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A Focus on Youth at the 2012 New York Boat Show

February 1, 2012

A Focus on Youth at the 2012 New York Boat Show


Visitors and Exhibitors agreed that this years Boat Show attendance was "up"

What’s your reason for attending a boat show? Are you looking for some hands-on time with the latest marine electronics? Planning a purchase with the help of a boat show price? Seeking your off-season fiberglass “fix”? Looking to introduce boating to a family member of friend? Whatever your reasons, for a boater, boat shows always deliver.

In addition to providing a place for all of the above, boat shows are a kind of barometer for society’s interest in boating. Five years ago, before the recession, boat shows up and down the coasts were packed with buyers and boating aficionados. Three years ago you could have thrown a bowling ball down the isles of the New York show without fear of injuring

Small vessels and personal watercraft were all the rage at the 2012 show

anyone. Things were better last year. NFTB attended the 2012 New York show primarily to measure the pulse of the industry. We visited during the show’s closing hours, and spoke with as many vendors as possible about their impressions of the current state of boating.

The accompanying photos provide a taste of the show. The usual players were in attendance, except that the one or two sailboat manufacturers that have steadfastly made it to New York in January were no-shows this year. This was a year for small powerboats (19-15 feet), personal watercraft, and those businesses that supply products to this market.

Several retailers told me they sold no boats two years ago, and one or two at last year’s New York show. This year was different, as several sellers sold between ten and fifteen boats costing between $15,000 and $50,000. The retailers’ reports were confirmed by the finance

Matt Bartosh, President of Offshore Financial, was upbeat about boating's future

companies activity attending the show. According to Matt Bartosh, President of Offshore Financial (, “We’re financing boats costing under $100,000 and over $700,000. That’s the market. The buyer in-between, who five years ago financed a larger boat with a second mortgage, or with money from a rising stock market portfolio, are not here.” And it showed. The boats manufacturers were showing are the boats people can afford to buy.

The crowd this year was significantly greater than last year, which was better than the year before. Attendance was, in part, helped by great weather. Large boat manufacturers were nowhere to be seen, and the show’s size was noticeably smaller than in the past, taking up just a corner of one floor at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

The cornerstones of previous shows, like Mack Boring, West Marine, Winslow Liferaft, and the major navionic manufacturers, took their usual places and did not disappoint.

This year’s show was encouraging because the crowd was younger…much younger than I

A sampling of what drew the younger crowd to the 2012 New York Boat Show

am used to seeing at this venue. The smallest children crawled over and through runabouts and small speedboats. Moms and dads stood watch as toddlers screamed atop personal watercraft. The infusion of youth was enough to give this experienced boater hope for boating’s future. Steven Gronka, Fearless Leader of Advance America Foundation/Sea Quest Kids was taking full advantage of both old and young by educating visitors about the Sea Quest Kids charity ( This group, founded by Steve and operating throughout America, brings small groups of kids together to build and sail their own small wooden boats. According to Steve, there is ‘…no better way to develop tomorrow’s engineers than to get a few kids together and have them build a boat.” The emphasis on kids and boating, and the overwhelming presence of boats that young families could afford, was a palpable difference compared with prior shows. Quite frankly, if it takes big green blow-up dolls and canary yellow speedboats to bring kids to boating, then bring them on!

Steve Gronka of Sea Quest Kids explaining the work of his charity to benefit kids and encourage their participation in boating

Surprisingly, nearly every vendor I met was cautiously upbeat about the future. The sentiment of manufacturers, retailers, and attendees was perhaps best summed up by Jim Rellar, a middle aged boater from Eastern Long Island who told me “This year is better for

This pocket cruise was packed with amenities designed to please a young family

sure, but we’re not there yet.” In our humble opinion boating is successfully evolving and adapting to changing times. The desire to get “out there” is alive and well, as evidenced by the faces of boating’s next generation. We, who have long loved being on the water, stand ready to assist the next wave of boaters…any way we can.

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