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Flying and boating: A strange parallel

I read Flying magazine. No, I’m not a pilot. I’ve just always been fascinated by airplanes. But this month, I found an unexpected parallel between flying and boating.

In his article “The Ultimate Human Factor,” contributing editor Jay Hopkins ( contends that the most important factor in aviation is the pilot. However, there are apparently ongoing discussions in flying circles these days about “a decrease in the number of student pilots and the general lack of interest in aviation, especially among young people.”

With those observations, Hopkins could have just as easily been writing about boating. It became even more evident when he went on to cite various factors including the increase in the cost of flying, the lack of new general aviation plane designs and the excitement surrounding them, and the added complexity of today’s airspace.

But above all, however, Hopkins believes aviation has lost its aura of adventure. That lasting impression that is often formed during a person’s first encounter with something new and exciting, like seeing “the Earth start to fall away and the neighborhoods surrounding the airport slide under the wing” on that very first takeoff. It happened to him as a youngster and he was hooked for life.

Hopkins hit it right on the head. That’s what happened to me as a kid the day I got my first boat ride with my Dad on a neighbor’s boat on Long Island Sound. I still remember that day aboard a Chris Craft Corsair. It was the feeling under my feet as the engines started up, the unique sound when cooling water periodically gushed out the exhausts, the smell of the vinyl cushions in the cabin and a sense of real power as the throttles were pushed up and the hull started sending spray flying. I was hooked for life, as was my Dad. Shortly thereafter, our family had our first boat and I cannot remember any time since that a boat hasn’t been in my life.

By now, I’m sure you’ve figured out where this blog is going. We’re all members of the same marine industry and, as such, we must all become more aware that to grow boating in the long term, seeds must be planted now. But just as in my own case, while I wasn’t a prime prospect at my young age, my Dad was. My excitement for boating surely was a positive influence on his decision to become a boat owner. So there can be a reward now and a reward later.

I’m reminded that industry studies have revealed 80 percent of current boat owners got their first exposure to boating as youngsters. Clearly, reaching kids now is a building block for our future. Accordingly, it’s important that dealers actively engage kids and continue to nurture their initial enthusiasm for the sport.

MarineMax offers a good example. This Saturday, MarineMax store in Clearwater, Fla., will be holding a day of free seminars, product demos and other activities. Of particular note is a special three-hour “Kids and Teens in Boating Seminar” that will teach little skippers, ages 7 and up, such things as line handling, water safety and the sure-to-be the highlight session – hands-on driving of a boat. Of course, the day also includes seminars, demos and activities for adults and they’re all free to the general public as well as current customers.

If we want to see boating alive and growing again, we must be willing to engage in creating ways for people – especially kids – to have an opportunity to experience the excitement of boating, just like I did so many happy boating years ago.


8 comments on “Flying and boating: A strange parallel

  1. Franklin Pillsbury

    Great story and parallel…..I like what MarineMax is doing in Clearwater….we need all groups in the industry to come together. There are a lot of smaller “1 off” events like the Sea Doo tour,or the Mercuriser “Joy stick” demo’s that would benefit by working together with dealers,Marina’s,water sports etc. to create larger “hands on” opportunity’s for growing the market.

  2. Greg Scholand

    Right on Norm! As a youngster I was lucky enough to have that first boat ride and first airplane ride. Now, I am lucky enough to be a boat owner/mariner and an aircraft owner/pilot. I always make it a point of engaging the wide eyed younsters I see at the beach, marina or airport. I try to ignite the spark for their future consideration. Todays youth are very much disengaged from real life adventure because the various media and video games provide it for them. It’s up to all of us to pay it forward and be ambassadors for the activities we love. Both of my children are now mariners, by sail & power and my daughter is a fellow pilot who could fly our plane alone before she could drive our car alone. A little enthusiasm goes a loooooong way!

  3. Greg Scholand

    Right on Norm! I was a very fortunate kid to get my first boat ride and first airplane ride early on. Now, I am fortunate guy because I am a boat owner/mariner and aircraft owner/pilot. I try to never pass up an opportunity to engage curious folks at the beach, marina or airport. It is very important we ignite the spark for their future consideration. Today’s youth have little interest in real life adventure because the various media and video games take care of that for them. We all need to pay it forward and become ambassadors for the activities we love. Both of our children are now mariners power & sail, and my daughter is a fellow pilot who could fly our plane alone before she could drive our car alone. Share the enthusiasm!!!!

  4. George

    I fly and boat. My airplane that once cost $24,500 is now over $400,000. Avgas was $.30 to $.35 and now is $6.00. Now I’m told that it may not be available after 2017 because it contains lead. Our omnipotent all knowing government continues to destroy what is left of both industries and no one is doing anything about it.

  5. Dan

    George your kind always blames the government everytime something in your rich little world isn’t to your liking. You’re obviously wealthy enough to own your own private plane, as well as a boat, and you have the nerve to blame the government cause avgas is $ 6 a gallon. It’s called a market and it’s that expensive cause rich folks like you are foolish enough to pay it, so look in the mirror if you want someone to blame. You’re in a panic over your ridiculous claim that there won’t be any avgas available in 5 years when Swift fuel, and others, are drop in replacements available right now. So blaiming the government with your self serving hysteria and go back to doing what you do best, thinking only about your self.

  6. Chip

    Nice parallel Norm between recreational pursuits. However the big differences in favor of boating are accessability, the relatively low cost of access (starting with canoes and kayaks or small trailerable aluminum fishing boats), an unending supply of places to boat if you just take the time to look, and even the fun bunch of people boating puts you around. Maybe with the exception of a few knuckleheads at the launch ramp.

    Ah but we’re the choir. I think boatings biggest hurdle is figuring out how to compete against the onslaught of lifestyle changes that have happened in the last dozen years…..from technology to people being pre-occupied 24/7
    with everything going on in their lives at work and at home. It’s truly insane.

  7. dave

    Well to be frank, both flying and boating require some common sense lacking in todays young people. It also requires an attention span longer than a knat.So dont look for that to change.

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