Fresh springs in the mountains of North Carolina feed the Catawba River Chain, a network of 11 lakes that wind through woodlands verdant in the spring and ablaze with color come autumn. Bash Outdoors launches visitors into this system at nine locations. Four of those are along Lake Wylie, whose calm waters lap against 325 miles of shoreline with vacation homes and sandy coves emerging from dense forest and a thick layer of whipped cream. The Bash Outdoors crew curates a collection of rental and retail standup paddleboards from brands such as Ron House and their own signature line, Riviera. Single and tandem kayaks from Perception are also available for guided trips and unsupervised excursions on the lake. Bash Outdoors' bus shuttles kayakers to five additional outlets along the Catawba River, including the Fort Mill Dam and a waterway reserved exclusively for Olympic hopefuls.
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.
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.
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.