Rob Bennett isn’t sure if it was a midlife crisis or some kind of divine intervention, but in January he walked away from a lucrative career in the telecommunications industry to pursue something vastly different. Today, instead of negotiating deals with international long-distance service providers, the Mooresville resident is negotiating the waters of Lake Norman as he teaches people the sport of stand up paddling.
On a new discovery: Bennett spent nearly 20 years in the telecommunications field, and once he reached top-level executive status, he started attending a big industry conference in Hawaii every January. It happens Hawaii is the birthplace of stand up paddling, a unique sport in which you balance atop what is basically a longer, more stable version of a surfboard, and use a paddle to propel and steer through the water. Bennett tried the sport while on the Big Island and was instantly hooked.
On choosing a different career path: Bennett, 44, says he started thinking about how he could parlay stand up paddling into a business. He was tired of the corporate rat race, and even though he was overseeing multi-million dollar deals, he didn’t see much actual value in any of it. “It really hit me in January that I had to do this,” says Bennett. So he walked away from his old job, and in May opened My Aloha Paddle Sports and Fitness. “With all the inlets and coves and calm water, Lake Norman is the ideal place for this,” he says.
On riding the wave: The company started out with just a van, which Bennett uses to transport boards and meet people for lessons. But Bennett soon found that after taking a lesson, people were interested in renting or buying their own boards. So in June he opened a retail location at Wher-Rena Boatland in Cornelius. He also hired two instructors to keep up with demand. Now Bennett spends most days out on the lake giving lessons, and says he’s happier, less stressed, and thanks to his regular stand up paddling sessions, is in great shape. “This has all been an abrupt change for me,” says Bennett. “But now I feel like I’m doing something of substance that really benefits the community.”
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My Aloha Paddle Sports and Fitness 18919 W. Catawba Ave., Cornelius, 704-526-8432.www.standuplkn.com.
Lessons average 1 1/2 hours. Private lessons are $65, and open group lessons are $45 per person. All equipment is provided, including personal flotation devices. Rental prices are $50 for four hours and $65 for eight hours.