Boating and watercraft-related activities are popular in Australia given our easy access to beaches and waterways (Pidgeon & Mahony 2016). Many watercraft-based activities involve recreational water sports such as boating, towed water sports (e.g. water skiing), use of personal watercraft (e.g. kayaking and jet skiing) as well as surfing and boogie boarding.

The Australian Water Safety Strategy 2016–20 has a focus on drowning prevention and a commitment to achieving the goal of reducing drowning by 50% by 2020 (Australian Water Safety Council 2016). One of the strategy’s priority areas is reducing boating, watercraft and recreational activity related drownings.

However, drowning is just 1 outcome that can result from a boating or watercraft accident. Few Australian studies are available looking at non-drowning injuries associated with recreational watercraft activities and sports (Pikora et al. 2011).

In 2016–17, almost 60,000 people were hospitalised for sports injuries in Australia (AIHW: Kreisfeld & Harrison 2020) and among those cases were examples of water sports related injury. In 2016–17, the highest rates of water-related sporting injury for people aged 15 and over were for water skiing (369 cases for every 100,000 participants); surfing (175 per 100,000); fishing (160 per 100,000) and boating sports (69 per 100,000). The types of injuries associated with water sports range from fractures to soft-tissue injuries and cuts.

There are more types of watercraft activities and sports than the 4 types reported in Hospitalised sports injury in Australia, 2016–17 (AIHW: Kreisfeld & Harrison 2020) and this report takes a broader look at many of them.

This report examines injury hospitalisations in Australia which occurred as a result of a boating or watercraft-related injury in 2017–18. It does not include information on people who sought treatment at hospital emergency departments; general practitioner clinics; sports medicine centres; or from allied health practitioners such as physiotherapists.