We Need More Youth! No, We Need More People – From a Youth Perspective!

Ned and Alex 25 – Sportsman DUCHESS II

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!

Why? Why? Why? -3rd and 4th generation

“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.

Using the boats

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.

Over there!

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.

Wicker Sisters

“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.

Boss in the drivers seat.

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.

Alex and Jordon underway

22 replies
  1. Bob Tipple
    Bob Tipple says:

    Ned, I agree, and if you get the 40~50 year olds they probably have teenagers of even grandkids that will almost automatically be exposed to the hobby as well. Doesn’t mean they’ll be interested, but at least they’ll be exposed on a real time, hands on basis.

    • Ned Protexter
      Ned Protexter says:

      I agree with this. I’m one of seven kid. Out of all seven, I would say 1.75 are interested in the cars and boats. My dad never forced the hobby on any of us and maybe as the others get older they might like it more. I think right now they take it for granted.

      I haven’t heard from anyone wanting to get rid of their boat for a below market price for my brother yet.

  2. mike S
    mike S says:

    I agree with Ned. The 45-55 age group is where the money will be, but the interest has to be cultivated. Without exposure to old wood boats, most people don’t know they exist. Think about the numbers. Chris Craft’s last wood runabout was in ’68 or ’69. As an enamored 10 year-old, standing on the dock, watching it fly by, you were born in ’59. That kid is now 60. What was today’s 50 year old yearning for from that same dock? WoodyBoater is great for exposure except when exposing the latest boat in tow headed back to the ramp with engine trouble. Doubting reliability will influence decisions especially when your wallet allows for only one boat. . People will make up their own minds based on what they like and if they feel it suits their needs. No one likes to feel “targeted”. Take folks for rides and for god’s sake make it back under your own power!

  3. Matt
    Matt says:

    Thanks Mike S. I have always tried to make being towed in and breaking down normal. Part of the fun. Its a reality of age, and in a real interesting zen sort of way. The true spirit of boating back when. Yes its a pain. But if its viewed as fun, then its fun. By the way, 99% of the boats I have towed in are…… YUP… Newer plastic. Why? For many of the same reasons our boats breakdown. Sucking stuff into the water pump, running out of fuel, prop damage are all universal issues.

  4. mike S
    mike S says:

    Matt, I do understand that stuff happens. I’ve both towed and been towed. I just don’t feel that it should be accepted as standard operating procedure. Try to explain that to someone whose car goes 100k miles between tune-ups and has never had the opportunity to appreciate the nuances of points and condensers. We should recognize that problems occur but emphasize that most are preventable. As a restorer I’ve seen plenty and many stem from poor workmanship and/or lack of maintenance and are therefore avoidable. The best recent one was 8, yes 8 electrical butt connectors in an electric fuel pump circuit. 4 on positive and 4 on the negative side over a length of less than 8 ft. And it came from a pro restorer. Hercules engines will run on force of habit. It was really disappointing to read that someone had to be towed multiple times in Florida last week. Would have been a positive if he was towed in, problem solved, and enjoyed the rest of the show.

  5. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    I never thought the hobby could attract young owners…not then not now….sure, Ned is right….but Mr. Tipple has it in perspective…we are looking to expose and introduce…then maybe later when they have some time and $ they keep the hobby going by owning a classic boat that they, like us, remember from their actual youth. Take a kid boating….I WENT BOATING yesterday….saw three pre teen boys having a great time beaching a Boston Whaler..but they waved like crazy when the old guy in the old boat cruised by at 5 knots with the age inappropriate girlfriend. Life is good.
    John in Va home of the final 4 Cavaliers

  6. Richard Daley
    Richard Daley says:

    I think you are completely right about who we should be targeting on the younger demo that 40 to 50 year old who has the financial resources to afford our hobby.
    My first classic boat I owned came at the ripe age of 52 and it was classic glass as well .That led me to take it to an as ACBS boat show were before the show was over I was negotiating on 2 wooden boats, a week later I owned both, and now have a number of others. My point is I was at the right financial point in my life and it was classic glass that got me into wood.
    By the way I did not come from a family background of boating and so had no memory chest to promp my purchases.
    That age demo you speak about will give us our best return.
    Sitting at the cottage this morning watching the ice melt,about the same as watching paint dry but at least I can see boating in the near future.
    All the best and happy boating.

  7. Texx
    Texx says:

    Ned noted in his story today that the ACBS didn’t have a promotional tent/booth space at the Sunnyland event this year. Did the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club have a promotional tent/booth space at Sunnyland this year?

    • Wilson
      Wilson says:

      Yes! . Right by the main sidewalk. The Chris Craft Tent was mannned by the club President and others with plenty of Brass Bells and other materials to give to those who stopped by.

