Since 2011, the Water Sports Foundation’s (WSF) wide-ranging consumer outreach campaigns delivered more than one billion online safety message impressions targeted to boaters and paddlers in the United States. The WSF programs have disbursed more than $8.2 million in advertising and sponsored media, including more than 200 public service announcements.

We have addressed areas of particular need with targeted campaigns, such as our Spanish-language radio outreach and increased emphasis on paddling incidents, which in 2019 accounted for nearly one out of every three boating fatalities. We’ve enlisted professional anglers and water sports athletes to speak out for lifejackets and sober boating, and harnessed the power of real-life storytelling with our Lessons for Life program.

We’ve engaged manufacturers and retailers for help in sharing safety messages at the point of sale, where unsuspecting consumers are purchasing low-priced kayaks as toys and get no instruction about how to be safe. A product insert pamphlet titled, Be Smart, Be Safe, Have Fun was developed with widespread industry support and 6.9 million copies were printed and distributed to recreational kayak manufacturers to be inserted with each new vessel before it goes to market. In 2016, when the Coast Guard saw a need for a new image library, the Water Sports Foundation produced a library of more than 2,600 high-resolution safety images serving all boating segments, and made them available for anyone to use free of charge.

Ten years of annual audience research confirms a positive cultural shift in the attitudes and behaviors of the boating communities we’ve targeted. In fact, data show that millions more Americans are now drinking less and wearing life jackets more often when they go boating.

These efforts have earned recognition within the boating safety community, including the Innovation in Outreach Award presented by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and numerous first places in the Communication Awards at the International Boating and Water Safety Summit (IBWSS).