Just like there are good and bad drivers on the road, there are good and bad boaters on the lake.
"And everyone thinks they're the good driver," said Matt Alexander, 24, of Cornelius who has been boating since first grade with his dad and grandfather.
A new statute that takes effect May 1 will require Alexander and anyone 25 or younger who operates a boat by themselves on N.C. waters to have proof of safety training.
"I've been driving boats twice as long as some people my age have been driving cars," he said. "I wish there was a way I could get grandfathered in, but there definitely should be a standard across the board. I'm personally conflicted, but politically it makes sense."
He said the new law also may help alleviate some of the chaos on Lake Norman during summer holidays.
"I never put in on Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Labor Day," he said. "There are so many boats out here. It's crazy."
To be in compliance, boaters much pass a minimum six-hour safety course from the Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) or another boating safety course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and accepted by the WRC. The law will only apply to people operating boats with 10-horsepower motors or greater. Personal watercraft, like Jet Skis, and sailboats have separate regulations.
Once they pass a 60-question written test, their certification will never expire. Courses are free through the WRC.
Because not many people know about the new law, members of the Charlotte Power Squadron - a boating club with chapters in Lake Norman, Charlotte and Catawba - want to help spread the word.
"Probably not nearly enough people know about it because the state has not really been advertising that it's coming and what its effects will be on the age group to which it pertains," said Charles "Bo" Ibach III, 62, of Charlotte, who has been a member of the power squadron for 14 years.
A WRC official said they have distributed at least 125,000 flyers regarding the new law and given a public service announcement to local major networks. The power squadron area chapters are part of the national nonprofit, United States Power Squadrons, which promotes boating safety and offers safety courses several times a year.
Ibach is the Charlotte group's assistant education officer but also has served as the education officer and commander. He's also a retired member of Lake Wiley Marine Commission.
Statistically speaking, Ibach said most boating accidents happen with operators ages 26-50 on clear, calm days, not at night. So, he would have liked the law to include more than just young boaters, he said.
"No question there is a need for this new law," he said. "I think everyone out there should have some level of education. Because, up until now, a 5-year-old could operate a boat by themselves on the water. Something's better than nothing, but we feel it should have been all-inclusive."
Kurt Kalkomey is president of Boat Ed, based in Dallas, Texas. The company develops boating safety curriculum and materials for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and for 46 states, including North Carolina. It also offers an approved online course for younger boaters.
Kalkomey said there is some form of mandatory education in about 35 states, and he thinks the new law is a good one.
"In this day and age, boats are going a lot faster and waters are definitely busier, so it's good to educate people." he said. "It's all about saving lives and preventing accidents."
Anna Friend of Charlotte will be 25 through the end of this year's boating season. She spends almost every weekend on Lake Norman with her parents, who live in Mount Holly.
Though she rarely operates a boat by herself, this new law won't allow her to operate a boat at all, unless she completes the safety training or is accompanied by a boater 26 or older.
"I think it's a great idea that will prevent accidents," she said. "However, I think that the word needs to be spread because I knew nothing about it. Several of my friends boat on Lake Norman and, to my knowledge, none of them know about it either."
To view the entire law, visit www.ncwildlife.org, hover over "BOATING AND WATERWAYS," then click on "REGULATIONS." For details on safety courses, visit www.ncwildlife.org, click on "EDUCATION WORKSHOPS," then click "Boating Education Courses."