Boating is one of those activities that’s handed down from parents to children, best enjoyed during the long days of summer, when the kids are out of school and mom and dad might have some flexibility at work. Even in year-round boating environments, summer is the time to make the most of the boat, build family bonds and instill a love of the pastime in the next generation.
Of the more than 141 million American s who went boating in 2016, almost half were under the age of 18, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. So parents are getting their children on the water. For boating to thrive, boat owners need to get other children (and adults) involved. Give the kids the OK to bring their friends and then introduce boating to even more people.
The watersports industry recognized the need to get first-timers involved in behind-the-boat activities, and five years ago two prominent professional wakeboarders, Zane Schwenk and Shaun Murray, founded an event called Pass the Handle, which has grown into a bit of a movement. There’s an official Pass the Handle Day, which is July 22 this year, but thanks to social media and the promotional power of the Water Sports Industry Association (wsia.net), Pass the Handle is a year-round effort to put the handle in more hands and plant the bug in more minds. No central structure exists, but groups sponsor events nationwide, and individuals do their part.
Don’t own a “watersports” boat? No worries. A lot of boats, small and quite large, can accommodate basic watersports. I’ve seen videos of people wakeboarding and wakesurfing behind a 63-foot Predator, a 164-foot Westport, an 85-foot Ocean Alexander and others — even a few sailboats. Or, if you use a PWC as a dinghy, that can be a tow vehicle. Heck, beginners don’t need a huge wake with a steep face; they’re not going to be pulling off acrobatic aerial maneuvers anyway. Moving forward without falling will be enough for most newbies. The key is to get people introduced to scooting across the surface of the water, on skis or a board, while holding on tight to a handle.
Who can you pass the handle to on July 22, or anytime this year? When you do, if you post anything to social media, be sure to use #passthehandle.