Stomping Grounds 3: North Carolina Boats, Netflix Outer Banks and Reggie Fountain Tales

In our Stomping Grounds documentary video series, host Ryan McVinney and his film crew tour America’s towns and waterways to unpack how incredibly diverse boating culture is across the United States.

In this episode, we travel to North Carolina to find out what is unique about its boating culture and storied history. The first stop is to visit film director Jonas Pate and his wife producer/author Jen Pate, to learn more about their family’s boating lifestyle and what real-life experiences inspired him to create the top hit Netflix series Outer Banks which is set on the water featuring a lot of boats and boating themes.

After visiting the Pates we check in with Grady-White Boats at their manufacturing facility in Greenville. Then we’re off to explore the local on-the-water filming scene with Brad Walker, the founder of Wilmington video production company Lighthouse Films and aerial cinematography with drone pilot Carson Talbert of Lost Wave Media. Next is a stop in Morehead City to explore what gives Carolina sport fishing boats that special “Carolina Flare”, from Albemarle and Merritt Boatworks to Hatteras and Jarrett Bay and a chat with John D. Riggs at Riggs Yacht Sales. Finally we are invited into the home of the legendary Reggie Fountain, a world champion speedboat racer and founder of the high performance go-fast boat manufacturer, Fountain Powerboats.

North Carolina: Home To Some Of The Nation’s Best Boat Builders

North Carolina is such a unique and treasured stomping ground for various boaters, from its family-friendly coastal towns with wide sandy beaches and expansive nature preserves to its offshore sport fishing waters where the Gulf Stream flows about 20 miles from the coast. Here, locals take boats just as seriously as politics, and it is home to some of the best builders of sturdy offshore sport fishing boats as well as safe, seaworthy family boats boats, due to the famously unforgiving waters. The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) also travels through North Carolina, along with a series of rivers including the well known Pamlico River, Tar River and more that make for a diverse range of recreational boating areas.

Meet The “East Hollywood” Director Behind Outer Banks on Netflix

Jonas Pate is a filmmaker, and director, known for directing shows such as Friday Night Lights, Prime Suspect and Marvel’s Iron Fist as well as movies like Deceiver (1997) and Shrink (2009). His most recent Netflix hit series Outer Banks is about a group of teenagers looking for a lost treasure on boats around the coast of North Carolina. Jonas created the show alongside his brother Josh Pate and their partner, Shannon.

Netflix Outer Banks BTS Jonas Pate Stomping Grounds 3

Above: Left: director Jonas Pate onboard a Grady-White filming for episode 3 of Boat Trader’s Stomping Grounds. (Photo by Ryan McVinney) Right: Actor Chase Stokes (who plays the character John B) and Madelyn Cline (who plays Sarah Cameron) on set of Outer Banks Season Two. (Screenshot courtesy of Netflix.)

“When you create something, you can’t help but pull from your own life,” says Jonas. The Netflix series is a nod to Pate’s childhood, where he spent his spare time playing around on little Carolina skiffs and Jon boats. “We had an old ski boat – I don’t even remember what brand it was, but it wasn’t anything fancy.” Moving back to North Carolina from Los Angeles, allowed Jonas to get back to his boating roots and create a show centered around life on the water.

Interview with director Jonas Pate of Outer Banks

Above: Director Jonas Pate being interviewed for by Boat Trader for Stomping Grounds Episode 3 in North Carolina. Photo by Ryan McVinney.

Together, Jonas and his wife Jen Pate moved to Wilmington leaving Hollywood behind geographically, if not figuratively. Jonas was determined to have a house on the water and not near to the water. They found a property that overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway giving them direct access to the coast and all the nature preserves and sandy beaches nearby. Living by the water completely changed their lifestyle.

“There’s a huge boating community here, which is why we have made so many of our friends here,” says Jen Pate. “The friendships become deeper by spending time in the water together.” Jen Pate is the founder of Feel Ageless, a community “dedicated to today’s woman to empower her to live their healthiest and happiest lives”. A former casting director for TV and film, Jen later stepped in front of the camera to host the Webby Award-winng series Mom Life which asks modern mothers hard-hitting questions and featured a different celebrity guest or parenting expert every week.

