Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sailing in Decline?

Who Cares?

OK, before I piss anybody off, here's my take on this. All my life I've been involved with activities of one sort or another and people have worried in two basic ways. First - our [activity] is being over-run by a bunch of yahoos. None of us are going to be able to enjoy it.

An example of this is the explosion in the surf industry from when I started in the seventies and could go to places like Salt Creek and Trestles and have a peak to myself for an hour or two, to where I now see dozens on every little peak from sunrise to sunset at those same spots. I'm not telling where I go now to avoid the crowds; I'm sure they'll find me soon enough without my providing GPS coordinates.

Mountain biking used to be a solo pursuit for me and I was happy to occasionally see the odd mountain biker (and we are odd, make no mistake) on a hill-top somewhere. Some try and turn the growth that has occurred in this sport into a positive, talking about how the influx of new mtn bikers has resulted in more well-maintained trails, but I find myself seeking out new and more remote spots, that usually require me to drive further out into the wilderness.

The other worry is that our [activity] is dying out. Nobody appreciates it anymore and we need to save it.

Down with this sort of thing, I say.

I know it's a big dang ocean and I'm on not likely to run into too many folks out there, but I'm not convinced that more folks jumping in to sailing will make my sailing more enjoyable. I know it may bring our costs down; is that the hope? But I'm hard pressed to find other reasons to want to encourage the growth.

Maybe the racers want more competition? I can see where that may be a need.

Maybe I'm late to the party; prior to my recent arrival in the wind-powered boating world, there may have been a gilded-age, and some of what I'm hearing from you sailor-types, is similar to the surfer's taunt, "You should have been here an hour ago..." However, I'm happy with what I've found and I look forward to a lifetime of learning and experiencing all I can in the wide-world of sailing.

So, what's my point here? I guess that maybe we all worry about what's happening more than it requires. We have patterns in our minds and fit them to what's going on. The pattern with sailing seems to be, I love it, why is it not the most important thing in the world? People should be as focused on this as they are on [insert latest pop fad here]!

I also believe we fall prey to the illusion that we have a more significant influence over what's happening on this rocketship ride around the sun than we really do. We may be responsible for global warming as a collective, I believe that, however, life unfolds in the way it does and you can put yourself in the path of something major, but you probably can't make anything major happen if it's not gonna happen on it's own.


Tillerman said...

Well said.

I was hoping that when I read the book about Saving Sailing that I would see some hard statistics to support the author's contention that "sailing is in decline". Although he did present various numbers to support that proposition, he did not provide much info about their source or how they were gathered.

I have to say that (along with the author of Apparent Wind) I don't see sailing in decline in the little corner of the sport which I inhabit. I do race and I need to have a fair number of other racers to have fun. Here in New England I can go to well attended Laser regattas almost every weekend of the summer, and choose between a couple of huge frostbite fleets every week of the winter. If I want to travel I can sail a Laser Masters Worlds every year with hundreds of other old Laser geezers.

So is there a problem? I dunno.

However, I do feel an itch to do what I can to pass on my love of the sport and some of my knowledge to younger generations. Did it with my own kids. Then did it for years with other people's kids. Not so much this last couple of years.

But you know what? Teaching kids to sail and helping them improve, and helping adults to enter the sport is, for some reason, enormously satisfying. I wouldn't have done it otherwise.

O Docker said...

'Sailing' includes so many different groups that I think it's hard to make generalizations that make much sense.

There are probably better statistics available for how many participate in organized racing - especially dinghy racing - than in the kind of recreational sailing I do.

And I would certainly agree that keeping folks interested in dinghy sailing takes an organized effort - parent encouragement and good training programs.

But if you do casual around-the-bay sailing in a mid-sized cruising boat, it's pretty obvious that interest has always tended to ride up and down with the economy. Today, things are pretty grim at most marinas and sailing clubs. There are lots of empty slips and boats growing beards. I'm not sure that much can be done about that now, but things always pick up again when folks have more liquid assets to spend on their liquid assets. I think enough people will always want to do that kind of sailing without any special encouragement.

There are certainly a lot more people out doing blue water cruising now than there were 30 years ago. Equipment is vastly better than it was then, making cruising easier and safer. And the support groups, helped by internet connectivity, are much stronger than they used to be, too. Latitude 38's Baja Ha-Ha cruising rally to Mexico has been growing steadily over its 15-year history.

If you're looking for a cruising boat or a slip, now is the time to seize the day. I'd be willing to bet that five years from now there will be a lot more sailing activity in mid-size and larger boats than there is today, without any cheerleading at all.

Greg and Kris said...

I have coached kids and adults sports, mostly rugby the last few years, and I find the same great satisfaction in it that I hear in your comments, T-man. I imagine you're pretty good at it; you're obviously passionate about it, communicate well--you blog it fergodsakes--and your knowledge is well-rounded. I find those three things to be the key to successful teaching.

I'm sort of inspired. I wonder what the chance would be here in Portland to get kids who normally wouldn't have the chance, out on a yacht, learning all there is to know about sailing and that connection the river has to the wider world ... hmm, I see an opportunity here, and a potential tax write-off. ;)

I think the helmeted-one is on to something with the types of sailing split. There seem to be many opportunities to enter this lifestyle and many distinct disciplines as well.

Joe said...

Great post. I also row a shell (not a seashell), guess how many people row? I wish surfing was as popular as rowing, then maybe I could catch a few more waves.

Travis and Maggie said...

The concluding paragraph said it best. Can we really "save the planet", "save the whales" or "save sailing"? Yes, these causes can inspire noble feelings and fill us with love for something greater then ourselves, which makes us better individuals and the ripple effect goes on and on. That's the best case scenario anyway, we're not going to talk about the superiority complex that can develop if you start think you're better then others because you are involved in a "good cause".

So "save yourself" (and not in any creepy bible thumping way) coz this big big universe is much wiser and much more capable of taking care of itself, then the little dots that are inhabiting it now.

Overboard said...

The planet will save itself. It has been around for millions of years. Millions and millions. We are merely a dust speck in its eye right now.
The question is: how long before those surf peaks only have dolphins swimming through them.
Yep, one day a couple of eagles are gonna be perched in a ponderosa tree overlooking the Grand Canyon tweeting, "See that level of rock there? That's when humans were on the planet"
I love the knowledge that the planet will go on and on, like that song in Titanic went on and on.
In the meantime, we just gotta Do It! It's a once-in-a-lifetime offer with a limited availability.
prostana -you gotta get rid of word verification ;)

Greg and Kris said...

I love the idea of talking eagles. ;)

Allkindsofsunglasses said...

great post my friend, I have to agree with you that it seems whenever a sport becomes mainstream it seems to loose some of its magic and of course with the costing going up it can be even more frustrating.