Boating Industry

October 2014

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Page 40 of 59 October 2014 | Boating Industry | 41 t he summer of 2014 has given the industry a great look at the state of wa- tersports. Despite the long, rainy spring, the weather was good enough to get a real taste of what the watersports segment was doing. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association participation re- ports from 2013, the two historically most popular watersports – wakeboard- ing and water skiing – dipped some. But the brutal polar jet stream made for an ugly weather pattern that kept large swaths of the country indoors, far from the water and further from their towropes. Companies in the watersports segment have better news for 2014, and even water skiers have a little something to celebrate. Surf City Dust off the Dick Dale and the Beach Boys records, everybody's surfi ng now – wakesurfi ng specifi cally. Wakesurfi ng is nothing new, in fact ocean surfers have been toying with the idea since the Beach Boys were just learning to sing, but the many in- novations wake boat manufacturers have put into their newer offerings made the sport the predominant wake activity. "It's amazing to see what the boat manufacturers have done in terms of research, money and time they have invested in ways to shape a wake for wakesurfi ng," said Larry Meddock, chairman at the Water Sports Industry Association. "I just think it's interesting that every single boat manufacturer, that are what we consider sport-specifi c tow boats, have invested incredible engineering hours and product design and product development hours into enhancing the shape of the wake. That's never been seen before." The investment from wake boat manufacturers has paid off. According to the market research company Info-Link, stern drives had a great 2013, despite the weather. Sales of stern drives were up 12.3 percent, leading growth across the industry by 3.7 percentage points ahead of outboards. Daniel Gutierrez, director of design and marketing at Tigé boats said the interest in wakesurfi ng is one part of the towboat success story. He said during their Endless Wave Tour, everybody wanted to learn wake- surfi ng, actually drawing crowds from their pro contests. "We're seeing lots of families. As a matter of fact, we sold out an entire weekend of demos. We ended up having a huge turnout, and it was just family after family after family. They all just wanted to learn to wakesurf properly," said Gutierrez. He said they were also able to track several boats sold solely on wakesurfi ng's popularity at the demo days. "We had an ASR that just sold because this guy was excited that it was the only boat that his daughter had ever been able to throw the rope in and wakesurf without the rope. And he said, 'That's it,' and bought a boat," said Gutierrez. He said that consumers who buy wake boats might have bought other designs, but the popularity of the activity guides their decision. "The interest in wakesurfi ng has carved out our niche as the only way you can do it. So, if anyone is at all interested, they have to come to our segment of the industry whereas wakeboarding in the past, you could put a tower on any boat and call it a wake- boarding boat," said Gutierrez. MasterCraft president and CEO Terry McNew said at the launch of their new X20 wake boat that wakesurfi ng will BY NICHOLAS UPTON

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