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Custom Country! Kenny Chesney gets personalized paddle board from Ford II students
Custom Country! Kenny Chesney gets personalized paddle board from Ford II students
Posted on 03/07/2022
Students, Mr. Davis with paddle board

Kenny Chesney’s lyrical goal that “I need to live a little, have some fun” is going to go to a new level with a custom paddle board built by Utica Community Schools students.

A Henry Ford II High School woodworking team created the board from scratch after the singer specifically made the request of the students and their eco-friendly design.

It was fun thing to do, especially for someone this big,” said senior Nathan Pluger.  “I mean Kenny Chesney – he is a big dude and it is cool to say that we built a paddle board for him.”

The paddle board, personally ordered by Chesney, was created by a 10—member student team in Chris Davis’ woodworking program. 

Junior Hannah Everett said the team began the project by researching Chesney and his interests and passions. She said the research helped personalize the design for Chesney by including references to No Shoes Nation (Chesney’s fan club); Who Lives Like We Do, We do (a love song to his fan base) ; No Shoes Reefs (his charity); St Johns Island (where he lives); the outline of Chesney from his website; and his signature.

Once designed, students then went step by step to build the board by scratch – cutting the materials, building multiple layers and sanding the board, and applying the epoxy. Team members said it was a great lesson in teamwork.

“We all have to be on the same page, if not a lot of errors can happen very quickly,” senior Joshua Earehart said.

Over the past three years, the Henry Ford II woodworking program has been a go to for international celebrities who are water enthusiasts. 

The woodworking program has honored requests from Virgin Records founder Sir Richard Branson, Cabin Reno HGTV star Kristy Petrillo, Varsity Blues actress Amy Smart and Trading Places husband Carter Oosterhouse, and Spanx founder Sara Blakely and husband entrepreneur Jesse Itzler. 

The attention stems from the unique woodworking process that is used by only a handful of builders internationally. 

“These boards are unique because they are completely custom and hollow,” Davis said. “We do not use any foam on the insides of the board. Materials are handpicked to match the desired design. The boards are also Eco-Friendly - they will never end up in a landfill like foam boards.”

The designs are based on the work of Jason Thelen and his Little Bay Boards business in Petosky. Thelen has become a mentor to students in the program.

In addition to Chesney, the students are completing boards for entrepreneur Tim Easterwood and Shark Week host and motivational speaker Paul DeGelder. 

On order are board requests for  11 time world surf champ Kelly Slater, a paddle board for Chesney's charity, No Shoes Reefs, and a business out in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Davis attributed much of the reason for the interest in the program is the growth of its Instagram account - @henryfordiiwoodworking.

The fact that we have so many people requesting us to build projects for them shows that people respect they quality of our work as well as the projects we are making,” Davis said “We put a lot of time and effort into details, and it shows. The students work really hard to make sure the end product is one that the customer will be happy with.”

The projects are also giving students skills they will have for a lifetime. Both Pluger and Earehart plan to be mechanical engineers and said the teamwork and step by step process will be skills that are important to their careers.

Senior Heather Gravely believes what she has learned in class will also help her keep balance.

“It’s a good hobby,” she said. “It helps to distract my mind from other things when I might get stressed.”