If I Hear One More Time The Hobby Needs More Young People I Am Going To Scream!

What? AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, yup someone said it again. It seems to be the ongoing banter amongst many. To be honest, I don’t see why anyone under 30 would want to go to a show unless dragged by Grandad. Hey wait, you might be getting all pissed at me now. Trust me, I get it and know this. But lets be honest with ourselves. What memory does a 25 year old have about our boats? NOTHING!

Syd as a kyd! Syd has some amazing memories. Okay okay and his daughter.  Maybe Syd is a bad example. Or good example!

3 Katelyn Marsden and her Dad Syd are damp and in he pink


Okay, okay, here is the deal. YES, there are younger folks out there into classic boating. But for entirely different reasons that older folks are into it. And guess what, ya gotta live on the water to even want this. Its simple really. Time will heal all and there is very little that can be done by us.

Remember this mess? Well turns out its wonderful thing for the town. Tourism is way way up and folks are fighting over the copyright of the messed up art. Yup. Time changes how we see stuff. That train wreck on the right is art now and seen by more people than the original was on the left. Its a resto mod painting?

The simple truth is it has to be cool to a group that has no memory of it. Like any of us have a passion for carriages? What, you don’t give a crap about certain carriages? WHHHAAAAT? Sure there are geek groups and I am sure people that dress up in costumes and so on.

The Ramsey Bros are young, get it, and are killing it up in Toledo. The coolest kids on the Classic Boat block!

Now, look at the Vintage beach races going on in New Jersey at Wildwood? Or the plethora of Vintage sports cars showing up for Coffee and Cars. That sort of Instagram stuff. THIS IS FASHION NOW. Not a memory. It has to be cool, visually cool, and sold though emotion. Not bottom jobs and technical crap. It’s just cool. And even saying “it’s cool”, makes it NOT cool. So sorry. I just made a trickle of coolness not cool.



Get on Instagram. Take photos of younger people, hip people riding around in your boat. DO NOT SHOW YOUR FAT BALDNESS!  Or shots of those huge over sunglasses.

Sam likes her Woody Boater Hat!

Imagine it’s a party of your kids, do they really want you there? NO FRIEKEN WAY. Here is the rule. If you are over 35. You are not invited. Period. You are there to keep it running and pay the bills. Loan them the boat and say have fun. Make sure you are stocked up on sand paper and varnish. Stay out of the cool stuff. You had your chance when you were 30.

Okay, my rant is over now, just post cool photos on Instagram. That’s it. They will find you. They have this thing called the internet that they all know how to use.

Just get out there!

43 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Insta What? Is that like a new king of pointless ignition?

    Matt, I know you are right regarding the younger folks, but all many of us old varnish heads can do is welcome them to our world, if they show an interest, and give them a boat ride to maybe create that interest. I will do my best!

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Agree, now all you need is a big fun event to invite them too. You should work on that Greg!

      • Greg Lewandowski
        Greg Lewandowski says:

        Boat rides are just one of the many fun activities that the younger generation can enjoy at Boat the Blue. Check it all out with the banner on the left side of WoodyBoater. Make your plans NOW. There, is that an Instagram, or what!

        • Brian
          Brian says:

          Agreed. The hobby places too much emphasis on a near impossible goal. It’s akin to saying we need more 20-somethings to buy vacation homes or to take up travel. They’re busy getting established in life with jobs, kids, down payments on homes, a first new car, etc. Don’t worry, they know the classics are cool and some will aspire to own and maintain one – someday. Let’s start a program to get more 50-somethings into wood boats. They have the time and the means. That’s where your market growth is.

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    I will say, you will never attract a young crowd to boat shows with static displays and judging based on factory original standards. Restomods and boats being used will get WAY more attention.

  3. Bob Kays
    Bob Kays says:

    A big chunk of my followers on Instagram are young people and Europeans. Wakeboard kids seem to love wood boats. Maybe one day these 20 somethings will be wood boat buyers!

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      Speaking of Bob Kays photos, today is flip your Hapotcong calendar day!

      Oh, and the hobby needs more young people.

  4. Tparsons56
    Tparsons56 says:

    My three daughters, all in their twenties, love riding in the classic boats as long as they don’t have to do any of the maintenance. That is ok with me, however, as at my age I enjoy “puttering” on the boat. As a matter of fact I have been up since 7 washing the Fay and Bowen and getting ready to launch her while everyone else in the house (even the dog) are still asleep!

