ORU - unfold for adventure
Remember the ship in a bottle from your childhood? Now, thanks to a genius from San Francisco, you can have a kayak in a box. Or, more accurately, the kayak is the box!
The Oru kayak is an origami inspired vessel that folds from a flat pack (with carry strap), into a stylish, sturdy, lightweight and durable kayak in a matter of minutes, and one that you can take virtually anywhere. No need for roof racks as with hard shell kayaks, and it will fit under your bed, in a closet/wardrobe or the boot of your car.
The inventor and founder of Oru Kayak, Anton Willis, had a fascination with origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into three dimensional shapes and figures. He was also a keen paddler, but after moving to the San Francisco bay area in 2002 he faced the difficulty of getting to the outdoors from a large congested city, let alone storing a large kayak in his apartment.
After reading a 2007 article in The New Yorker magazine about a physicist with an interest in origami, Anton wondered if a kayak could fold up like a piece of paper? He started making miniature ones out of folded paper, then cardboard and eventually a full-sized version from corrugated plastic. There was a lot of interest from friends, so he decided to make a business out of his idea. The design was quite challenging and the first one sank, but he persevered and after about 25 iterations it was ready for market.
In 2012 Oru was a three-person company. Through a Kickstarter campaign they initially sought $80,000 in seed money to set up a manufacturing facility but raised nearly $450,000. They were thrilled of course, but it meant they were faced with the daunting task of building and delivering five times as many kayaks as planned.
It was a great problem for a new company to have, but it also meant a steep learning curve—about everything from designing assembly facilities to setting up efficient operations to understanding international customs regulations. The first kayaks shipped in the northern Spring of 2013 to rave reviews. They were also able to gain valuable insight after reaching a deal with an investor from the ABC’s “Shark Tank” program in 2014.
To this day the kayaks are designed and manufactured in the United States (in Southern California) which gives Anton and his team hands-on access to the production process, ensuring that every Oru Kayak meets high standards for safety, design, and performance. It also makes the prototyping process for new models much faster.
Oru kayaks are sold around the world and now Australia has its own distributor, Yugen Adventure - the website has full specs of the range of Oru kayaks and accessories as well as videos of this ingenious product in action.
Yugen was founded by Michelle Tommosgard and launched in Sydney in January this year. Michelle was introduced to the Oru kayak while travelling in Scandinavia, and it was love at first sight. Captivated by the elegance and simplicity of its design, together with its portability and storage convenience she realised it was a product tailor made for city dwellers who craved the outdoors and anyone else who liked to paddle without the expense or inconvenience associated with full-sized hard-shell kayaks.
There are currently three models available in the Oru range, with a new tandem called the Haven due in mid-2019.
Beach LT – The Beach is great for day trips, picnics, and casual fun with family and friends.
Bay ST - The original Oru Kayak that's withstood the test of time. Launched on Kickstarter, sold by retailers around the world, and in the permanent collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Stable enough for beginners, while fast and sporty for expert kayakers. Plenty of room to stash gear for day trips and short camping excursions. Transforming it from box to boat takes just a few minutes.
Coast XT - The new standard for spontaneous adventures. Designed for rugged expeditions in surf and wind.
The Haven (new for 2019) - The Haven is a folding tandem with impeccable performance and unmatched portability that easily converts to a single-seater high performance kayak with the switch of a few buckles, for those times when you just want to fly solo for a bit. The Haven combines the stability and quick setup of the Beach LT with the performance and speed of the Coast XT - it's a boat with endless possibilities.
Assembly takes probably 25 minutes the first couple of times but usually under 15 minutes with practice, and even less time to fold it up. With a fold cycle of 20,000 times, even with daily use, an Oru could last decades.
The incredible Oru kayak is now available in Australia thanks to Yugen Adventure and we hope to bring you a more comprehensive test from Lake Burley Griffin soon.
If you can’t wait to try your very own Oru kayak have a look at Yugen’s website and, like me, you’ll think …. “I want one!” Click below to view the range and get a 10% discount at checkout.
I've only discovered the joys of kayaking in the past decade and currently use a "Quest 10" (manufactured by Canadian company, Riot). It provides an ideal platform to photograph lake landscapes, the occasional event on the water and other items of interest. Needless to say, kayaking is also a great way to keep fit.