  8. Mike Green
    Mike Green says:

    I didn’t see any ACBS tent but then again the ACBS put on the show. Whether it be a sanctioned ACBS show or like the Hessel show its primarily orginized and put on by ACBS volunteers. You take out the ACBS and most shows would not exist in this country. I agree with the age group of 40 to 55 and that makes up most of my customers. I do have a few younger and older then that so I think that we promote to who ever is interested just like the old days. The Chris Craft Club had a booth at the show because I volunteered there on Friday. Not much traffic though, most of the people were buying t-shirts at the WoodyBoater tent and meeting a bit of a celebrity Matt. There’s something that the ACBS could learn from.

  9. Briant
    Briant says:

    Ned has many good points. I can’t speak for other 30-50 year old people but….this is the first year I did not renew my ACBS membership. I saw no value in blowing $50 for four issues of the Rudder. Yes, it was nice, but not $50 bucks nice. And since getting our boat and joining in 2006, I received zippo for being a member. And I never bothered to join the Columbia Chapter as they always went boating at places my family never goes or could not go to and no other members ever went boating at the lakes and places we boat and vacation at. I only see other wood boat enthusiasts at the once a year local boat show. Overall result….no club membership. And talking of costs…I have all but given up on ever buying a bigger boat or another classic car….my 65 MG is it. $100,000 for a Jag EXE? No way. My point is that grandpas out there want insane money for their old stuff and the younger buyers are not on that page. The younger buyers will look and see grandpa selling a 68 Camaro for $120,000 with crappy brakes, marginal horsepower, a “carburetor”, no Bluetooth infotainment center etc…versus a new Porsche loaded to the gills with electronic trinkets for a hell of a lot less. A triple wood boat? Are ya nuts? I love wood boats but I can see not one good reason to even think about buying one: where would I store it…where would I even use it….too expensive to purchase…etc etc. I’d love to have a two minute conversation with a thirty five year old person who would even bother to ponder buying a $100,000 triple. They’d have to be blotto on peyote…..

  10. Dave Nau
    Dave Nau says:

    There was an ACBS information tent, right across from the ticket tent at the main entrance by the railroad tracks. There were volunteers everywhere. All you had to do was ask for a little help and ask to join. I’m sure they would be falling all over themselves to help you and answer any questions.

    Membership signups today are all done online. Even when you call Stacy or Dan at HQ in Clayton, they just take your info over the phone while logging into the system and entering in that info. When I convince someone to join, I try to get the dues money up front, and then enter their info online myself, so I know it gets done, rather than relying on the new member to do it. Otherwise you could be like the guy at the Sunnyland entrance who was really pushing to get Florida voters to sign a petition, which was kind of obnoxious. Just be positive and respectful of people – all common sense.

    You can’t join a local ACBS chapter without also joining the international ACBS organization. (You CAN do the converse by only joining the international, but why? The ongoing personal fun is in the local chapters.) Federal 501 c(3) rules state you can’t join a local chapter only, without jeopardizing the parent organization’s non-profit status. (AMOCI went through this a few years ago and had to revoke the charter of a local AOMCI chapter for signing up new members, but not having them also join the international parent organization.)

    People join ACBS for lots of different reasons. Marketing and recruiting efforts have to reach different demographics as no one advertisement or marketing campaign will do it, and it’s always ongoing. It’s not easy, and ACBS, like any other company or organization, is always trying new things. I applaud their efforts. A number of those efforts are bearing fruit.

    To learn more about the inner-workings of ACBS, just come to a quarterly board meeting. All members are welcome.
    There was one on Thursday, the day before the Sunnyland show started. There is also the annual meeting every year at the big international show every September, this year in Alexandria Bay, NY. Ask questions at the meeting – I did at this past meeting, and I’m not on the board. All you have to do is register, and that’s just to make sure there are enough chairs in the conference room at whatever hotel it’s taking place at. You can even sign up for breakfast and/or lunch and talk to some board members. Every board member has one or more committee assignments, so have a meal with someone in charge of an area of interest to you. It’s not a secret. You just have to get a little involved. You might even find you would like to be on the board someday, so you have some direct input.

    If you don’t have time to attend, at least read the minutes of the meetings. They are all online at the ACBS website. Just takes a little effort to find out. There is a Town Hall telephone conference call after every quarterly meeting summarizing the meeting so you can hear directly from the president of ACBS (Stan Struble). Many chapters have a member on the ACBS board, so talk to that member, if there is one available. Lots of ways to find out what is going on.

    And if you just want to go boating, that’s OK, too. Just make it positive and fun! And as I always say, when you get down to it, it’s really all about spending a warm day on the water with family and friends.

