boating lifestyle Diane Seltzer

SureShade marketing director and My Boat Life founder talks sun safe boating and boating lifestyle on Anchors Aweigh Podcast

Anchors AweighAnchors Aweigh Boating Podcast is a podcast for all boaters, from aspiring to experienced. Featuring in-depth conversations with boating experts and industry leaders, and packed full of tips, tricks, gear, and industry info, boaters of all levels will come away with new skills and knowledge each episode.

Being out in the sun is one of the most appealing parts of boating to many people. And who can blame them after being in an office or classroom all week! However, as nice as it is to lounge on your boat or float on a tube soaking up vitamin D, being out in the sun for an extended period of time doesn’t come without risks.

Sun safety is one of the most overlooked parts of boating. It only takes 20 minutes of intense UV Rays to cause a sunburn! Too much sun can lead to things like skin cancer, eye damage, and premature aging of the skin. But that doesn’t mean you should be scared to be out on the water. There are lots of resources available to learn more about how to safely enjoy the sun, and lots of companies creating products that enable boaters to practice sun safety.

Diane SeltzerYou could say Diane Seltzer is a jack-of-all trades in the marine world. In her day job Diane is the Marketing Director for SureShade. SureShade manufactures patented telescoping retractable sunshade systems for the boating industry that are offered as factory options on 100+ boat models or can be purchased as an aftermarket upgrade.

Diane is responsible for branding, public relations, social media implementation, advertising, web site management and marketing communications… and in her 8 years with the company has won multiple Marine Marketer of America awards and has helped grow the SureShade brand to become the industry standard for boat shade.

Diane is also the founder and editor of multiple boating websites for boating enthusiasts including MyBoatLife.com and BoaterKids.com.

On the industry side, Diane is founder and editor of Marine Marketing tools, a collaborative site to share marine marketing best practices, tools and resources – exclusively for boat dealers, marinas, boat builders, marine suppliers, boating product manufacturers and boating service providers.

If that isn’t enough to keep her busy, Diane has also written and self-published a children’s book called The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl! And yes, she still has time to enjoy the boating lifestyle herself, anchoring out in her ‘spot’ with her husband and daughters and cruising the Chesapeake Bay.

Diane and I covered a lot about starting to boat later in life, hitting milestones at SureShade, and most importantly tips for raising young kids in the boating lifestyle and how to safely enjoy being out in the sun all day.

Here are some highlights from my Anchors Aweigh podcast interview with Diane. Enjoy!

Be sure to click on links to listen to the full podcast interview at the end!



On getting into boating…

Before my husband and I were married, we were invited out for a trip on a sailboat and we took a 6 hour cruise down the bay. We spent the weekend in Rock Hall, Maryland. By the time we got to Rock Hall we decided we were not sailors, but the weekend we spent at the marina was so much fun, being out on the water, being around boaters, everyone was so friendly. By the end of that weekend we said we need to get into boating.

On her first boat…

By the end of the summer we bought our first boat. It was all new to us, neither of us had ever boated before. We ended up buying a 1985 25’ Bayliner. After a couple of years we were hooked on the lifestyle and upgraded to a newer, bigger boat. We’re now on our third boat with a Sea Ray 410 Sundancer [with the first SureShade aftermarket install on a Sea Ray]. It’s a great boat!

On learning to boat…

The first time my husband got behind the wheel of a boat was when we bought the first boat and they dropped it in the water in the spring. He had spent all winter reading books about boat handling – how to drive and dock a boat. It was all book knowledge the first time he actually drove the boat. A lot of trial by error.

All that book knowledge stuck with him through the years. He knows what you’re supposed to do and not supposed to do. [Also important were] learning how to relax and learning our individual responsibilities out on the water. It comes down to communication and experience. Once you learn not to yell at each other and to just calm down a little bit docking gets a lot better!

On raising children to be safe boaters…

kids life jacketsWe’re fanatical about life jackets. Before we even get out on the dock they’re in their life jackets. Walking down the dock, when they’re climbing on and off the boat, when were underway, they’re in the life jacket.

They also know that docking is the most stressful part of boating so they know that there’s no carrying on. You sit in your seat and let the captain and first mate do whatever they need to do.

They learned really early on about the rules being on the boat. They learned not to hang over the side of the boat and not to hang their toys over the side of the boat because they will be gone!

