Yesterday we ran a story about a subject that has been on our minds for some time now, asking the question “What are we doing to attract younger folks to the hobby of classic boating?” And as expected, the response from our viewers was fantastic. If you missed that story and the almost 60 viewer comments – you can see the story by Clicking Here.
We are proud to say that here at Woody Boater we are surrounded by some very knowledgeable people, who clearly understand the hobby, and also some very influential people throughout the classic boating hobby. Our daily viewers come from all over the country and from many different walks of life (both within the hobby and outside the hobby), resulting in a remarkable cross section of viewer comments and insights. But the one common thing that everyone shares is a true passion for their boats and the classic boating hobby.
We carefully read each and every comment, they are all great and we respect everyones point of view on this subject. And we truly appreciate each and every comment. Here are some excerpts from yesterday…
Floyd R. Turbo – “I’d be interested in the stats of who’s in this hobby from a “cold call” perspective. That is, has no youth connection, saw a woodie or show later in life, had little to no exposure to boating in their youth, but made a connection at a show or some other link and got into the hobby at that point and continued attending events.”
Rick – “What is the perception of classic boats? I do think that less static boat shows help. Even a group of classics pulling up to a waterside restaurant filled with people help show that we can have user boats and generates interest.”
Greg Lewandowski – “As we discussed last weekend, the younger 30+ crowd is not at all into our conventional boat shows, or agonizingly original antique and classic boats. To help the cause, our chapter has created a “modified” class so we can judge boats that are substantailly revised from original in design and/or power. They still must be 1976 or older, but maybe we need to give that age requirement some more thought. We are also initiating monthly Tuesday night “runs” on area lakes on just a “show up” basis to get more users to come to a club organized activity. This will be open to non members so anyone can come along.”
“If we want to get noticed by the hot rod and tuner car people, maybe we need to make more of any effort to get to know them. A thought I had this morning was to set up a chapter display at the big Autorama custom car show in Detroit. Take a couple of our real hot rod and race boats in there to let them know that is also part of our hobby. This could also be done at other car shows. It’s probably too late for this year, but we can look into it for 2014.”
RR Gadow – “I dont think there is anything that is attractive about the “lifestyle” of wooden boats fo the 30 and under crowd. I was in my mid 30′s (now 39) when I caught the bug big time…and it was soley on memories of growing up around them and thought it was time to expose my kids to it. Ive been a big advocate of getting the “younger” generation involved.”
Rabbit – “I love the hot rod reference. Very true. Keep it loose. Keep it fun. Uptight old guys talking about correct snaps will not attract 30-year-olds.”
“Now I’ll beat a dead horse, because I’ve made this argument before:”
“Red Wing boots. I’m in advertising like Matt (Cadillac, actually is one of my bigger clients.) Red Wing used to be my client and the CMO and I are still good friends. Red Wing has a heritage line. They’re made exactly, precisely like they were 60, 70 years ago. And they’re made in the USA.$250 a pair and up. They can’t make enough of them. And they’re selling them all to 25-40 year old guys. They appreciate quality, American craftsmanship, tradition. And they have some money to spend.”
“In two weeks here in Minneapolis (St. Paul, actually) there’s going to be an event called Northern Grade. It’s a “pop-up market” with brands like Red Wing and Duluth Pack selling their wares. It’s a mob scene. Wallets wide open. I’d park an affordable, nicely finished user boat there. They’d go nuts for it.”
Jason – “There is simply nothing cooler on the lake then an old woody (and nothing sounds better)! I have to agree, although I enjoy the occasional boat show, I have zero interest in setting in front of my boat and talking about it (plus I have two kids so who need constant entertainment) – I want to be on the lake using it, making memories with my family.”
Slats – “As a 30 year old myself, I speak with knowledge and first hand accounts of what is happening to the future of this hobby. I work on the water 70 hrs a week with mostly college age kids. I think I can say with some certainty what is going on in their minds regarding varnished woodies. Trust me when I say this, a majority of the ones I know would love to be on a woody instead of a plastic boat. When one rolls past us, we all stop and drool at the magnificent drift wood that has floated by. We marvel at the sounds, the lines, the names, the cool burgees, the different shades and colors of stains. The emotional and physical reactions are all positive and borderline on lust.”
“I think that there a few main reasons why you don’t see them (30 year olds) getting as involved as you would like in this hobby. First off is the example set by others in the hobby. By this point I mean more people treat their boats as museum pieces than they do as actual boats.”
Matt & I often get so caught up in the viewer comments, that we don’t take the opportunity to share our thoughts on many of these subjects. But I can tell you that everything we learn from our viewers is carefully filed away in the vault – for future consideration.
For what it’s worth – here’s my perspective on this challenging subject.
