Grant Smith, an up-and-coming builder and industry instructor poised to become a leading presence in the next wave of builder education, died in his sleep Nov. 15 at his home in Southern California. He was 50 years old.

The president of Aqua-Link Pools and Spas in Oceanside, Calif., was an active member and instructor in Watershape University.

Smith was born in Battle Creek, Mich., and spent his childhood in Greenville, S.C.

Before becoming a pool professional, Smith served in the Marine Corps from 1989 to 1994, mostly at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif.

“That’s something he was always proud of,” said Paolo Benedetti, CEO/principal with Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa in Morgan Hill, Calif., and a close friend. “He always was wearing ... either a Marine Corp tee shirt, or a hat or pin.”

Like many of the most technically proficient pool/spa builders, Smith got his start as a service professional. After leaving the military, Smith started a service company, working largely for clients generated by a relative who owned a pool-construction company. About three years in, he wanted a challenge, so he sold his service route and started Aqua-Link in 2004. He began by performing renovations. Having mastered that, he moved into new construction, working his way into the high-end market.

In 2017, Smith was named a Society of Watershape Designers Master by Genesis. He became a consistent presence with the group and occasionally taught. Once Watershape University formed, he became part of that group as an integral member and instructor. He could cover a wide variety of technical issues, ranging from materials and tile to shotcrete and steel, along with courses on backyard kitchens and electrical safety.

“He was an all-around good guy and a good contractor,” said Benedetti, who serves as an instructor with Watershape University. “He was one of the guys we were cultivating to take over as the next generation of instructor.”

Smith was a founder of Ask the Masters, which he participated in for its first few years.

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