Marc and Oana Graveline grew up on the water—he along the coast of Virginia, and she in Romania, near the Black Sea. When they moved to North Carolina, their mutual love for the water drew them to Lake Norman's calm waters, tree-lined shores, and wildlife. They envisioned themselves teaching their two children how to drive a boat, and they bought one—a 21-foot Sea Ray. As the cost of their boat's upkeep began to mount, they searched for alternatives to ownership and started their own chapter of the Carefree Boat Club. Today, their children can regularly be seen cleaning their fleet of eight bow riders, sun-deck boats, and pontoon boats or organizing for member socials.
The independent owners and their team of captains and instructors join those of 24 other locations throughout the East Coast and the South in helping members share vessels and learn that it takes a village to wax a hull in less than 10 seconds. Instructors train new members in an extensive boating course, during which they learn water safety, steering procedures, nautical terminology, and navigation. Once each member is deemed seaworthy, they let him or her reserve boats up to six months in advance.
Backed by credentials ranging from NRA certifications to decades of military experience, The Range at Lake Norman's instructors offer courses that cover gun safety, local gun laws, and first aid. Some courses incorporate the Meggitt XVT law-enforcement simulator, a training tool used by the US government, embassies around the world, and local law enforcement agencies. The range also hosts special events, such as ladies' nights and bowling-pin shoots.
Inspiration can be found in many places—at Café Elie, it frequently nestles at the bottom of a mug. Part coffeehouse, part art studio, and part home for wine lovers, the café welcomes budding artists and watercolor aficionados alike to classes aimed at students of all skill levels. While practicing upon canvases, patrons whet their whistles with the studio's caffeinated offerings or sip on wines they supply themselves.
The café's owner, accomplished artist Elie Bou Zeidan, leads students through the finer points of acrylic and oil painting, imparting knowledge he's gained through his studies and travels throughout the United States and France. Zeidan regularly displays his artwork alongside that of his students, easily viewed in monthly wine tastings, regular exhibitions, and by squinting really hard through the window.
My Aloha Paddle & Surf, Inc. helps customers navigate the calm shores of Lake Norman with standup paddleboards. A team of certified WPA and PaddleFit instructors teach everything from safety to basic board maneuvers. Their real calling, though, is fitness: this same team challenges clients to build on their basic paddling skills with group fitness classes, personal-training sessions, and even paddle-centric boot camps. Meanwhile, two showroom locations display high-end boards by Amundsen, NSP, and SupLove, and others—all of which are available for purchase.
Designed to educate beginner and advanced wine lovers alike, Sip and Savor illuminates the vast arena of vino during classes, tours, and private parties. During their classes, students taste a variety of wines while learning practical skills, such as picking the perfect pairing and ordering from a restaurant's wine menu without first sneaking into the cellar to sip from each bottle. Their tours escort visitors to area vineyards, and Sip and Savor also hosts a wine club, which exposes clients to a well-curated selection of wines from around the globe.
Travis Sloan has earned the right to call himself an expert wakeboarder. For more than eight years, he has competed in locations from North Carolina to California. His passion for the sport led him to become an instructor, and now he shares his expertise with boarders of all skill levels. On Lake Norman, Travis helps his pupils get up, jump waves, and flip through the air, and his classes also cover wake surfing, wake skating, and wake hopscotching.