Every so often, people should get in touch with nature to trade addresses and catch up on major life developments. Today's Groupon gives you access to the birds, the bees, and the boats. For $65, you get a weekend night's stay in a cottage at Lake Norman (a $136 tax-included value), about 18 miles north of Charlotte. For $40, you can stay in the same cottage on a weeknight (an $82 tax-included value).
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.
Dustin Keith, a former paratrooper, police officer, and Learjet pilot, says that his favorite job has been owning and operating his boat-rental business with his wife, Andrea. Keith has loved water sports since he was young and wanted to open the business to help families build their own memories on the water. The Keiths maintain a consistently updated inventory of luxury pontoon boats, kayaks, bowriders, and cabin cruisers, and the low deposits they require for rental are returned to customers the same day. Boat-club memberships give customers unlimited access to the boats without the expense of buying and storing them or setting up mermaid traps along the shore.
The Keiths donate a portion of the profits from boat rentals to Compassion International to support impoverished children in Asia and Africa, and they hope to one day dedicate each boat to a child that its rental helps support.
Paddles churn the crystal waters as a rainbow of boards slips silently across the surface of Mountain Island Lake. The shoreline, dappled with trees that shiver with cavorting wildlife, falls away behind the board's passengers as they stand in the middle of the aquatic expanse. Though the view is much different from the oceanic coastlines more commonly associated with the sport, the meditative calm and athletic challenge remain.
With roots in Hawaiian culture, the unique method of riding a board takes advantage of the surfer's panoramic viewpoint and ability to avoid far-off swells and bossy tugboats. The act of constantly balancing and paddling, while simple, tones core muscles and enables participants to silently observe surrounding wildlife. Sup Charlotte keeps adventurers afloat on Riviera boards, which they sell and use in lessons to keep riders of all experience levels gliding more gracefully than swans looking for parking.
Coed dodge ball and flag-football games. Kayaking trips. Ice-climbing excursions. The open-air enthusiasts at Charlotte Outdoor Adventures coordinate a schedule of active events such as these for a membership base passionate about playing in the sunshine. Led by a qualified volunteer, groups set out on excursions ranging from hikes through the Carolinian countryside to waterfall rappelling in the Grand Canyon. Membership benefits include access to hundreds of activities each month as well as friendships forged through shared experience and bartering packed-lunch items.
Carolina Adventure Guides doesn't let geography get in the way of a good time. The adventure outfit leads trips in its own backyard, as well as in far-flung destinations such as Alaska and Hawaii. Closer to home, its guides teach introductory climbing classes at Crowders Mountain State Park, where students learn techniques such as how to rappel down the rock-face and when to ask an eagle for a lift. The guides are also certified in first aid and are members of various climbing groups, including the American Mountain Guide Association, and have worked with other organizations, such as Charlotte Outdoor Adventures.