By Gary W. Druckenmiller, Jr., co-founder, TheOpenSea.com -- Like most of us, I’ve been boating for years. I started as a kid sailing daysailers, then got my license and began bombing around the bay in my Dad’s bow-rider. As I got bigger, so did the boats. In the early 90’s, my family moved up to a larger cabin cruiser and that became the centerpiece of family water travel for years to come. Trips to Shelter Island, Montauk, cross-sound to the Connecticut River. Suddenly, nothing was out of bounds, and I was always driving.
I was fortunate to have grown up on the water, particularly during the summer. I was also fortunate to have some sort of sail and power boat literally either feet or yards away from me for most of my young adult life. It was in my blood. It was a done deal. There are many, however, who do not have this luxury … many of whom see boating and being on a boat regularly as reachable as the stars. But that doesn’t mean that boating can not and more appropriately should not be a part of their life. And moreover, they should have more opportunity made available to them, especially those who are farthest from achieving it. In other words, you don’t need to grow up boating to get into boating.
Boating is a lifelong sport. Like tennis, golf, skiing … boating carries with it a surreal quality that generates at the time of adolescence and stays with us for a lifetime. It’s that profound of an adventure. So in a period of relative despair in a timid luxury market, we must be thinking more long term … and I mean real long term. Not years, but decades. And in that span I vote that we look to our youth to help us rebuild this once mighty industry and carry the torch for generations to come. In doing so, more emphasis needs to be levied against drawing attraction to boating at a young age during the time of adolescence and getting those who love the sea hooked early so they become lifetime boaters and not situational boaters. We all know there is a difference. No, this is not some hyped-up ploy to manipulate our youth. More so, it’s a calling … a flat-out mission of the utmost sacrifice to help reinvigorate boating interest at a time when that interest is most pure. Most precious. Most eye-opening.
Here is what I hope to see over the coming years. I look to marine businesses, both local and national, to establish a movement the sole intention of which is to garner interest in youth boating. And there are a number of ways to succeed at this. Be religious about supporting local youth groups who partake in sailing races, crewing, youth power squadrons, licensing programs, safety programs, etc. Get involved and help drive interest at every conceivable fashion imaginable. And driving that interest can happen online as well as off. The majority of today’s youth “lives” online in one form or another using some of the more advanced digital tools out there. Build a Facebook Fan Page to raise money for a sponsored youth marine event, throw up some YouTube videos aimed at teens that they can share virally, launch a group on TheOpenSea.com and invite local boating junkies to chat live online with their peers. They’re there already. Every day we wait is one more day we lose at launching the next great genesis of boaters. Ya know, the ones who will eventually buy your products
As the old cigarette makers used to say … “get ‘em while they’re young.” And although that phrase carries with it a completely different meaning in this conversation, the mindset is similar. Boating is an addiction once you get into it. And once you get into it (particularly as a child) it’s hard to give it up. And if life forces you to give it up … in time ... the boating dependence will bring you back. We all know this to be true.
The sea calls all of us home eventually, and nothing sparks as much curiosity and questions as the vastness and unassuming nature of the open water. It is exactly that type of colloquial essence that draws the attention of every child on their first day at the beach, their first leap into a lake … their first gaze across a never-ending ocean. And several thousand yards from every grain of sand, four homes down from the last dock … is a boat, a gleaming example of the freedom and adventure that every child and young adult seeks, but in today’s day and age so rarely finds.