Fellow Woody Boater Ned Protexter sent us in a rebuttal to yesterdays story on young people. YES! We got a story I didnt have to write, and possibly a thing going here. I also agree with his rebuttal. Hell I agree with most anything if it helps and is fun. Here we go!
“Ohh no, not again, I’m sick and tired of hearing about how we need young people.” Hey, me too but the truth is we do, but let me ask a question. Are we going after the wrong “young people?” I think most people think the young people we need to attract to the hobby are in the age range of 15 to 30 years old. While I agree and would never say we shouldn’t be trying to get that age group interested and involved, I think the “youth” we need to be putting resources towards are the 45 to 55 age group.
The fact of the matter is that wood boats and boating in general takes money and resources that younger people in that 15 to 30 year old age range don’t have. Young people in that age range aren’t buying newer boats much less old wood boats. I have thought for a long time to effectively participate in wood boats especially with an original style bottom, that boat needs to be on a lift which on our lake, requires either a $6000 a year slip lease or for you to have a house on the lake which on Lake Okoboji, Iowa start at $500,000 and quickly go up from there. That leaves you with either a grandparent or parent having a house on the lake unless you are extremely successful at that age.
Our club on the lake is somewhat of an anomaly. 3 of the 4 officers are 30 or under. We have about 10 guys 35 years old or younger with quite an impressive list of boats owned by us ranging from an Aristocraft to a 25 foot Sportsman, 19 foot Barrelback, a Rocket, and some ‘60’s Centurys. We are also looking for an 18 to 22 foot boat for my 18 year old brother so here is a shameless plug for picking up a U22 priced way under the market that will be well cared for and get used by a youth. The common denominator with all of the young guys in our club is that they grew up around wood boats and their family has a place on the lake.
“So Ned, if you’re telling me we are wasting our time going after the random 20 year old on the street, what should we do?” Did some 50 year old guy buy the cabin next door to you? Invite him to go out for a ride and make it more about the experience and having fun, not “this is a wood boat and they made 14 of these with this interior color and engine combination” for the average person, nobody cares but you could mention that if he enjoys these, old Doc Johnson is selling his Resorter. There are going to be a lot of 45 to 55 year old people buying up houses on lakes as boomers become too old to maintain two homes. Let’s go after these guys who have some cash to throw at hobbies.
Is the ACBS in trouble? Maybe. Personally, I am only a member because our local club highly encourages it and the discount I get for being a member from Hagerty pays for the membership. I saw way more Woodyboater shirts at Lake Dora than I did ACBS shirts. Maybe I missed it but I didn’t see an ACBS tent at the show. I would venture to say that there were a lot of people there who were at the show and are not members and could have benefited from talking with someone from the ACBS about its benefits. To me it is a shame to pass up all those warm leads. If they were there, I apologize.
Should the ACBS continue to spend limited resources going after the 20 year old kid who is half way through collage and going to have student loans equivalent to a mortgage payment, a car payment, and rent due on the 1st and is barely scraping by? No. Let’s face it, this hobby can throw you a several thousand dollar problem at any time. Should the ACBS go after guys who already have boats or are coming to boat shows that don’t have a boat yet? Absolutely.
In conclusion, if guys think all of these 6 figure triple cockpit boats are going to be bought by 15 to 30 year old’s for six figures, you’re completely wrong. Even the young people like myself who are into this hobby already can’t afford something like that. Youth in the hobby are great, we just need to go about it the right way. Invite the younger guys to go for rides and if they show interest, invite them over to help with a project. This isn’t rocket science. If you force the younger generation into something faster than they want to move, they will resist. If we really want to increase membership in not only the ACBS and just people in the hobby in general, the focus really needs to be on guys in their 40’s and 50’s.