The sound of the waves crashing against the hull. The wind in your hair and the mist in your face. Your parent or sibling nestled beside you. These are the pleasant senses that come to mind when remembering your earliest boat rides. For families who do not have regular boat access, one organization is providing an opportunity to experience these memories.
ChooseBoating is a non-profit organization geared towards getting children and teens on the water for the first time. Their purpose is to promote the lifestyle by encouraging current boaters to introduce young people to boating in an informal setting. Boaters can take children, teens and their families on the water in increments of the boater’s choosing – be it a half hour or a half day.
The campaign, spearheaded by Anna Islamova, CEO of Moreboats.com, and Matt Howard, a broker with United Yacht Sales, hopes to invigorate the boating community through a grassroots effort. They saw isolated events similar to what they are doing with ChooseBoating but wanted to develop a unified initiative for the whole industry.
“I believe right now we could actually step in and take a stand for the industry state and say ‘Yes, boating is declining, less and less young people are participating, but we as a community can change it,’” said Islamova.
Islamova and Howard began by approaching companies to discuss the campaign, what it entails, how they can participate and the benefits it brings their businesses. They have already seen significant positive feedback and involvement with the campaign, continuing to implement ChooseBoating in diverse regions. Their initial plan was to keep the campaign a summer project, with the goal of getting 100 kids on the water, but now they aim to extend their efforts throughout the year. They also plan to reach out to kids’ clubs, such as the Boy Scouts of America, for potential larger outings.
“This just seemed to be a great way to try to energize the effort to get younger people out on boats,” said Howard. “Current boaters can champion the effort on behalf of those that haven’t been out on the water yet. I think that’s where the real inertia will continue on this effort.”
Boating changed ChooseBoating founders’ lives
Both Islamova and Howard are passionate about the mission of ChooseBoating because they had experiences boating as young people that they say were crucial to the formulation of their adult lives.
Islamova began sailing at 14, which she says changed her life in a positive way and helped her find herself. She believes the huge boost of confidence she gained through boating is achievable for all teenagers, as well as invigorating their want for independence and discovering the world.
“Boating is one of the aspects that can actually develop not only your confidence, but also the strength and ability to deal with everyday problems. You have that magic outlet that you can go on the water and experience a whole different world out there,” said Islamova. “That’s what was magic for me and I wanted to share it with other kids as well.”
Howard was exposed to boating at a very young age, as his father was an avid boater of all varieties. He calls the enjoyment of boating an “agnostic thing.” In other words, the type of boat you use doesn’t matter – powerboat, sailboat, PWC, etc. – the water is the point and where the magic is found.
“I believe in my heart of hearts that time spent with friends and family on the water – whatever the type of boat – is the highest quality recreational time they can have together because of all the things that boating represents that you can’t necessarily get when you’re on land or when you’re stuck in a house,” said Howard. “It’s a very different venue.”
Howard finds that boating is unique because of the freedom it includes, but with that freedom comes responsibility. Calling it a “life skills laboratory,” he believes boating as a child instills a lifelong sense of leadership, teamwork, accountability and responsibility.
“I can trace, in many of those instances, specific items back in my childhood as a boater that were, I think, really intrinsic in the development of those skills,” said Howard. “That’s a piece that will stay with people the rest of their lives.”
The smiles make the difference
The ChooseBoating team has already seen the magic in these kids, having taken 10 out of the 100 children they aim to reach this summer on boats already. Islamova notices how siblings come together and bond well on a boat, with little arguing or disagreements.
“It’s interesting how they find a way to bond, enjoy the water and share things right away,” said Islamova. “There’s definitely a lot more peace in the family and a lot more smiles and laughter, and everybody’s enjoying.”
The pure joy in the faces of not just the children, but also their parents, is an immeasurable reward.
“They’re seeing the world from a perspective that they haven’t seen before,” said Howard. “And when you’re on the water like that – you’re moving and you’re looking at nature from that perspective – it’s impactful. It’s really kind of moving in a way.”
If you are interested in participating in the ChooseBoating campaign and providing this impact to children, please contact Islamova ([email protected]) or Howard ([email protected]) directly or visit www.chooseboating.org.
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Copyright 2014 Boating Industry