    • Sunday Funday
      Sunday Funday says:

      Shouldn’t the statement be “The hobby needs more people” ? I agree that young people like the Ramsey Bros are the Holy Grail, but to say that the only way the hobby can survive is with young people is wrong. I am 50 and just getting in to the woody boat hobby. I’ve boated for 30 years in the go fast world. My current boat tops out at 65 mph, has a bed, a flush toilet, microwave and fridge. Wood boats didn’t fit for me. Now I’m ready for a different style of boat and boating.
      I figure this hobby has me for 20 -30 yrs. I hope I’m welcome as “new” even if I’m not young!

      • Dennis Mykols
        Dennis Mykols says:

        That’s a great story. I to was into go-fast boats and just bought an 18 Donzi in the Fall of 2009. Then I was cruizin on Torch Lake, and out of the Clam River came a u-22 Chris. I knew right then I wanted a change in may boating style. The next Spring I bought my HackerCraft Gentleman Racer.
        Ok, I was still in a “Go Fast mode, but doing it in “STYLE”. Been a CLassic boater now for the past 9 years.

        • Sunday Funday
          Sunday Funday says:

          You are living my dream. That is my “someday” boat and I just hope someday is soon. My Go Fast friends and I would agree that you are doing it in style!

      • Troy in ANE
        Troy in ANE says:

        Sunday Funday has hit the nail on the head as far as I am concerned! I did the exact same thing he is. Even though I grew up with wood boats and have been around them all my life I was not involved in this side of the hobby until after my 50th birthday.

        FYI: Sam is also willing to get her hands dirty.

  5. Rabbit
    Rabbit says:

    First: The hobby needs more young people.

    Second: When young people do join the hobby they’re cool. Case in point a guy in ours BSLOL here in Minnesota named Kevin Fitzke. Kevin is in has late 20’s or early 30’s and he makes insanely cool wood paddle boards called Bootleggers. The name comes from The rum runners. I learned about him after a story here on Woodyboater that made me think “Damn, I gotta meet this guy.” He recently left his job with an advertising/marketing agency to go all in on his paddle board to go all in his paddle board production. If Gar Wood or John Hacker were born today they be making these things. His paddle boards are so cool that they were featured in Vanity Fair magazine’s holiday gift guide next to the Chanel and Burberry luxo goods. I visited Kevin in his brand new shop the week before last. Besides the Bootleggers he’s entering the homestretch on his gentleman’s racer built from Hacker plans, to be powered by a hot rod 283 that he built up. Everything about Kevin’s shop and operation is cool: his website, his logo/identity, his posters, his t-Shirts, even his laser-cut wood business cards. Kevin’s father was a cabinet maker so he grew up in a wood shop, so that helps. But he didn’t grow up with our boats; he just thinks they’re cool.

    I’ll add that when I visited Kevin I brought him a trunk full of a collection of Classic Boating, Brass Bell, Rudder and The Boathouse (BSLOL) magazines. They were bequeathed to me by the restorer Sherwood Heggen several years ago. And while I had poured over them and had space to store them, I felt compelled to pass them on to the next generation. (Not surprisingly, Kevin already had a collection of Motor Boating magazines from the 20’s and 30’s that he had been buying up on EBay.)

    I’m 59 and I feel young in this hobby. We need more Kevins!


  6. Rabbit
    Rabbit says:

    Sorry for all the typos. And I’ll add that, of course, Kevin has a cool Instagram account at Fitzkeboards.

  7. Rob
    Rob says:

    When ‘youngish’ in the late ’70’s, I wanted to get into a cruiser. Glass was well established and all the rage and expensive. Used wood cruisers were plentiful and becoming, relatively, very cheap. So I chose wood, and forty years later I am still there. However, if I was ‘youngish’ now, I could by a used glass cruiser in decent condition for a very low price, get insurance without aggravation, and find that every marina would accept the boat. The itty-bitty wood boats on trailers we see most of the time on this site are likely to survive, but I am less hopeful for our bigger boats.

  8. Sean in Canada.
    Sean in Canada. says:

    People of all ages like Wooden Boats. The next generation of Wooden Boat Owners will get here when the time is right for them. Till then, take them for a ride and let them share in the fun!

  9. Russ Sticha
    Russ Sticha says:

    My kids have been involved for years. We just try and give other young people exposure to this wonderful hobby!

  10. Mahoganymadness
    Mahoganymadness says:

    Ok how about this way of thinking…we need more 50 and under people to be involved…and not just restoring a 1984 Seay ray!!!!

