We wanted to find out exactly how as a nation we best like to embrace the sea. We know that the promise of summer holidays with waves lapping onto sandy shores and long days of lazing around in the sunshine is enough to make most people fall in love with the ocean. Increasingly however, it’s the vast amounts of exciting and energising water sports, enabling us to spend time both on and in the ocean, which is making us fall for the blue waters of the and the significant physical and mental wellbeing benefits that these activities bring.

Over 8.5 million people each year are turning to the great outdoors for their exercise fix and the same principles of ‘green exercise’ i.e. working out in an outdoor environment can be applied to physical activity such as swimming and water sports which take place in the ocean. We like to call it the ‘blue gym’!

Recent evidence has demonstrated that, compared with exercising indoors, outdoor activity results in a significantly greater improvement in mental wellbeing. Feeling more connected to nature, cleaner air, and providing a significant vitamin-D boost, means ocean-based activities can lead to improved mood, self-esteem, and higher energy levels.

We wanted to look further into this, to discover why we’re so drawn to the plethora of water sports available to us both at home and abroad and which ones are our favourites. We analysed 3 years’ worth of Instagram data, looking at the most photographed, shared and talked about ocean activities to discover the top 5 most popular water sports, according to Instagram.