boatjablonskichris725227-2.jpgSyracuse, N.Y.  - The Boating Industries Association (BIA) of Upstate New York, and New York boat dealers and marina operators are optimistic about the 2014 boating season and taking advantage of trends to attract buyers of all ages and lifestyles.   BIA President Bruce Walker, sales and service manager with Reiter's Marina in Sandy Creek, says, ‘The Boating Industries Association members are upbeat about the 2014 sales season. Lifelong boaters are passing on the love of boating and safety tips to the younger generations, the economy is picking up, and finance rates have fallen to offer the boating industry in upstate New York a bright outlook this year.'   Oneida Lake Marina co-owner Debbie Scarpinato of Canastota, NY, describes the boating experience that lures buyers, noting the increasing popularity of pontoon boats at the BIA-sponsored February Central New York Boat Show in Syracuse, NY.   ‘More and more people are looking at pontoon boats for their affordability. Pontoons are now made like floating living rooms, comfortable for adults, kids and dogs. They are easy to operate; quieter; can be customized with double decker slides, barbecues, bars, and fishing accessories; and will rock you to sleep at night,' Scarpinato says.   Scarpinato says pontoon buyers includes all ages, anglers, couples, and families.   ‘More people, including first-time boaters, Boomers, and families with children are looking at boats that offer ease of entry. The pontoons have extended sun platforms and easy rear entries, but the utilitarian Boston Whalers and sporty fiberglass runabouts also remain popular with boaters,' says Jeff Kennedy of Morgan Marine, Penn Yan, NY.   ‘The pricing range of the different styles of vessels allows more people to consider upgrading or buying a first boat,' Kennedy adds.   Over the past three years, Kennedy has invested in his family-owned operation on Keuka Lake with the construction of new docks and purchase of two cottages, a bunkhouse, and property for a new storage and service complex.   ‘With a developer building a new hotel nearby, we also see growth in the boat rental market here,' Kennedy says.   Owner John Jablonski and General Manager Chris Beardsley of The Sailboat Shop in Skaneateles, NY, recruited interest in wake surfing - riding a board on the waves created in the wake of a small boat - at the 2014 boat show.   ‘Wakeboarding is a trend just starting to catch on in New York state,' Beardsley says.  ‘The lower speed, lower impact makes wake surfing open to more people than waterskiing.'   The Sailboat Shop has recently become the dealer of Tige wakesurfing boats for the area from Central New York north to the Adirondacks and Canada, south to Pennsylvania, west to Medina, and east to Albany and half of New England. The manufacturer has not been in the area for at least 15 years.   ‘We have studied the wake surfing trend for about five years,' Jablonski says, ‘and now is the time for us to add this style of boat to our business mix.'   The Sailboat Shop will host a series of wake surf demonstrations on various lakes in the Central and Finger Lakes regions of New York state this summer.   In recent years, the Boating Industries Association (BIA) of Upstate New York has added boating safety education to its annual winter boat show to attract families, hearing-impaired boaters, paddlesport enthusiasts, and water rescue First Responders.   BIA partners with New York Sea Grant to offer free in-water life jacket safety demonstrations at the show. New York Sea Grant Coastal Recreation and Tourism Specialist Dave White teaches the different types of life jackets, the boating regulations associated with life jackets, and how to get a good fit for everyone in the family, including the family dog.   ‘People are listening about protecting themselves and their pets, and more of the dealer exhibits at the show are offering life jackets for sale with a number of vessels sporting stuffed canines wearing life jackets,' says White, who received a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Wear It! Award for excellence in life jacket education at the show.   Lisa Spiegel, representing Starcraft at the Forest Fisheries display that included pontoons and angling boats, commented, ‘We have kids and two dogs on our boat on the St. Lawrence River all the time and none of them get onboard without a life jacket.'   For more information on the BIA that provides diverse resources to the boating industry, advises state and federal governments on marine issues, and has members located in the 1000 Islands, Fingers Lakes, Central New York and Oneida Lake regions of New York State, is online at Contacts: Drew Wickham, Boat Show Manager, 585-526-5460 Bruce Walker, Boating Industries Association President, 315-387-3881 Dave White, New York Sea Grant, 315-312-3042 Publicist Kara Lynn Dunn, 315-465-7578, Photo:  Marina operators, including John Jablonski and Chris Beardsley of The Sailboat Shop in Skaneateles, see a bright future in 2014 for boating in New York state, particularly for pontoon-style boating and wave surfing. Photo: Brian P. Whattam