Our Story

Blue Ridge Boatworks Story
A New Perspective

Powerpoints & Paddling

It all started at an outdoor store in Columbia, South Carolina. It’s the early 80’s, Brownie is watching a presentation by Arlene Burns about her and Dan Dixon kayaking and rafting in Nepal. Very few people were doing this. It was wild.

A few years later Brownie attends a funky outdoor school in Arizona, Prescott College. At the time it’s one of only a few schools in the nation with an outdoor program. After several years of school and travel, Brownie became a kayak instructor at the college—roaming around the west in his van teaching kayaking.

After marrying his wife, Susan, they moved to Tahoe. Brownie continued to teach kayak courses for the college and worked a few stints at Otter Bar Lodge, a world-class destination kayak school. Like every other kayaker, he built a few houses along the way to subsidize the paddling dream in Tahoe.

Two Generations Of Paddlers

Born And Raised On The Water

As a couple of summers pass in Tahoe, Stokes is born, and they migrated back to the southeast, to a farm in North Carolina with the hopes of starting their own paddling school.

Since the ripe age of two weeks old, Stokes has been on the water. He got his first kayak at 7 years old and started paddling. The young family lived on a small stream, Big Rock Creek, that became a class 4 creek when it flooded—the perfect training ground for a young paddler. He and his brothers would shuttle each other on a Kawasaki Mule up and down the creek.

Brownie Liles and Stokes Liles
Brownie Fly Fishing Guide
Then A Fly Rod Changed Everything

Becoming A Guide

In 1997, at the impressionable age of 28, Brownie gets his first fly rod from his sister for Christmas and becomes obsessed. One day on the river, with his new fly rod in hand, Brownie sees a commercial fishing guide floating down the river in a raft. That’s when he decided that guiding should be a part of what they were building, so it morphed into a fly fishing business.

After ten years of guiding in North Carolina, the family moves to Tennessee to be closer to the Watauga river and start a new business: Watauga River Lodge.

Polymer > Everything

Creating a one-of-a-kind drift boat

After decades of guiding, owning various drift boats and rafts, Brownie rowed an Andy Toohey design for a few weeks and fell in love with one feature in particular, the material of the hull. When he first started guiding on the Watauga, nobody had hard boats because of how boney the river was. Having a background in kayaking with plastic hitting rocks, he knew this material would make the perfect hull for drift boats on Southeastern rivers. Blue Ridge Boatworks was born.

We’ve taken everything that we’ve learned through years of trial and error on the river and put them into this model. Now we’re crafting polymer drift boats for clients all around the country.

We appreciate you stopping by!

Crafting A Drift Boat
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Built On The Banks Of The Watauga