  11. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    I am proud to say all of my Grandkids are into boating and love to be in my Classics. Yesterday four of my grandkids were out on my 1984 Boston Whaler all day.
    We start then young in the Mykols Clan

  12. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    I want to thank Hagerty Insurance for their Youth Judging Program. I have lead the kids around the docks at the Boats on the Boardwalk and SPring Lake Shows for the past three years. I think had around 45 kids over that period. I always try to provide a good mix of boat models and secretly educate then by pointing out features and differences.
    Hagerty also provides the same type of Youth Judging kits to Classic Car shows. Hats off to them for supporting our hobby.
    I only hope we cultivate a desire in some of these kids to strive to be good students and someday be a Classic boat owner.

  13. Briant
    Briant says:

    Well for starters, I agree with M-Fine….the hobby needs more younger people. The other main thing I see all of the time, and I will no doubt offend many, is that when a younger member or interested party makes any sort of suggestion to the old guard, the response is always, “well, we have always done it this way, so we will continue to do it this way.” So thanks for your worthless suggestion.

    I gave up long ago with our local chapter. The main get together event was over nine hours away by car, because they had always done it. When I made the suggestion that perhaps they try to organize something similar much closer to home in addition to the existing event, every excuse was used to say no. At that time, there was no way in Hades that I was going to be able to have my wife and two young kids sit for a nine hour ride to the lake event. We never went and I was 45 at the time.

    And now this year with our local major show, instead of charging the normal $10 to show your boat or classic car, the boat fee is $60 (cars are still $10)….which includes an awards dinner for one. Don’t make changes to make more folks want to attend…let’s just raise the fee to force folks into going.

    And why would I want to not bother with the awards dinner? Why would I want to see the same four old guys win the same awards every year? We have one of the oldest boats in the town, perhaps even the one with the longest uninterrupted time on the lake (1930-1998) and we have never once won an award. It is not perfect, but many people in the community know the boat and have many fond memories with the previous/original owner. I don’t need to win…gave up years ago even hoping, but again, why sit thru a dinner watching a repeat of the last eight years?

    I merely go to the shows, talk to people, and give many rides. And when my kids were a bit younger, I did stuff like invite their entire classroom fellow students down to the river front on the last day of school for rides in a celebration of the start of summer….but in reality, I wanted to plant the seed of buying a wood boat. I can only hope that amid those shreaks and screams that one or two went home to beg dad to buy one…or maybe they will when they grow up.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Boy, that truth hit the mark and sadly is not a rare case. But, some areas are trying. So I suppose its a chapter by chapter deal. The thing is the ACBS is the best set up for events. But they are usually boring affairs. Sorry. And participation is about parking and talking. Where as the race of gentlemen in New Jersey is a huge fun event. So are Coffee and Cars events on Sunday mornings. Pick a marina or resturant and do a Coffee and boats thing. We are going to try that here in Reedville at Leadbellys. Lunch though, sadly no one here does breakfast on the water which would be a major game changer

  14. Sean
    Sean says:

    How many gearheads are into original unmodified model T’s? Right. Young people already like classic boats but, not necessarily your 35mph wood types… they seem to like wood boats, but prefer boats more like Donzi, Sidewinder, J-Craft, Hydrodyne, Baja, Bertram, Biesmeyer, Formula, Pantera as well as plenty of others that our crowd has only a vague recognition of. Find something fast, with good lines and the new people are “in” no matter the construction. Oh, and it’s probably better if it IS modified because the new generation is about standing out and being different, rather than having the same identical boat as the other 100 point restoration beside them. It has to be fun. Just say’n…

  15. thomas d
    thomas d says:

    Wood wasn’t a hobby when i started 45+ years ago, they were either dirt cheap or free. I don’t see the “young people” of today wanting or caring about wood boats, the ones that do are few and far between. Like yesterday and everyday before and after, pontoons and glass boats full of “young people” go by my pier and every one of them has their phones stuck in front of their face instead of enjoying the lake. If it aint crazy painted go fast fiberglass, loaded with all the latest computer generated gadgets, blasting filthy rap music around here they aren’t interested. better off trying to get more of the older generation interested. By the way, does W/B give senior discounts?

