Pontoon Boats in the Spotlight

Published in the August 2012 Issue August 2012 Ask The Expert Brady L. Kay

Why would anyone buy a pontoon boat when all you need to build one yourself is a piece of plywood and a few 55-gallon drums? This is how pontoons were once perceived in the industry, back when grandpa's pontoon boat was nothing more than Astroturf and a couple of folding chairs. But this of course is far from where these luxurious and performance-driven pontoon boats are today.

Years ago, you really only found pontoon boats in the Midwest. Potential buyers from outside the region either didn't know about them, or they had a warped perception of them. Either way it hindered the growth of the industry at first, but soon after, the pontoon boom would begin.

As pontoons started to truly evolve, people from all over the country loved the comfort and roominess, yet felt the need for a secondary boat for speed and watersports. Skiing or wakeboarding behind a pontoon boat? A few years ago that was as likely as having a phone you could surf the web and watch movies on.

But what consumers soon discovered is the pontoon is where everyone prefers to be. It became known as the "mother ship" at sandbars and the place to hangout and relax instead of being crammed in a runabout and knocking knees with the kids.

Next came the power and the performance, which quickly closed the gap on what many consider to be the ultimate family boat. Those who at one time felt a secondary speed boat was a must-have, were now constantly leaving it behind and only taking it out once or twice a season (sometimes just to charge the battery).

A noticeable shift has occurred in the new-boat sales market during the last few years, proving these boats are no longer a secret. Until about 2007, fiberglass accounted for between 55 and 60 percent of new annual powerboat sales. But as the market began to slowly recover, aluminum boats, including pontoons, quickly took over the top spot. By calendar year 2011, 58 percent of all powerboat purchases were aluminum.

No segment in the boating industry has grown faster over the last few years, thanks to innovative features, quality construction, as well as competitive pricing. Pontoons are now the perfect compromise between mom wanting something comfortable and safe, while still giving dad his outlet for his need for speed. Today seeing a pontoon-complete with rear-facing lounges and plush seating-turning sharply like a v-hull bottom boat while cruising over 40mph isn't just a dream, but a reality.

Once considered boxy and non-nautical, pontoon boat popularity is really taking off. Years ago when Kid Rock released his All Summer Long video that showcased a pontoon in the video, it made me giddy with excitement.

This was following other artists who were releasing songs like Redneck Yacht Club and other hit singles that were putting our passion and lifestyle on notice with the non-boaters throughout the country.

But the latest proof that pontoons are becoming more mainstream even surprised me a little. Not only did another music video featuring pontoon boats just get released, the name of the band's new single is Pontoon. It's performed by the platinum-selling country foursome Little Big Town and it's quickly gaining momentum.

It's not that we need the attention or the validation; we already know the benefits and advantages to owning a pontoon boat. But it's just nice to see that others in Hollywood and the music industry are starting to recognize it too.

Oh grandpa, if only you could have lived long enough to see how far these pontoon boats have come in such a short amount of time. You wouldn't even recognize them today and that's a good thing.


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