Josh Williams’ adventurous spirit comes from his mom’s side of the family and his self reliance comes from his dad’s side whereas his knack for boat building was absorbed from both lines of ancestry.
With a newly-expanded garage at his Longmont home, the woodworker anticipates transitioning out of the construction career he’s held for 25 years into a new business venture called Core Boards.
“I’m looking to crawl out of bed, crawl into my garage, build a paddleboard, and when the weather’s nice and I feel like going out, I go out,” he said. “It’s more of a lifestyle kind of thing. I’ve been in construction long enough to realize if you build anything out of wood you’re never gonna get rich.”
Core Boards was formally shaped in 2016 out of his love of water sports and his ability to create nearly anything from wood — but also from his wife’s request seven or eight years ago that she have her own board to stand-up paddle on.
The years went by and Megan Williams, realizing that her husband is capable of making anything, but also realizing he doesn’t have enough hours in the day, said, “I got sick of waiting.”
She returned one day from Target with a roll-up rubber paddleboard before their vacation to Bend, Ore., where the couple and their two daughters played in the water for the whole week.
“So we get back from Bend, Ore., and he starts to make the board,” she said. “…As it’s coming along, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is beautiful.’ So when he got the first one done, I was like, ‘Honey, I’ve seen you make a lot of things but this is like, beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I think you made really good stuff but this is kind of really good.'”
And then they took it to the water to test its buoyancy. It passed.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind,” Josh Williams said about building water vessels. “All my ancestors were boat builders…So I was like, eh, well maybe boat building is a thing for me.”
Josh Williams said on his paternal side, the men were ship builders who had emigrated from Europe to the U.S. to build the vessels on the Mississippi River. He said on his maternal side, his grandfather was a hobby boat builder, crafting a wooden motor boat and canoe that’s still in the family.
A framed black-and-white photo at his house shows that same canoe strapped to a now-vintage model car in a campsite somewhere along the California coast, where his grandparents honeymooned either in 1939 or 1940.
In researching the paddleboarding pockets in California, Texas, North Carolina and Florida, Josh Williams has gleaned understanding that the market is strictly seasonal and based on a fiscally flexible clientele. But the popularity isn’t slowing.
A report by analysts with Research and Markets forecasts that the stand-up paddle board market could grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15 percent between 2016 and 2020.
“The clients that are looking for paddleboards are way more apt to talk about it rather than when you’re building somebody’s basement,” he said, noting a motivation he’s wanting to step away from his construction business.
To make a custom paddleboard, Josh Williams hand-cuts strips of different woods — paduke, walnut, rosewood, purple heart and mainly cedar — that are glued together, shaped and varnished over a hollow core.
“That’s part of the charm of these things is everything is hand done,” he said. “It adds to the challenges for sure, but once you get it, you’re like, oh that’s nice.”
His beginner board that’s stable enough for touring, surfing, lazy floating and yoga is more than 11-feet long, weighs 45 pounds and costs $3,800. A similar board for a paddler weighing less than 150 pounds costs $3,600. And his custom race board is 14-feet long, weighs about 45 pounds and runs $4,300.
Paddles are sold separately, and Josh Williams recommends the American-made Bending Branches company.
He said he’s fiddling with different jig systems that could make the process more efficient and a variety of shapes, such as rounded versus pointed noses to differentiate between boards for racing and boards for yoga. He also said he hopes to be building multiple boards at once. now that he has the room to maneuver them in his garage add-on, which smells strongly of the different woods.
“At this point in my life, I just want to enjoy and it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I love the hand-shaping part of it. It kind of takes you back to the old days…The sound and the curls coming off the wood. That’s what I love. That’s what being a carpenter is all about.”
Luckily for him, his family revolves around the water so he expects to receive plenty of feedback when the boards are ready for the float and tip tests.
Megan Williams is a physical education and health teacher at Twin Peaks Charter Academy during the school year and a swim coach at The Fox Hill Club in the summer. Their daughters, Katelyn, 11, and Lindsay, 8, swim.
“If we’ve been dry for longer than a day, it’s been pretty amazing,” Megan Williams said. “We do a lot of swimming. And if we’re not in the water, we’re on top of the water. And if we’re not on top of the water, we’re hiking to water or something. And in the winter, we’re on frozen water. All water.”
And Josh Williams, though he said he’s not a master paddleboarder even after racing a few times, finds thrill in kayaking and rafting rapids.
Maybe one day he’ll build a canoe or different type of boat, he said.
Racks on the garage walls now hold several finished boards and a few in progress as well as the inflatable board Megan Williams continues using out of fear of mishandling the wooden ones.
“Every time we take one of these to the lake, everybody is like, ‘Whoa, where’d you get that?'” she said, adding her response. “He made it. What? He made it. ‘Woah, where can I get one of those?'”