The North Wales economy will be riding the crest of a wave next year thanks to a boom in watersports – helped by Carol Vorderman on a paddleboard.
Organisers of the 2022 All Wales Boat and Leisure Show are expecting a bumper crowd of 6,000 visitors to attend the event which they say can help kick start the recovery following the slump caused by the Covid-19.
The show is moving under cover to Venue Cymru in Llandudno and will take place earlier in the year than usual, on the weekend of February 5 and 6.
Davina Carey-Evans, the managing director of event organisers Sbarc, said: “This will be the biggest celebration of watersports in Wales and is a a must-visit event for boat owners and watersport lovers.
“The marine sector is growing faster in Wales than any other part of the UK and watersports generate an annual tourism spend of more than £300 million.
“Much of that is generated by boating enthusiasts and it’s estimated that 25,000 trailer boats of all sizes are pulled along the A55 every year.
“But increasingly we are seeing a huge increase in other watersports, from the success of surfing at Adventure Parc Snowdonia to canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing and now paddleboarding.
“The show will reflect that rich diversity of sports that are enjoyed not just along our coastline and in the seven marinas we have along the North Wales coast but on our rivers, canals and lakes.
“Wherever you are in Wales you’re never far from the water and the show will reflect that and the many ways you can enjoy yourself on that water.
“North Wales is also home to some of the very best outdoor facilities from stunning coastlines to inland lakes and rugged, challenging mountains.
The All Wales Boat and Leisure Show will be in its eighth year, having previously been held outdoors in Conwy, Pwllheli and on Anglesey and is timed to catch watersports enthusiasts before the season gets properly under way.
There will be a host of boating and watersport activity providers at the event and the chance for visitors to get their hands on everything from boats to surfboards with exhibitors including Training Centres, Sales and Repair, Marinas, Chandlery, Leisure Parks, as well as have a go sessions and workshops.
There is expected to be plenty of interest in the growth sports such as windsurfing and particularly stand-up paddleboarding, Wales’s lockdown boom sport of the summer with numbers up by 70 per cent to 180,000 this year, according to a former international yachtsman and watersports expert.
Alistair Dickson, who has won sailing gold medals at World, European and British Championships, is now chief executive of Canoe Wales – and a fan of the breakout sport of 2021.
Paddleboarding has attracted its share of celebrity devotees – ex-Countdown queen Carol Vorderman has been pictured trying it out in a figure-hugging wetsuit on a West Wales holiday this summer – while Torquay lifeguard Brendon Prince set a record for paddleboarding from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
The show will have a section devoted to stand-up paddleboarding and Alistair, from Llandudno, a former Performance Director at the Royal Yachting Association, takes to the waters of the Menai Straits with friends every week.
He said: “Paddleboarding is so accessible – you can fit one in or on the car and you can get started easily because it is relatively simple to master.
“It’s a big growth area – people have been cooped up for 18 months and they are looking to get out and about and we’re also seeing a big increase in numbers canoeing and kayaking.”
Anglesey motorboat specialist Dulas Boats, based at Dinas, near Moelfre, stocked paddleboards for the first time this year and have seen them almost sell out.
Alwyn Rowlands, who started the business with his father almost 50 years ago, said: “They’ve gone very well – they’re a really good way to get onto the water.
“Kayaks used to be the thing and they’re great but they’re heavy. A paddleboard you can carry in a rucksack or a bag and just pump it up and off you go.
“It’s important that you have the right safety gear of course but they’re a great introduction to watersports and they’re relatively cheap. It’s great to see people taking it up.”
Davina Carey-Evans added: “There is something out there for everyone and we are aiming to showcase that at the show which has been moved to a new date, in February, and a new venue, Venue Cymru, in Llandudno.
“We’ve weatherproofed it by holding it indoors at Venue Cymru but the sea is just outside our doors which makes it an ideal home for the show which aims to connect the boating industry and services from across the UK with water sports enthusiasts and anyone who has a passion for the great outdoors.
“It’s family friendly and will feature a huge range of exhibitors, events and activities where you can have a go too.”