MRAA Joins Water Sports Industry Association Annual Summit

• The Summit allows MRAA, WSIA to continue to build collaboration on overlapping government relations priorities

By Chad Tokowicz, MRAA Government Relations Manager

I recently joined the Water Sports Industry Association (WSIA) for their annual summit in the snow, which took place at the Everline Resort in Olympic Valley, Calif. The summit, which is hosted each winter by the WSIA, brings together professionals in the water sports industry to network, learn, collaborate and hit the slopes. Each year the summit features keynote speakers who come from backgrounds as varied as extreme sports and economics, each of whom provides important insights and lessons for the watersports industry.

This year, Chris Thornberg, Ph.D., a founding partner at Beacon Economics, joined to provide insights on the economy and the current financial situation, focusing on the potential for a recession and other key economic indicators. This presentation was largely tailored to the audience, and he included a variety of statistics directly from and related to the recreational boating industry, which helped to further draw comparisons between the larger economy and the recreational boating sector. In all, Thornberg remained confident that we would not see a major recession but that the recreational boating industry must remain nimble ahead of a changing demand landscape.

During the summit WSIA committees and the WSIA Board of Directors meet to conduct business. These meetings, which are open to non-voting members and visitors, focus on issues including vessel designs and how to build boats best to remove Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), wake park standards and parasailing issues. I sat in on the AIS Committee and the Towboat Committee where conversations largely centered around the design and use of vessels. A representative from the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) also joined to provide a presentation on various standards updates, which must be taken into consideration during the vessel design and construction process.

“The Five Seasons of Boating”
I also sat in on the inaugural meeting of the Marine Dealer Council, which is composed of several WSIA members who are marine retailers. This council is focused on serving as a way for the WSIA to get input on specific water-sports issues impacting marine retailers. During this meeting, the WSIA’s Vice President of Government Affairs, Lee Gatts, highlighted the partnership with the MRAA and how the two associations currently work together on a variety of overlapping policy priorities.

This year a major focus of the summit centered on advocacy and the important work the WSIA has undertaken, along with their partners, to fight against impediments to boating access. On the second day of the Summit, Lee Gatts, vice president of government affairs, and Aaron Hallenberg, Northwest government affairs manager, gave a presentation titled “The 5 Seasons of Boating,” which focused on how to engage with marine businesses on advocacy issues throughout the year. This presentation was meant to give attendees an idea of how they could best get engaged in our industry’s advocacy opportunities at various points of the year.

New Advocacy Platform & Panel on Boater Education
Furthermore, Megan Thielfold, director of communications and marketing for the WSIA, presented on the WSIA’s new advocacy platform in a session titled “Our Shared Investments in Grassroots Advocacy.” The presentation showcased the WSIA’s continued efforts to fight restrictions on access for water sports enthusiasts. Ultimately, the new platform will allow stakeholders to get engaged and directly communicate with their elected officials on important issues impacting the industry.

Lastly, Taylor Matsko, the communications and marketing director with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), moderated a panel featuring three boating law administrators: Ty Hunter from Utah, Captain Brady Phillips from Nevada and Brian Paulsen from Oregon. The panel discussed the importance of boater education and how things as simple as life-vest use can save lives on the water as well as opportunities for the industry to continue to support the work of law enforcement.

In all, the 2024 WSIA Summit provided an amazing opportunity to not only learn more about the issues impacting the water sports community but build relationships with folks all throughout the industry, from manufacturers and dealers to members of the law enforcement community and beyond.

Connect with the MRAA Advocacy, here.