Most Popular Water Sports Ranked (2024)

It is always important to remember that it can be difficult to rank the most popular water sports in the world definitively, as popularity can vary depending on geographic location and cultural preferences. However, based on global trends and participation rates, we here at BCWS have created a list of the most popular water sports in the world, ranked in order from most to least popular:

  1. Swimming
  2. Fishing
  3. Sailing
  4. Surfing
  5. Suba Diving
  6. Kayaking
  7. Water Skiing
  8. Jetskiing
  9. Wake boarding
  10. Kite boarding
  11. Honourable mention: Wing foiling – Up and coming


Open water swimming

Swimming is a universally popular water sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. It is also a crucial life skill, making it a popular activity for children to learn.



While not traditionally thought of as a water sport, fishing is a hugely popular activity that takes place on bodies of water around the world. It can be done recreationally or competitively, and offers a peaceful and relaxing way to spend time on the water. (however many dispute this as a water sport. We left it in so you can decide!)


What is sailing - 4 boats out sailing

Sailing is a popular water sport for many reasons. It provides a unique and exciting experience of harnessing the power of wind to move through water. Sailing can be enjoyed in a variety of settings, from calm lakes to open oceans, making it a versatile activity. Sailing also offers opportunities for teamwork, problem-solving, and personal growth, which can be appealing to people of all ages and backgrounds.


surfing in the sun

Surfing is an adrenaline-fueled water sport that involves riding waves on a surfboard. It is particularly popular in coastal areas with strong waves and is enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels.

Scuba Diving

Diving off a boat

Scuba diving involves exploring the underwater world using a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (scuba). It is popular for its breathtaking views of marine life and underwater landscapes.


Kayaking in open water

Kayaking involves paddling a small boat called a kayak through the water. It can be done in rivers, lakes, or the ocean, and is a popular activity for those who enjoy being out in nature.

Water Skiing

Water skiing

Water skiing involves being pulled behind a boat while standing on skis. It requires balance and strength, and is popular in lakes and other calm bodies of water.

Jet Skiing

jet skiing

Jet skiing involves riding a small personal watercraft through the water at high speeds. It is a fast-paced and thrilling activity that is popular with younger generations.



Wakeboarding is similar to water skiing, but involves riding on a board while being pulled behind a boat. It requires skill and balance and is popular with younger generations.


Kite boarding

Kiteboarding involves riding a board while being pulled through the water by a kite. It requires skill and strength to control the kite and navigate through the water.

Honourable mention: Wing Foiling

Wing foiling

Wing foiling is a new and exciting sport that is rising in popularity. Wing foiling also known as “winging” combines elements of windsurfing, kitesurfing, and stand-up paddleboarding. It involves using a handheld wing to catch the wind and propel a foil board across the water’s surface. With its blend of athleticism and grace.