In November I attended the Goodguys Southwest Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona. For me it was a good opportunity to spend some time with some long time friends from the car hobby and catch up with the recent trends, hot topics in the custom car hobby, etc.
It was reported that around 2,300 cars were entered for the event, ranging from high end customs to basic “work in progress” street cars, including many original cars as well. Since the late 1970’s I have attended and participated in numerous custom car events, collector car events, cross country collector car rallies, etc. For me, the Goodguys events represent the future of the custom car hobby. They are innovative, and folks of all ages gather together with their pre-1972 cars for these events, many with their families and children – experiencing the huge car culture. The Goodguys Rod & Custom Association currently has around 80,000 members and in 2013 they will stage 19 national events from coast to coast.
Although the cars all have designated parking areas where many people “tailgate” together over the weekend, the Goodguys events are by no means static events. Most of the participants cruise around the show area in their cars, following a designated route throughout the fair grounds. Sounds crazy but it works!
The best part about this is that if you stand along the route, most of the cars eventually come to you, and you get to experience the sound of the engines, the whir of the superchargers and the smiling faces of both the participants and the spectators. There’s never a dull moment at a Goodguys event and that’s why people keep coming back – even in a challenging economy. And if you like any aspect of the car culture, you will find it there.
It’s also common to see the younger folks engaged with the older folks, sharing their knowledge with the next generation. But in the custom car culture, it’s OK to show up with a less than perfect car or a “work in progress” car – It’s more important to show up at the event with your ride, regardless of the look or condition.
I’m not sure that same mentality is reflected with the current boat show formula. Some folks may be intimidated or feel uncomfortable showing up to a boat show with their lower cost “work in progress” boats – so in many cases they don’t. With the current formula, will some of the organizers or participants look down on these “less than perfect” boats at a show?
I remember entering my small unrestored 1957 15′ Lake n’ Sea fiberglass boat in a local boat show a few years ago. My “less than perfect” fiberglass boat was shuffled off to the far end of the dock with a few other outboards. Safe to say it has remained in storage since that weekend, resting in it’s “less than perfect” but all original condition.
This year when I attended the Goodguys event in Arizona, with the classic boat hobby and the question about how to attract the next generation of boaters to the hobby in my mellon – I paid attention to the age groups to learn more. What I observed was the next generation of younger classic car enthusiasts were everywhere. In some cases what they were driving was less than perfect or a work in progress, but they were there parked right next to the show cars. No hood yet – no problem, maybe next year. That’s how it works at Goodguys.
Signs of the next generation of car culture was also very apparent when I stopped in at Bonneville Speedweek in August. Normally I wouldn’t pay much attention to the age thing, but I was trying to learn and to see if I could make any comparisons to the classic boat hobby in terms of how this segment of the car hobby was coping. These guys love old cars, love working on old cars, love restoring and running old school engines and living the lifestyle. And they also love to roar off across the salt together.
– Should there be more emphisis towards attracting the “less than perfect” boats at local classic boating events to encourage younger folks with smaller budgets and “work in progress” boats to attend?
– The idea that Greg Lewandowski had to organize cruise nights during the summer is great. Maybe they could also encourage prospective boat owners or work in progress boat owners to join and to ride along.
– I often wonder if a dealer or boat shop could ever create a program where they located some inexpensive utilities (like U-22’s) and prepared them as safe, entry level user boats that a newcomer to the hobby could purchase without spending a fortune or getting in over his head from the start. Maybe paint the wooden hullsides white to cut down on cost and maintenance… Or install a basic 283 or 327 V-8 for power. The dealer could even offer some form of basic financing for the prospective buyer. Even trade the boat in after a few years to move up a class if desired.
– The key to success may almost be a two-part question. 1. First you find ways to attract the next generation of boaters to the hobby then 2. What should be done to keep them in the hobby. Getting an young, enthusiastic family involved in a 2-year 140,000.00 wooden boat restoration doesn’t work – trust me.
– In today’s world, information on the hobby, clubs, chapters, publications and even events has to be accessible digitally or on line. Even the car hobby has realized how important this is and they are reacting with on line publications and member access.
– These days many car museums are challenged with low attendence, and in some case they are even closing up shop due to low attendence. Many in the car hobby feel this is partially due to the digital age, and many younger people are no longer interested in learning about automotive history unless they can’t see it on line.
– Classic boating event organizers need to find innovative ways to partially escape the static shows and get more active on the water. However, as our friend Don Danenberg said once, boat show spectators need to be able to see and experience the classic boats at the dock (which I agree with Dan on), so it’s a fine balance for the event organizers. As we know, many clubs and chapters are already making the necessary steps in this direction.
I think we can all learn something from other types of clubs and organizations outside the classic boating hobby. Agree? Disagree? Let us know.