National Safe Boating Week kicks off this Saturday (May 21-27) and serves as a reminder that dealers have a responsibility to promote safety year-round. It also takes on heightened importance this year because of the thousands of newcomers who came through dealership doors during the Covid-19 pandemic.
But while there’s been legitimate concern about so many new boaters on the water, some good news comes from the Water Sports Foundation, the educational arm of the Water Sports Industry Association: Amid the record-setting growth in boating activity in 2020-21, demand for boater education is increasing.
“We are pleased to report that demand for boater education is on the rise,” says Jim Emmons, the foundation’s executive director. “With 415,000 first-time boat buyers taking to the waterways at the same time traditional classroom instruction was temporarily stymied in 2020 and much of 2021 due to Covid mandates, there was initial concern that new boaters might not have access to critical boating safety education. However, an informal survey of several leading boating safety education providers, conducted by the Water Sports Foundation, has revealed a positive uptick in instructional enrollment, along with emerging trends in online delivery methods.”
Mark Chanski, education director at the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, says the number of individuals earning boating certificates has been increasing since the pandemic, which was initially problematic in states that required in-person education.
In response, NASBLA’s executive board approved the use of virtual technology in April 2020 to deliver boating education for a 90-day period to flatten the curve. As the pandemic surged, that emergency authorization was extended and is in effect through Dec. 31. To date, Chanski reports, 31 states are allowing the use of virtual technology to meet the requirements for boater certification.
“During this time, it became clear that the use of virtual technology had many advantages, and the NASBLA executive board authorized the development of permanent guidelines that will allow virtually taught boating education permanently,” Chanski says.
As a result, boaters have greater access to safety education than ever before, including live and virtual sessions, online recorded courses and a plethora of published content.
It’s a no-brainer that dealers should be aware of these resources and provide recommendations to every customer, new and repeat. Accidents and fatalities on our waterways don’t encourage prospective buyers.
Ray Scott: Bass Fishing Icon
“Anyone who knows anything about bass fishing knows Ray Scott,” Jeff Frischkorn, longtime outdoor writer and blogger, recently penned.
Scott, who in 1967 founded the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, died May 8. He was 88.
A consummate promoter, Scott helped launch professional bass angling and became a fishing buddy to presidents, first ladies and a host of dignitaries. His idea for a pro fishing circuit caught on, and BASS grew into what is described as the world’s largest fishing organization.
BASS’s signature tournament, the Bassmaster Classic draws thousands of spectators. Indeed, Scott’s vision for bass fishing created an entire industry, not the least of which are the bass boats sold by dealers across the nation.
A member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, Scott founded the first professional bass tournament in the late 1960s. What a concept. Participants could win big money based on the weight of the fish they caught during several days of angling. However, anglers were penalized if a fish died because Scott, an ardent conservationist, helped popularize catch-and-release fishing.
He was also a champion for safe boating. He required tournament anglers to wear life jackets or be disqualified, and he advocated for many safety laws over the years.
Scott was perhaps most recognized when he took the tournament stage, with his signature cowboy hat and wide grin, to emcee the weigh-ins, where anglers pulled flapping fish out of holding tanks to the cheers of thousands of onlookers. In fact, those who worked with him often said he was one of the few who could light up a stage by just walking on — the “ultimate showman.”