Jonas Pate Ryan McVinney and Jen Pate On a Grady-White Boat

Above: Left to right: Jen Pate, Ryan McVinney and Jonas Pate onboard the family’s Grady-White Freedom 235 dual console boat while filming Stomping Grounds 3 in Wilmington North Carolina. Photo by Lighthouse Films for Boat Trader.

The Pate’s go out on their boats daily, “It’s a place where we hang out and socialize, and it’s just like a little party. It has become such a huge part of our life,” says Jen. Living in North Carolina reminded Jonas what he loved about growing up on and around boats. The Pate’s boating lifestyle serves as direct inspiration for the show and a lot of the scenes are inspired by watching their own kids in the neighborhood having fun on the water. “We have teenagers and we show them the script, and so we take a lot of advice from them,” says Jonas.

Jonas and Jen wanted to get their children out on the water boating and so they bought them a small second-hand Carolina Skiff 17. Buying an older used boat took the pressure off the children in case they ended up damaging it. Carolina Skiffs are durable, safe and relatively easy to control. Plus the boat didn’t have too much power, making it an ideal “starter boat” for beginners.

View Carolina Skiff boats for sale on Boat Trader now.

Family Boat Trips: Connecting With Nature

The Pate’s other, slightly larger boat that they use for whole family adventures is a Freedom Grady-White 235 dual console boat. Both parents comment on the benefits of boating together, “It allows us to connect more deeply with the natural world. Being outdoors allows you to see nature’s seasonal rhythms. The more you are exposed to being outside, the more you become attuned to seasonal nuances in nature,” says Jonas.

Jen and Jonas Pate

Above: Jonas And Jen Pate with their daughter and dog as they wave to fans of their Outer Banks Netflix show along the ICW in Wilmington North Carolina. Photo by Ryan McVinney for Boat Trader.

The family enjoys going on family adventures and discovering ‘hidden gems’, such as Mason’s and Rich’s Inlets, or Masonboro Island. Stretching 4.4 miles, Masonboro Island Reserve is the longest undisturbed barrier island ecosystem in southern North Carolina. This pristine environment can only be reached by boat, and its salt marshes and tidal creek habitats are home to an array of threatened and endangered wildlife. The undeveloped shoreline is a natural nesting area for sea turtle species, ranging from loggerheads and green turtles to hawksbills and leatherbacks. Once the Pate’s anchor up, they can spend an entire day there without seeing anybody else, allowing them to enjoy some quiet quality time together as a family.

Grady-White: Unsinkable Sturdy Family Boats

The family’s Grady-White makes a perfect platform for the whole gang. “Our Grady is just such a great size…you can have another family on there easily – I like the side console because I can sit next to Jonas and have my own space,” Jen remarks. “For our family it’s just the perfect size – it kind of has everything you need.”

Jen Pate Interview

Above: Jen Pate interviewed by Boat Trader for Stomping Grounds 3. Photo: Ryan McVinney/Boat Trader.

Grady-White Boats is a name synonymous with durability and seaworthiness with family fishing in mind. Akin to a Boston Whaler, in that they are both iconic American boat brands known to build virtually “unsinkable” boats at attainable prices, “Gradys” as they are known colloquially represent a special piece of North Carolina boat building history, characteristic and personality. Family boats and boating are a big part of what North Carolina is all about.

One of the scenes in the Outer Banks show features an apparently sunken Grady-White, but these boats are again, know to be “unsinkable”. Jonas in fact commented to our crew how hard it was to get that scene and get the boat to stay on the bottom of the ocean floor. “We actually had to blow a hole in it and weight it down,” he told us, off camera. We weren’t sure how Grady-White would feel about that, so we went over to Greenville to catch up with the Shelley Tubaugh, VP of Marketing for Grady-White Boats and hear a bit more about their side of the story. She explained that the builder was actually stoked to be featured in the series and provided us some details on their company history and the owner Eddie Smith’s commitment to the local North Carolina community.

