Tourism minister Ken Skates took to the waves today on a jet ski to launch this year’s All Wales Boat Show.
The three-day event has dropped anchor at Plas Heli, the Welsh Sailing Academy and Events Centre from today to Sunday, May 10.
It is aiming to boost the marine sector, which already contributes £282 million a year to the Welsh economy, by attracting more visitors and sailing enthusiasts to Wales.
After trying a jet ski in the town’s Inner Harbour for the first time, the Minister declared it was like nothing else. “The experience is amazing, I can see why people do it, and especially here,” he said.
“The open space at this marina is incredible and the new Plas Heli academy is going to be a great asset to Pwllheli and the whole of North Wales in developing marine sports.
“The All Wales Boat Show is really making its mark nationally, it is a great occasion that attracts so many people from across the UK to come to North Wales and enjoy marine sports and leisure.
“It is a great opportunity to celebrate and shout about everything that’s good about the sport.”
The three day show, now in its fourth year, includes activities such as beachside taster activities with Bear Grylls’ No Boundaries Bootcamp for children and adults, a climbing wall, wakeboard and paddle displays.
International champion jet skier Ant Burgess will be going for a world record in back flips on Sunday. There is also a food festival, serving up local produce, along with stalls selling equipment and clothing.
Jon Geddes, owner of Navsar maritime activity centre, took the Minister out on a jet ski, with colleague and lifeboatman Ian Jones as safety crew.
Jon said: “He was awesome and he loved and we couldn’t keep up with him. He obviously has a need for speed and he said he’ll be back for another taster session.”
Organiser Davina Carey-Evans, Managing Director of Wales Watersports International, said:”This is our fourth year, but the first at Pwllheli, and we have been made very welcome. This is the perfect location for the show, and I can’t wait for the new academy to open.
“Today we have seen many trade visitors and sailors, as well as the general public, and I know that has been a lot of interest from potential customers already.
“We have a great range of boats on show this year with everything from high end luxury craft like Fairline and Chaparral to Sealeg which is a rib that can literally drive onto a beach.
“We’ll also have hand built boats, boats that you can fold up and put in the back of your car and paddle boats.
“What’s really exciting this year is that more of the Welsh companies getting behind the event which is making it a more established and exciting event.”
Mr Skates, who has declared 2018 as the Year of the Sea in Wales, also toured the massive Challenge Wales racing yacht, which sailed from Cardiff to Pwllheli for the show, with local schoolchildren on board before meeting stall holders and local companies.
He earlier met Coleg Meirion Dwyfor students who are learning engineering and boat building skills at a base next to Pwllheli Marina.
Lecturer Richard Tudur said: “We have around 55 students who are learning old and new skills that will ensure boat building continues in this region. Some of them have gone in to the Merchant Navy and Royal Navy, while another has just beaten hundreds to get an engineering apprenticeship with First Hydro.”
Mr Skates, who discussed the potential for 3D printing in marine technology, added:” It is good to see that you are aligning what young people want to do with what the marine sector requires.”
Steve Morgan, Chief Executive of the Welsh Yachting Association, said the All Wales Boat Show was a key part of the strategy to expand the marine sector.
He said: “Our ambition to make Wales one of the best places in the world to be a sailor.
“The marine leisure industry in Wales is a major player in terms of economic development and it needs the All-Wales Boat Show.”
Chris Davies from Flint Mountain, who moors her motor boat at Pwllheli, toured the event with husband Gary and friend Prim Sheen, before trying her hand at Pals Menai’ Sailing Simulator.
“I’ve been to the other shows, and I find it really interesting. There is so much to do, especially for families,” said Chris, a former post woman in Flint.
In addition to the All Wales Boat Show website at www.allwalesboatshow.co.uk a new site, www.waleswatersports.com has been launched by the show organisers to act as a major portal for the marine and watersports sector in Wales.