    • Dennis Mykols
      Dennis Mykols says:

      You know, David makes a great point here. As I read his post, it occurred to me, that while David is NOT on the Board of ACBS, he was doing what an ACBS board member SHOULD BE DOING. Posting regularly on this site, updating readers, giving an insight as to what the ACBS board is thinking, the direction they are going, etc.
      TALK to all the NON-ACBS members who visit this site, whether daily or just some times.
      But I am afraid that would be too much to ask, and/or beneath them, to think they should invest time in reaching out to the biggest daily gathering place of inquisitive classic boaters, because of the love-hate relationship with Woodyboater. I may be wrong, but this is the feeling I get, just my 2 cents, Rant OFF.

  11. Steve Bunda
    Steve Bunda says:

    Now That is funny . Seriously most of my customers fit into a couple of categories. The boat is a family heirloom and being maintained or restored for future generations. Many new wood boat purchases and subsequent restorations are because of one,s bucket list . And finally the new boat owner just wants to be different. Having a lake place helps along with some extra money to invest.
    Most wood boat customers are older with a few exceptions of the smart young man that wants to attract young ladies.

  12. Dan@ACBS
    Dan@ACBS says:

    A few thoughts…

    I think this topic often involves two important items that may not be related, club membership and participation in the hobby. Some people may think participation in the hobby is down because membership in many of the clubs is declining. I don’t know if the correlation exists.

    I was first hired as an executive director in 1995. I joined the American Society of Association Executives and became a very active member in a local chapter. At the time, the main topics of conversation were member benefits, recruitment and retention. Fast forward 25 years and the main topics for associations are member benefits, recruitment and retention.

    Associations are formed primarily for one reason, like minded individuals wanting to share information. When the personal computer and the Internet became widely available in the mid-90s, the association model was instantly in trouble.

    Today, I think a successful association model is focused on connecting people. Think about the friends, some life long, you have made through one or more of the clubs.

    What if the clubs did not exist? Who would you boat with? Who would you call for help on your project? Would you have gone to Port Huron, MI last September and enjoyed a truly memorable experience?

    It takes resources, people and money, to operate these clubs and provide the opportunities for people to get together both online and in-person.

    In my area, the local NPR station is in the middle of their annual fundraising campaign. One of the questions they ask often during their fundraising campaign is, “do you enjoy our programming?” Followed by, “if so, please consider making a donation so we can continue to provide the programming you enjoy so much”.

    If you enjoy connecting with people who share your passion for classic boating through boat shows, cruises, social events, workshops, and more, please think of your dues as a contribution to support the club’s efforts to provide great programming.

  13. Maury Debell
    Maury Debell says:

    I think there are young people who enjoy working with wood and one of the coolest things that can be made out of wood are boats. Starting with models then to outboards, restoring or new and on to inboards if the interest persist. That’s how I started.
    Triple cockpits, I have no desire to own one, I enjoy the smaller boats that are faster planning, more nimble, and lower freeboard a better feel of the water.

  14. Dean
    Dean says:

    Heck I spent $53 at Buffalo Wild Wings tonight for 3 beers and wings for 2. I don’t have any problem justifying $50 + 2o + 25 in dues to the ACBS and a couple of chapters to support a hobby that I love, even if I got nothing out of it personally. Haggerty savings and The Rudder are just iceing on the cake. Same goes for CCABC.

  15. Royce Humphreys
    Royce Humphreys says:

    I think we all have many good points here. The best point one can make for recruitment for young, is to simply get them out on your boat and take them for a ride! Take time to talk ‘with” them and not “at” them. Engage them and ask them questions. Take them to your shop and show them what you are working on. If they are interested, teach them something simple and build from there.
    Something tells me that we are beginning to understand that woodworking and shop classes were pretty important. I grew up in an era of fathers having work benches in the basement or garages. Learning to use tools in a somewhat safe manner. That may not be the norm today, but I know of a lot “Neds” in the world who are learning from parents and people who mentor!
    Great topic to build upon for the future of our hobby!

    • Chris
      Chris says:

      I agree completely! My husband and I have been in wood boats before our children were born, and they have a blast when we are out in the water! They are educated on all aspects of how to maintain, drive and even build a boat from scratch. This creates an empowered child that will take these skills to the next generation.

  16. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    I also thought the post by Mike Green was funny when he said, “… Not much traffic though, most of the people were buying t-shirts at the WoodyBoater tent and meeting a bit of a celebrity Matt. There’s something that the ACBS could learn from.”

    So many Woodboater shirts and hats, people were wearing, ACBS wearables, not so much, other than the SUNNYLAND stuff. But pure A.C.B.S. stuff???

  17. John
    John says:

    I completely agree this with this post. I shared my perspective as a Lyman owner in the comments for yesterday’s post, but after reading this, it occurs to me that the abundance of youth in the Lyman clubs and community may have something to do with the fact that unlike the six figure triple cockpits, Lyman’s are plentiful, affordable and relatively easy to restore.

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