The Making of Outer Banks: Mastering On-The-Water Water Cinematography

Filming on the water is no easy feat. To film boating scenes for Outer Banks, the crew often shoots with the camera crew visible in the shots on the boat. At a later stage, they airbrush the crew out of shots which proves to be time-efficient. Holding a heavy camera on a small boat by hand can be challenging, particularly when the water is choppy. “When we shoot, we often have scenes where it’s a few teenagers in basically a Carolina skiff, but if you turned the camera around, you would see 20 support boats behind you!” There’s a boat for the bathroom, craft services, and camera department. While there may be only one boat on camera, there is a whole flotilla of boats behind the scenes.

They also use big cranes and pontoon boats for their stability; they can also carry a lot of people and equipment. You name it, and they have it- they even have jet skis for the safety guys in the water and use drones to shoot footage. Jonas describes it as “the water version of the Star Wars Armada!”.

The Carolina Flare: A Prominent Hull Design

Many Carolina boats and Custom Carolina sportfishing yachts have a dramatic flair that helps keep the topsides of the boat dry as it deflects the waves as they crash under the bow. As Lenny Rudow puts it in his write-up of the Carolina Flare style boats on YachtWorld, “Whether you’re looking at production fishing boats like Hatteras, Albemarles and Regulators, or more custom-built battlewagons like Jarrett Bays and Scarboroughs, Carolina boats are known world-wide as some of the most rugged, capable, and seaworthy craft on the face of the planet”.

View Custom Carolina boats for sale on Boat Trader now.

Champion Boat Racer Reggie Fountain

Next, Ryan and his film crew visit champion racer Reggie Fountain, who paved the way for offshore powerboat racing from his early years on the Mercury Racing Team as a top driver to co-founder of the iconic North Carolina boat building company Fountain Powerboats. Despite his departure from the racing world, Reggie still hasn’t put his foot on the brake. Speed is in his blood. Ever since Reggie was a child, he would go as fast as possible on his bicycle, and he continued speeding on every vehicle he could until he found his true calling- racing boats.

Reggie Fountain Fountain Powerboats

Above: Reggie Fountain, founder of Fountain Powerboats, during an interview for Boat Trader’s Stomping Grounds 3. Photo by Boat Trader/Ryan McVinney.

Reggie was talented, but he also had an eye for business. He quickly realized that he could capitalize from his high profile in the racing world, recognizing that the more boat races he won, the more boats he sold. During his successful career in tunnel-boat racing for the Mercury factory team, he started his company Fountain Powerboats in 1979, which quickly became one of the largest top performance sports in the world.

“Bye Bye movie stars”, is a saying that became Fountain’s signature, when, back in 1990 he raced against some of the world’s biggest A-list Hollywood celebrities who were in some very high-tech, expensive boats and beat them all. That moment occurred at Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans at the Popeye’s Offshore Grand Prix, part of the Offshore Professional Tour – an event that was previously an American Power Boat Association race. At the start of the race he turned coolly to his competitors and said, “bye, bye movie stars”, then left them all in the dust. Fountain outraced every single racer that day in his 47’ V-bottom, including Don Johnson, Kurt Russell, Chuck Norris and Al Copeland and set his place in history. Fountain was gracious enough to take our crew on a personalized golf-cart tour of the entire Fountain Powerboats factory on the Pamlico River and learn all about the evolution of the company.

Do you have a boating community in your homelands that you would like to share? Get in touch with Boat Trader if you have a story that you would like to share.

Written by: Emma Coady

Emma Coady is a freelance writer and marine journalist who creates content for many household names in the boating industry, including YachtWorld, Boat Trader and boats.com. She also writes for several boat builders as well as charter and rental companies and regularly contributes to Greenline Hybrid yachts, TJB Super Yachts and Superyachts Monaco. Emma is the founder of Cloud Copy and enjoys traveling around Europe, spending as much of her spare time as possible in or on the water.

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