Henry Ford II High School woodworking teacher Christopher Davis and his students present the paddleboard they are making for billionaire Richard Branson.

wood paddle board

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 15, 2019

Student Sydney Szymanski works on the paddleboard.

Photo by Deb Jacques

STERLING HEIGHTS — When Henry Ford II High School senior Hannah Frrokaj was assigned a woodworking class project of making a paddleboard for billionaire Richard Branson, her first task was to find out who he was.

After that, it was time for her and the other members of her all-female woodworking group to immerse themselves in the project.

“Me and these girls have truly learned how humble and down-to-earth Richard is,” she said. “He has become an inspiration to us after hearing all of his amazing stories and accomplishments he has achieved, which makes us work extra hard every day in class to complete this board for him.”

According to Ford woodworking teacher Christopher Davis, this is the second year his classes have made wooden paddleboards. The eco-friendly wooden paddleboards are each about 10 1/2 feet long and weigh between 28 and 30 pounds, he said.

“We should be around 15 paddleboards this year,” he said. “It’s a process — there’s a lot to know about making the board perform correctly. … We want to make these boards as light as possible. We want to make sure quality is top-notch.”

Davis said his interest in paddleboard projects started when he saw other schools building them out of foam. But he got the idea to “take it to the next level” and build an eco-friendly wooden version. He said he took a week out of a summer break to learn techniques from artist Jason Thelen, who works at the Petoskey-based Little Bay Boards.

“I talk to Jason every week or two to bounce ideas off him,” Davis said.

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