California Boating: How Large is its Wake?

Reorganization State Parks is still in the works – will boaters maintain a presence in Sacramento or lose traction?

STATEWIDE—California’s boaters weren’t happy when Gov. Jerry Brown downgraded the state’s independent boating agency to a division within the Department of Parks and Recreation in 2012. Frustrations were at a fever pitch back then, when boaters worried they were being overlooked in Sacramento despite maintaining a strong presence statewide.

Those frustrations are beginning to boil over again, as some corners of the recreational boating industry are worried of what the upcoming reorganization of the state’s Department of Parks and Recreation would look like, should it come to pass this year or next (or the year after next, for that matter).

Will boaters be overlooked – and their presence statewide underestimated – yet again? This was the concern of at least one boat broker who spoke with The Log after a lunch meeting at San Diego’s Shelter Island. He stated officials with California State Parks – the shorthand for Department of Parks and Recreation – told him boaters would continue to acknowledged and not be left behind once the department is reorganized. Could State Parks, however, give boaters their proper due when the department (possibly) doesn’t fully grasp the value – both in overall size and economic impact – of California’s recreational boating community?

The broker went on to state the only way State Parks could fully comprehend the value boaters bring to the state, both on a local and regional level, is by conducting a financial survey of the industry. He personally opined the economic impact of California’s recreational boating industry was at least $9 billion.

A quick Google search of economic impact studies for California’s recreational boating industry yields a report published in 1988. The report specifically looked at the 1986 recreational boating season. Boaters that year, according to the report, spent almost 56 million days on the water and contributed $1.6 billion in boating-related expenditures – gasoline, groceries, lodging, etc.

Boating themed businesses reported total gross receipts of $2.6 billion and employed an estimated 40,000 people in 1986, the 1988 report continued.

The report was prepared for the Department of Boating and Waterways – also known as Cal Boating – by David M. Dornbusch and Co.

Another study funded by Cal Boating in 1998 looked at the economic impact of recreational boating and angling in California’s Delta region. The survey was offered to 10,000 boaters and 10,000 anglers.

Boating in the Sacramento-San Joaquin region, according to the survey, accounted 1.7 percent of total Delta income and 3.2 percent of the area’s employment. The same survey also found nearly 1 in 4 Californians recreated in the Delta region each year (as of 1996).

A Department of Boating and Waterways report published in March 2009 found non-motorized boating contributed $1.7 billion into the state’s economy in 2006. Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor back then – the state has since seen the completion of his term, an eight-year chief executive run by Jerry Brown and the election and swearing-in of Gavin Newsom.

The 10-year anniversary of this non-motorized boating study approaches in a matter of days – and the broker referenced above asks: Are state officials planning to survey California’s recreational boating industry and its economic impact anytime soon?

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), meanwhile, studied California’s recreational boating economy in 2012 and reported the total economic impact of recreational boating within the nation’s most populous state was $8.94 billion. California was also home to more than 826,000 boats, the NMMA study continued.

Our broker above has a point: The level at which boaters are included within a reorganized State Parks should be predicated on the role recreational boaters play in California’s economy. The best way to quantify the role of boaters in the California economy is to conduct a new, comprehensive study. Such a study would certainly be warranted right now, particularly of the last review of the economic impact of California’s boaters was conducted in March 2009.

Perhaps a campaign for such a review or survey would be heard loud and clear in March 2019, when the Marina Recreation Association hosts the annual California Boating Congress in Sacramento. (The boating conference is specifically taking place March 6 at the Embassy Suites on the Sacramento Riverfront.)

More information about the State Parks transformation can be found online at – though nothing has been updated since 2017.

One thought on “California Boating: How Large is its Wake?

  • February 28, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    The Commies in Sacramento hate you rich White privilege yacht owning elitists.
    At least that how they view you.
    Save the Republic throw them out.



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Standing Watch/Take Action

In this section you will find resources and supplemental information on what you can do to Take Action. Submit additional information or tips on this issue to

Are you curious recreational boaters would gain, maintain or lose their voice in Sacramento once the State Parks transformation is completed? Here are a few people you could reach out to for more information or to share an opinion.

The Apex Group

Bret Gladfelty


California Boating Congress

Mark Sandoval


California Division of Boating and Waterways

Ramona Fernandez
Acting Deputy Director, Division of Boating and Waterways

Commissioner Randy Short


California Yacht Brokers Association

Mik Maguire
510-864-3000 (office)
510-552-7272 (cell)

Dean West


Marine Recreation Association

Jim Hayes
Vice President, Southern California Ocean area


National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)

Nicole Vasilaros
Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Legal Affairs


Recreational Boaters of California

John Marshall