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Foldable Kayak Offers New Way to Explore the City

by Utne Reader staff


Tags: Innovation, Recreation,

oru kayak

The Oru Kayak aims to sustainably and affordably reconnect urbanites with the natural world around them.

The collapsible boat marketed to urbanites is not a new idea. But one California inventor and entrepreneur might have found the perfect combination of efficiency, sustainability, and affordability with his improvement on the collapsible kayak, reports Pat Joseph in the Summer 2013 issue of California.

Inspired by origami, Oru Kayak founder Anton Willis has successfully developed an all- plastic boat that’s fully recyclable, extremely durable, and able to be folded into its carrying case that can be stored in a closet or under the bed. It can withstand the folding/unfolding process up to 20,000 times, but most importantly, it actually works, and has been positioned as the ideal water vehicle for the urban dweller who’s interested in exploring their city’s waterways. And while Willis doesn’t recommend it for the weekend warrior, the Oru Kayak is even durable enough to handle the choppy waters of San Francisco Bay, demonstrating that it’s capable of handling pretty much any scenario an urban boater might come across:

As Joseph explains in his article, the Oru Kayak represents a new breed of collapsible boats as it’s lighter than comparable boats (it’s just about 25 pounds), more compact, and cheaper (the boat alone sells for $1,095). A successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012 got the ball rolling in a big way, proving that there was hungry market for Willis’ idea.

But the physical attributes of the boat only tell part of the story as far as Willis is concerned. From a philosophical perspective, this boat represents another extension of the mission at the heart of every project Willis has taken on; that is, his heartfelt desire to help urban people reconnect with the natural surroundings that are so easy for urbanites to miss or take for granted. His company’s product tester, Roberto Gutierrez, summed up Willis’ drive by saying, “For Anton, it’s not so much about selling stuff; it’s about getting people in boats and exploring the world around them. If selling Oru Kayaks can accomplish that, I think he’s happy.”

Photo of New York City from the Hudson River; courtesy of the Oru Kayak user gallery