  16. charley quimby
    charley quimby says:

    Most younger people I have met lately cannot function without being glued to a device. Attention span is short. Producing and maintaining something of value (intrinsic and monetary) requires time, physical effort, and hands-on skill. Too many want instant results with little effort, or it’s on to the next thing. I did say most. Yes, there are a few who stand out, but they are in the minority… CQ

  17. Mike D
    Mike D says:

    I bought a pattern CC runabout 25 years ago as a long term project while I sailed my wooden folk boat. 15 years ago my son bought and repaired a Century but had to put his project on hold while boys 1-4 came along. The project is still on hold while he raises the kids for another 11 years. Perhaps he will finally finish it before he turns 55. In the meantime I need to find someone to buy my two CCs and two sailboats. Not sure how that is going to go. My sons friends are all working hard to raise their families, let alone buy that nice cottage on the water with a boat house (or suitable pier).
    I think the cottage/boathouse is a big key to getting the next generation interested in wooden boats. The convenience of walking 50 feet to a boat is so much better than towing-launching-boating for a couple hours-then towing back home. Not many youngsters have the kind of money for the cottage-boathouse-boat lifestyle.
    Look at Matt’s situation with an outstanding pier out the backdoor. I don’t want to get political so just look at the demographics of our country now versus 50-60 years ago. Fewer well-off people means fewer boat buyers which means a small pool who would be interested in the trials and tribulations of a wooden boat older than their parents.
    But I agree with Matt…the subject can get tiring. Instead get out and boat, think positive, and with some luck we will have a generation of kids anxious to buy our wooden boats.

  18. jim g
    jim g says:

    Need more young people. My sister and my 2 nephews at the 1st or 2nd Lake Hartwell Boat Show.

  19. Mike
    Mike says:

    I think this is a great topic to discuss and hopefully my ‘young for the hobby’ viewpoint can help with guidance. Some previous comments certainly have a young vs old sound to them which will never help boost attendance at shows or attract more newcomers to the hobby. We need to get over how ‘young people’ use technologies. The tools are available and our lives are more seamlessly integrating with tech. Age aside, new tech allows for far reaching digital medias, applications, and connectivity like we’ve never seen. These things are all great for the hobby and are ways to get more people involved than ever before.

    For those of you that comment on restorations in the 70s, 80s, or 90s wouldn’t it have been helpful to be able to connect with other folks like you during the restoration? When my wife and I restored Miss K, we pulled out all the stops to find the tools and resources we needed. How hard would it have been to find the Century gurus at A+A marine without email/web? Or the wonderful reference info on the Century Club website? Or look at boats for inspiration on Woodyboater every day? Would we have ever completed a restoration in the short time that we did without access to all of these tools and great people through tech?

    I think enrollment issues in the hobby points back to this group and those passing information along. Young or old, if you’ve been part of of a restoration or even bought a new woody, you owe the next guy or gal the experiential learning you’ve gained in the process. I’m not sure it’s always financial limitations or some of the scary over generalization comments about lack of hands on skills as many of you have mentioned It’s more a shortage of guidance and encouragement from those that have done it before.

    Woody boating is universal. I’ve never had a passenger that didn’t love it and for many of those that do, they also have some of the requirements to get in the hobby. I provide the encouragement and hopefully it’s enough to win over the prospect and steer them from buying the convenient fiberglass boat, car hop ups, or motorcycles. A little persistence helps too.

  20. Kevin F
    Kevin F says:

    My kids grew up on our U-22 from 6 mos old. My son in now 21 and still loves the boat and wood. However, he is a young man, and he wants to go out with a boat load of friends, go fast, jump wakes, jump off the bow, and not worry about breaking a plank or damaging the boat. So he LOVES to go out on my friends new 25ft Chris Craft and go 50 mph, not worry about big waves and getting soaked. For him, there will always be a wood boat in his life if I pass mine to him (which I will). But, I can see that he will have a low maintenance fiberglass boat as the primary boat.

    I do know there is a generational aspect about how we grew up with mostly “hands on”, vs “thumbs on” for many young people. All this comes into play as one factor among many.

    Boats shows? Many of my friends find our local show to be boring as well, and many do not attend anymore. Energy! That is needed.

    I think exposure is key; often and in many ways. Education about how easy they are to maintain and buy is something I share often and surprises many people.

    Maybe the hobby will wane for a years, and then become retro cool in 20 years when the younger people have the time and money for boating again after their lives are established.

    Btw, I bought my boat at 29 and was the youngest person at any meet. I am now 55, and I am still one of the younger people in the hobby. In the next ten years, many boats are going to come on the market, perhaps that will be a buying opportunity for the younger group (including 55 year olds) 🙂

    In the meantime, get groups together and cruise 5-15 boats at a time and go to places were people congregate, such as city docks or restaurants. Create buzz. One never knows when something will stick and 10 years from now a person will buy a woody because he/she saw it when you were cruising around.

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