailing as an educational platform for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) & Environmental Education. The program began with 250 students and has grown to impact a record 224,000 youth annually in over 400 programs and events nationwide. It’s implemented by schools and sailing centers working together in their community to provide access to waters for youth. Ninety percent of Reach students are first time sailors. US Sailing has awarded $110K in grants to support Community Sailing Centers developing youth partnerships with schools and community organization through the Reach Initiative in 2018.

MMTA Boating Grants: The Massachusetts Marine Trades Educational Trust’s “KIDS in BOATING” initiative is another good example of an outreach to youth. The MMTET program was created in 2017 to help support non-profit youth boating programs in Massachusetts that work to get kids on the water. In its first year, MMTET awarded 11 grants ranging from $500 to $1500 for a total of $11,000. It has now opened grant applications for this year. Applications deadline is June 30 and grants will be awarded in July. “The more we can do today to get more young people involved in recreational boating, the better off our industry will be tomorrow,” says Randall Lyons, MMTA executive director. In addition, MMTA is urging all its members to participate in events for “KIDS Boating Day” slated for June 2-10. For more information go to:

NMTA’s Grow Boating: Over the past 15 years the Northwest Marine Trades Association has invested nearly $2-million in funding to non-profit groups or organizations that help boost the number of boaters and encourage current boaters to use their boat more often. Currently, NMTA’s Grant Program has awarded $24,072 in funding or loan opportunities to 18 boating programs in the Pacific Northwest. Those awarded cover a diverse area that includes power and sailboats; small watercraft like kayaks, canoes and paddle and sailboards; equipment and gear; promotional and marketing funds; and educational youth events and outreach programs.

A sampling of NMTA grant recipients includes: the Center for Wooden Boats’ public sailing event titled CastOFF! on Lake Union that has introduced thousands to the joys of boating for more than 25 years; the Youth Marine Foundation in Tacoma that this year will provide a chance for 90 to 100 youth age 11 to 15 to the skills of boating; the unique Point Defiance Marina-Metro Parks of Tacoma program dubbed “Free Fishing Weekend” in June that mixes sport-fishing and power boating to the public along with a wide-range of other opportunities to get people on the water; and the Gig Harbor BoatShop to provide classic small-craft for community use offering a way to discover the joys and ease of boating; and 14 other grant programs.

So, there’s a wide range of ideas and programs developed and funded by the industry to give more people a “taste” of boating. While many marine trade associations spearhead such efforts, it’s believed that many dealers also support or stage events that get people on the water. These programs and events should be included in the RBLC data base, says Youth Task Force chairman George Harris (president of NMTA). And, here at Dealer Outlook, we also want the recognize dealer initiatives.

So, let us know what you and/or your MTA are doing to get more people, especially youth, on the water.


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