Home HREvents, Conferences,Forums and Symposiums Missing the boat: UK kids Un-shore of A-B-Seas

Lesley Robinson

Missing the boat: UK kids Un-shore of  A-B-Seas

  • 35% of British kids have never been in a boat on the sea and close to a quarter (24%) have never been swimming in the ocean
  • Almost one in three (27%) don’t know the Earth’s surface is covered primarily by water
  • Just over one in 10 (11%) believe that the Loch Ness Monster is real

A staggering 2.28million1 British kids have never been swimming in the ocean, and 35% have never been in a boat on the sea, according to new research.

The findings from Southampton International Boat Show, powered by Borrow A Boat, which conducted the study to analyse children’s understanding and experiences of the sea, shows that almost one in three (27%) children aged five to 16 also don’t know that the Earth’s surface is primarily covered by water.

Many also struggle to identify famous bodies of water, with only 44% correctly identifying the Congo as a river, while 24% think it’s a dance. Additionally, almost one in five (18%) don’t recognise the Amazon as a river and instead only identify it as an online shop.

When it comes to telling the difference between real and mythical animals, the majority of kids think that Komodo dragons (53%) aren’t real. More than one in 10 (11%) children of any age believe the Loch Ness Monster really exists and 24% of five to seven-year olds think mermaids are real. Additionally, 23% of eight to 10 year olds also think that frogs live in the sea, while 31% of those aged five to seven don’t know that seahorses live in the ocean.

The next generation also appears confused when it comes to identifying popular cartoon characters, with almost two thirds (63%) of 14-16 year olds unable to identify Sebastian from the Disney classic The Little Mermaid as a crab. Whilst a third (29%) of all kids surveyed also don’t know that Free Willy lives in the ocean.

Lesley Robinson, CEO at British Marine, organisers of Southampton International Boat Show, powered by Borrow A Boat, said: “We’re delighted that the majority of UK children are growing up with experiences and memories of the sea, but it’s interesting that a large proportion have never been on a boat or gone swimming in the ocean.

“While it’s heart-warming to see so many kids believe in mermaids and the Loch Ness Monster, it’s evident that there is a knowledge deficit when it comes to their understanding of the water and sea life.

“At British Marine it is our mission to educate, debunk myths and make getting out on the water as accessible for as many kids as possible. We believe getting people down to Southampton International Boat Show, powered by Borrow A Boat, is a great way to do this.”

As Britain’s biggest festival of boating, it’s expected that more than 10,000 people will get out on the water across the full 10 days of the Show, with numerous free activities for children to enjoy including paddleboarding, dinghy sailing and mini cruises.

Southampton International Boat Show, powered by Borrow a Boat, takes place at Mayflower Park from Friday 13 September through to Sunday 22 September. For ticket costs and packages please visit southamptonboatshow.com

To keep up with the latest news and announcements, follow the Southampton International Boat Show on: TwitterFacebook and Instagram 


For more information and imagery, please contact Annabel Burrow at aburrow@britishmarine.co.uk or 01784 223811.


Research was conducted between 1st August 2019 and 4th August 2019 by Research Without Barriers, surveying 1,003 UK children aged 5-16.

1Based on 24% of UK children aged 5-16 being not answering that they have been on a boat in the sea. Multiplied by the most recent UK population figures from ONS (9,514,805 children aged 5-16) to get this result. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/bulletins/annualmidyearpopulationestimates/mid2018


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