Blueway Paddle & Surf, LLC was an idea for many months, technically, years. Many times over the years, my wife, Christy and I have thought of and discussed ideas about how we could share our love for water sports with others.
My name is Brad. I grew up on the water. I can remember the first time Grandpa let me drive the motorboat and the evening swims across the cove with him. I remember the first boat I sailed on, our Catalina 22. I was constantly thinking it would flip! I hadn't yet grasped the physics of sailing. I remember sitting on the bow of our jon boat, feet skimming the water, as my cousin Ian and I struggled to paddle back home against the wind. Then there was Jerry Painter's canoe. He shared his knowledge and those were my first paddling lessons. I can recall my first attempts at trying to water ski. I might have been 45 lbs, soaking wet at the time. There I was with an "orange ugly" around my neck and two massive Cypress Gardens wooden skis on my feet. Not sure I had ever been more scared at that point in my young life. So, water skiing was put on a side burner for a few years.
After Dad bought an unloved American 21 found sitting on a set of tires behind Sailor's Haven, we started racing sailboats. We joined the old High Rock Yacht Club and raced on several other NC lakes as well. Many afternoons after school and weekends were spent returning that boat to glory. There were many lessons learned involving toxic bottom paints that ate things, fiberglass, epoxy, stainless steel, aluminum and silicone. Lots of silicone! That boat would go on to win a lot of races. It lived up to it's name: Aw-da-shus. I remember a family friend giving me my first sailboat. A wooden Sunfish kit-boat from the 60's that was anything but water-tight! I worked my tail off to restore it. While many lessons were learned on it, I would never find all the leaks. Most of high school was spent wrestling, training & working. Though, some great memories were created on the occasional canoe trip down the Uwharrie River. Sometimes camping overnight and continuing on to Lake Tillery. Of course, there were a few crazy nights at the yacht club when my parents thought we were camping, too...
Then the college years. I was sitting in our dorm one day. Surely, I should have been studying. When, out of nowhere, I decided, that was the day I was going to learn to ski! I was 19. So, I gathered my friend, Brent and a new hall-mate, Marci, that knew how to ski, and off we went to our home at Badin Lake. I got out our wave runner and that same old pair of Cypress Garden skis. Got up my first try and skied about a mile before crashing on some boat wakes in front of the old Pinehaven Marina. It was a rush! I couldn't believe I had waited all that time to learn to ski.
I would meet my wife-to-be the following summer. While Christy wasn't a stranger to the water, she hadn't really experienced water sports. Luckily, she was willing to give it the old college try. We both began to encourage each other and tried new things. She learned to ski on doubles. I picked up slalom skiing. After getting my first taste of wakeboarding behind a center-console on an old Skurfer, I quickly bought one. Christy followed suit shortly thereafter. She would then learn to slalom, too. We then began kayaking on the lake and the Uwharrie again.
Thanks to Bill, a good friend at Lake Norman Yacht Club, I was able to share the experience of racing sailboats with Christy. We were able to participate in a couple of the Flying Scot fleet races. Our love for the water continued to grow. Our next adventure was wake surfing. We started as soon as we bought our first wake boat, a Malibu VLX in 2004. I'm pretty sure we were the first wake surfers on Badin (not counting those risking their lives on Skurfers behind outboards back in the day).
As our experience grew, we discovered a joy for sharing this knowledge with others that was just as strong as our joy for the sports themselves. Many times we'd offer to help struggling kids and frustrated parents. More often than not, we were able to turn those experiences into something great and memorable, avoiding a repeat of my childhood skiing experience. We continue to do that to this day.
I got my first taste of stand-up paddling, actually SUP surfing in August of 2010 while at Figure Eight Island for a bachelor/bachelorette party. David had brought his two SUPs and I wanted to surf. The waves were small but, it was a perfect introduction. Though, Christy would be the one to actually get us active in SUP. She had been talking about it for some time. While in New Bern for my cousin Eddie's wedding (yep, I have a cousin Eddie!), Christy decided she was going to buy a SUP. So, we signed up for lessons. While I enjoyed it, I still wasn't immediately sold. However, Christy was!
Much to my surprise, the instructors said I'd be racing SUPs soon. I casually blew it off and said I was already involved in too many other sports. So, we returned home that Sunday with a 12'6 touring SUP and Christy was happy! Over the next few weeks, I began using her board and discovered a new joy. SUPing was not only fun and and an excellent whole-body workout, it was another excuse to get out on the water. Plus, I was noticing results rather quickly. So, while on a beach trip with the ladies, Christy picked up my first SUP. Thanks to David's urging, I ate my words and ended up competing in my first SUP race, four weeks later. After finishing second in class (12'6) and third overall, I was hooked! Most recently, I completed one of my toughest physical challenges, The Graveyard at the Carolina Cup in April. 13.62 miles of inlets, Intercoastal, ocean and surf that tested every skill set on a SUP! Which brings us full-circle. Learn more about Blueway Paddle & Surf, LLC, here.