Boating on California's waterways has always been a desired form of recreation for residents of the Golden State. From houseboat gatherings on Shasta Lake, to wakeboarding down the Sacramento River, family and friends come together to enjoy each other's company and share a common interest on the water.
According to a 2014 study by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), 73 percent of boat owners in California are under the age of 50. The baby boomers, now in their 60s and 70s, held the majority of boat ownership over the last 20 years. This draws some concern from the California Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW), spurring an industry makeover for the agency.
California has one of the largest boating populations in the U.S. As the population grows, recreational boating usually grows as well. Before the 1960s, Southern California had less than 7,000 registered boats and now has over 30,000. The DBW's focus on adapting to changing times is primarily based on the idea that millennials are forcing the economy to be shaped around their buying and selling habits, which significantly differ from other generations. Current services like Airbnb and Lyft may very well be incorporated into boating in the near future.
“We really need to engage younger people...to become boat buyers, otherwise our core customer is going to eventually age out of boating,” NMMA Vice President of Engineering Standards and Membership Robert Newsome said to the DBW Commission at a meeting in Old Sacramento on Wednesday.
Chair Randy Short provided participants of the meeting with a bulleted list of his goals as chairperson. Short emphasized improving the DWB's overall image and communication with the public through social media, printed media, advertising, and the DBW’s website.
Current trends are being studied by the DBW, and recent programs implemented are already reflecting the new image, like last year's BoatCA mobile app. The app, available on Android and Apple devices, directs you to nearby boating facilities in your area. “Save the ones you love” is the campaign slogan for the app, and it provides information on life jacket laws, boating safety tips, and gives users a chance to take a clean boating quiz that challenges their knowledge on safe boat waste disposal.
The NMMA has an online presence as well with a webpage encouraging people to discover boating, which incorporates a direct path to boat rentals and charters on the front page. These small additions are an example of what to expect in the coming years from the adapting recreational boating industry.
After their meeting on Wednesday, the DBW hosted a public workshop with Professor David B. Rolloff from the California State University, Sacramento Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration. The workshop provided information about a facilities survey currently being conducted by Sacramento State to understand the needs of various facilities like marinas, pumpout stations, launch sites, and oil disposal sites. The study looks at the needs of facilities from three different perspectives: facilities management, motorized boating, and non-motorized boating.
The survey isn't garnering much interest, and representatives of the project fear the survey isn't being perceived as intended. The timeline on the survey has been extended into next year, but participants will need to complete the survey in order for more accurate data to be collected and analyzed. One important thing about these types of surveys is that budget, funding analysis, and decisions are made based on the data collected. So, if more participants fill out the survey, funding can be more appropriately dispersed.
While discussing priorities of future boaters at the workshop, Chair Short weighed in. “10,000 baby boomers a day are turning 65, that means ten years from now, 10,000 baby boomers a day are turning 75...when you hit the 70 to 80 age group, they're gone...Millennials are actually the largest new boat buyers out there...they're maturing later, they're buying their homes much later...they're not buying boats yet.”