It may have been post-Sept. 11 stay-at-home syndrome or it may have been the industry’s promotional campaigns, but for some reason a lot more people went boating last year than in 2001.
The annual sports participation survey compiled by the National Sporting Goods Association shows 26.6 million people participated in powerboating in 2002.
That represents an 11.4-percent increase over the 2001 figure of 23.9 million. Not only is that a steep increase, but it breaks a five-year cycle of declines in powerboating participation from its 1996 peak.
The NSGA survey counts people 7 or older who participated in a particular activity more than once during the year.
NSGA spokesman Larry Weindruch said he could not explain the steep increase in powerboating, but speculated it might have been a result of the time-with-family trend that emerged after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Jim Petru, statistics manager for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, welcomed the numbers but he, too, was at a loss to explain them. "It comes at a time when everything else has been down," he said, pointing out that boat sales have been in a two-year slump.
Powerboating participation began to slip after its 1996 peak of 28.8 million people. It slipped to 27.2 million in 1997, 25.7 in 1998, 24.4 million in 1999 and 24.2 million in 2000.
Among other water sports tracked by NSGA, fishing participation declined slightly, although it remained in the top five among all sports, with 44.2 million participants. That figure represents a 0.5-percent decrease from 2001.
Water skiing was up 18.4 percent with 6.9 million participants, and canoeing up 11. 5 percent with 7.6 million.