On advice for getting kids to wear life jackets…

It was always the rule. They didn’t know anything different. Sticking with the rules, no exceptions, it’s just a part of life on the boat. We try to get them fun character life jackets that they really like. For my older daughter, we got a cool watersports jacket so it’s more comfortable for her.

On authoring The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl…..

boat girl bookThe inspiration for The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl  book was my older daughter Emma. When she would put her life jacket on, hold our hand and jump from the side of the boat to the dock, we would always kind of say ‘Hey Boat Girl!’ She was super empowered because she had her life jacket on and she started getting more confident getting on and off the boat.

Then it expanded to, ‘wouldn’t it be fun to do a little story about Boat Girl and just about being on the boat?’ It’s just all about our day out on the boat and using the life jacket idea as giving you that superpower confidence when you’re wearing it.

On her current boating life…

We’re on the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a beautiful, enormous body of water that stretches from Maryland down to Virginia. There’s tons of rivers that are all along the bay. Lots of nooks and crannies and small little fishing towns on the eastern shore and big cities on the western shore with Baltimore, DC, and Annapolis. We always say you could spend a lifetime boating on the Chesapeake Bay and exploring it all.

On hitting the 100 boat model mark at SureShade…

It was pretty cool. Eight years ago SureShade debuted on its first boat with the Boston Whaler 370 Outrage. They were relatively newcomers to the boating industry, came up with this product, invented it, patented it, brought it to the industry at IBEX and within two years got their first factory install.

Fast forward eight years and we have 100 different boat models that offer it as a factory option or standard feature, and then there’s a huge aftermarket part of the business as well. Walking down the docks at Miami and seeing all these boats was definitely a pinch me moment.

On increasing demand for SureShade…

It’s a push and pull demand. We’ve been working very closely with the manufacturers so when they come out with a new model they’re designing it into their boats. What’s happening with the ones that don’t offer it on a boat, boaters are going to their dealers and saying I want this shade that I’m seeing on this other model.

It’s an opportunity for the dealers to offer as a value add product, to have their service department generate some revenue, so definitely a push and a pull. The more boats you see with it on, the more other boats want to add it, the more private owners want to add to their existing boat.

On innovation from SureShade…

crownline sureshade RTXWe’ve expanded the product offering so now we’re able to offer products for boats of all sizes. Last year we won top new product with boating industry for our RTX pull out shade, for boats under 27′. The way it works is you just lift and pull it out and within seconds you’ve got shade covering your cockpit or your bow.

When you get into the bigger sizes we have the manual shade that works with a hand crank for boats under 35′. For 30′ and above you have the automated shade which is electrically wired and you can operate with a switch at the helm. When you get into bigger boats you have our M3 product which can extend up to 10 feet.

On the importance of Sun Safety…

We really didn’t realize until we started getting feedback from customers about how important the sun safety aspect was to them. We’ve heard from skin cancer survivors that say this is the only way they’re able to be out on the boat any more. So many boat designs leave part of the boat exposed.

sun safe boatingWe were lucky enough to hook up with Mike Schimdt. He’s a skin cancer survivor and did a PSA campaign with us about his bout with skin cancer and how important it is to stay protected out on the water. That turned into an industry collaborative called Sun Safe Boating where we’re looking to educate the industry as well as individual boaters about the importance of sun safety. We feel like it is just as important as any other element of boat safety, it’s your health, it’s your life.

On attracting new boaters…

From a financial side, having more entry level boats that people can afford. It’s a big financial commitment if you’re not experienced. Also, ways to get into boating with boat clubs like FBC, offering the ability to rent boats to give people a chance to experience the boating lifestyle before they make a bigger financial commitment.

We’re also seeing a lot of new boat styles coming out that serve a lot more purposes. You see a lot of crossovers and dayboats that are good for fishing, cruising, overnights. So I think the industry is trying to pull in a younger demographic but also give boaters more options and make their boats more multi-purpose.

I would also add more physical access to boating with more ramps and docks and marinas, especially in urban boating areas, is another big thing the industry could be doing.

Listen to the full Podcast:

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Listen on iTunes: Diane Seltzer – May 5, 2017 (free)


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Matt O’Hara is the owner, along with his wife Rebecca, of Freedom Boat Club Lake George and operator of Beckley’s Marina. After a 10-year career in media sales in Boston, MA Matt and Rebecca decided to relocate and open their own Freedom Boat Club, where they could share their love of boating and Lake George by helping others get on the water. Matt has combined his background in media with his move to the boating industry to launch Anchors Aweigh, a podcast for boaters.

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