The Annual BWI Writing Contest

Boating Writers International organizes an annual writing contest to reward excellence in journalism in categories ranging from fishing to travel, boat tests to photography and videos. The contest draws hundreds of entries each year, and has been awarding $17,000 annually in cash prizes.

The contest takes place between November and January each year, with 17 categories that each award $500 for first place, $300 for second place, and $200 for third place. Those winners are announced at the Miami International Boat Show each February.

BWI members receive two free contest entries as a benefit of membership. Non-members can enter the contest at $50 per submission.

Annual brochures detailing categories, rules and regulations are issued in November. To see the most current issue, go here: Download the Brochure.

Judging Criteria

Each Writing Contest category has a specific scoring sheet used by four judges to evaluate the writing. There are ten scoring criteria for each entry; judges are asked to rate each entry in ten “grading areas.” Judges read as a teacher might, marking a paper using an A-to-F grading system. A’s are 90-100, B’s 80-89, C’s 70-79, D’s 60-69 and 59 or below would score an F, or failing grade. The scale seeks to create a cohesive judging process, where top entries receive “high marks” versus those judged less favorably.

Here are the criteria drawn from a sample scoring sheet:

  • How complex is the story? Does the author use solid knowledge of the subject or information from multiple sources to craft a balanced and informative piece?
  • Is the lead effective? Does the introduction draw the reader into the story?
  • Does the story flow well? Good transitions?  Good structure?
  • Is it well researched? Accurate (or has the writer relied on press releases)?
  • Is there a distinctive personality? Or voice?
  • Effective use of language, metaphor, imagery, sentence structure?
  • Beyond the basics of reporting the story, is there originality? A fresh approach?
  • Is the story fair?
  • How well does the story accomplish its intended mission? Does it entertain? Educate? Inspire?
  • Finally, how well did the judge like it personally?


The 2018 BWI Writing Contest Winners

BWI Writing Awards, presented for 26 years, attracted 119 participants submitting 343 entries. In addition to cash awards, 47 Certificates of Merit were presented to other entrants who scored within 95 percent of third-place tallies in each category. All submissions to the contest were published in 2018. Each of the categories was judged by four active journalists in the first few weeks of the New Year.  Complete results are posted on this website at

 Grand Prize Writing Award

When funded, the Grand Prize Writers Award has been selected from a pool of the top three entries in each of 17 writing categories that were considered for the annual contest. The Grand Award was last presented in 2010 to Jim Flannery, senior writer for Soundings publications, for his article, “The fading glory of working waterfronts.”

Liz Walz, then editor-in-chief of Boating Industry magazine, was the recipient of the BWI Grand Award for 2009 for her article, “The New Word-of-Mouth.”

George Sass, Sr., a freelance writer, author and former advertising creative director, won the Grand Award in 2008 for his story, “Big-Water Boats – How to Choose the Right Vessel for Offshore Cruising,” published in the Ocean Explorer Handbook.