THE number of people taking to the waters around Scotland has risen significantly in the past year as interest in surfing, canoeing and sailing soars.
A total of 187,000 adults in Scotland were involved in marine activities in 2013, with small sail boat racing, canoeing and motor boating proving popular. This is an increase of more than a quarter - or 40,000 people - from the previous year. Meanwhile, 729,000 adults in Scotland, just over one in six of the population, took part in the wider group of boating, watersports and coastal related activities which include cliff climbing, spending time at the beach and outdoor swimming.
The study was undertaken by a consortium of marine organisations comprising the British Marine Federation, Royal Yachting Association, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Royal National Lifeboat Institution, British Canoe Union and Marine Management Organisation. It is thought that the warmer summer, improving economic picture and the legacy of the Olympic Games in 2012 helped fuel the increase.
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One enthusiast, retired journalist Alan Dow, who keeps his "modest" yacht near Arisaig north of Fort William, said the findings did not surprise him.
"There are definitely more and more people taking to the water," he said. "Previously empty bays are now full of anchored boats of all kinds. There are more pontoons and moorings being provided in recent years."
Howard Pridding, Chief Executive of the British Marine Federation, said: "This valuable research undertaken by the consortium proves how popular and vital the leisure marine industry remains to Scotland, with almost 200,000 adults taking to the water in a wide variety of activities.
"We are confident that participation will continue to rise through the promotion of enjoyable and safe boating and watersports."