The foldable kayak changing water adventures - Oru Kayaks in Australia
I’d first heard about Oru Kayak a few years ago when they partnered up with some incredible Instagrammers and photographers and my feeds were flooded with paddlers in stunning landscapes that did NOT seem accessible with a kayak.
At the time, I was nursing a broken left foot and so was doing comparatively more kayaking than before in order to get in my adventure dose. I was very keen on owning my own but I didn’t want to get roof racks to transport a kayak (not to mention that I drive a small Sydney-friendly hatchback car) nor did I have any storage space at my matchbox-sized apartment to keep it.
When I realised that all the epic photographs were of a FOLDABLE kayak, I was hooked on the idea. Founded in 2012, Oru Kayak is a foldable kayak and is Anton Willis’ answer to the struggle of getting outdoors when living in a large, busy and crowded urban area. His elegant combination of engineering and art has culminated in a kayak that can fold up to be stored in an apartment closet or under a bed, transported in the boot of a small car and even be taken hiking or on a bike using Oru Kayak’s special backpack. All these features are game-changing but it’s really the latter that has opened up the doors to endless adventure possibilities including first floats (like first ascents in mountaineering).
Now, I looked into getting one but there were no stockists downunder and international shipping back then was not as affordable as it is now. I eventually abandoned the idea.
Fast forward to Michelle of Yugen Adventure reaching out to She Went Wild saying she was the authorised reseller of Oru Kayak downunder. I couldn’t have been more excited to read her email and to take her up on an invitation to try out these babies for myself!
One balmy Friday morning in the middle of yet another cracking Sydney summer, I met Michelle down at Rozelle Bay in the inner west where she had both the Beach and Bay models ready for the testing.
So first, a crash course in the three Oru Kayak models, which can all be purchased in Australia from Yugen Adventure:
The Beach LT is the most stable and easy to assemble. It’s much wider and has an open cockpit (seating area) and is also the lightest boat, weighing only 11.8kg.
The Bay ST is the original origami kayak and weighs 12.7kg.
The Coast XT is the largest and most advanced model (however, anyone can use it). The Coast XT weighs 15.4kg.
Michelle showed me how to assemble the Beach LT and Bay ST and I got to paddle around in both! At the time, she was out of stock for the Coast XT.
The Oru Kayak packs up compactly into a large suitcase or suitcase that weighs approximately 13 kilograms (depending on which model). I found it so easy to carry around.
All the standard parts fit inside this pack which means you could easily check it in as one piece of baggage.
ASSEMBLY - FROM BOX TO BOAT
Assembling the Oru Kayak is definitely all part of the fun.
The first time generally takes 40 minutes but after only a few times, Michelle dramatically cut this time down to only 5-10 minutes. She took it a bit slower this time around so that I got a good idea of the assembly.
We unclipped the box and out came only a handful of components - the best part is probably that the lid becomes the floorboard i.e. where you sit!
After we folded and bent the giant piece of polypropylene plastic into a kayak-shape, we began holding it in shape with a variety of clips, bindings and fixtures. For the Beach LT, it’s as simple as buckling and tightening 6 clips and closing the front and back of the kayak. In between the buckling and tightening, we inserted a footrest, floorboard, backrest and seat. It was relatively easy to do as there are clear grooves indicating where to place the parts, which just click in. The Bay ST is slightly harder to assemble as it needs to be ‘zipped’ together, rather than clipped. It is a little fiddly to begin with but I quickly got the hang of it.
The assembly process is mind-blowing; not because it is complex but because it is unbelievably simple - so simple that if Michelle hadn’t been there, I would’ve been concerned as to whether I’d done it properly! Michelle told me that when she first tried an Oru Kayak in Oslo, Norway, she too was genuinely worried as to whether it would float!
But float, they do! It was such a thrill to be out there on the bay on these beautiful, innovative kayaks with views of the Anzac Bridge, the Harbour Bridge and the Centrepoint Tower.
TESTING - OUT ON THE WATER
I will preface everything by saying I am by no means an expert paddler but I have kayaked a fair bit recreationally and in some beautiful places such as Sydney Harbour, Milford Sound, the Nepean River into the Blue Mountains and Abel Tasman National Park.
The first model I paddled out on was the Bay ST. This is the perfect option for cruising around and exploring coves and coastlines or even day trips and short excursions as there is some storage space and the cockpit can be fitted with a spray skirt.
Performance-wise, I was very impressed at how accurately it tracked and how responsive it was to steering. I also loved how stable it felt - which will be of relief to those who are nervous about sit-in kayaks! These kayaks are rollable in event of capsize.
I only have one complaint about the Bay ST and it is that it was a little awkward to carry as I could only grasp onto the rim. There are only handles at either end whereas there is a handle at the cockpit for the Beach LT.
And on that note, the second model I tried was the Beach LT which is ideal for beginner paddlers and taller individuals as it has ample space to position your knees. The larger, open cockpit made it easier to get in and out of the kayak. Apparently, it also means that even your dog can join you for an adventure! The Beach felt even more stable than the Bay. However, I did find it slower to respond to steering and it didn’t feel like it sliced through the water as nicely, due to it being wider.
In both models, the footrest and backrest can be adjusted to your personal preferences.
What I loved about both models is this unity I felt with the water. Michelle said she had gotten the same feeling on her first time - “I was immediately in love. I felt like I was at one with the water.” We ruminated about why this was; we think it has something to do with the fact that you assemble the kayak with your own hands and the design itself is so minimalistic that there is really isn’t much physically separating you from the water. And this is exactly Oru Kayak’s mission; to help everyone fulfil their deep human need to connect to nature, even those of us who live in cities like big, busy Sydney where apartments are only getting smaller!
The third model is the Coast XT which is suited for open sea and multi-day trips e.g. camping or touring. There are additional accessories such as float bags that can be purchased to make it even more ocean-ready. It has the best storage volume compared to the other models. It is also well suited for anyone that is taller than 193cm. As previously mentioned, Michelle was out of stock for the Coast so we weren’t able to give it a whirl!
Back on land, Michelle talked me through cleaning the kayaks which is another step made so much easier by Oru Kayaks. If you’ve ever had to clean a conventional kayak, you’ll know how cumbersome it can be; trying to flip the heavy thing upside down! With Oru Kayaks, which by the way weigh about half of a traditional kayak, you just need to dissemble and give it a wipe down to remove sediment and saltwater. You don’t even have to really, but this will increase your kayak’s longevity (which already has a manufacturer-rated lifespan of 20,000 fold cycles and a 10-year UV treatment).
OTHER SPECS + REMAINING QUESTIONS
The Beach LT and Bay ST handle approximately 136 kilograms of weight whilst the Coast XT; 181 kilograms.
All kayaks have a one-year warranty
Feeling how the Oru Kayaks perform in rougher conditions, even sliding over rocks in the water, is something that I’d like to test.
Come April 2019, Michelle will also be stocking fishing kits that allow you to add multiple rod holders to the kayak (she recommends the Beach LT for fishing) as well as the new “Haven” Tandem kayak. The Haven model is basically a longer version of the Beach LT model that’s designed for two. It will weigh 18.2kg.
Are you interested in trying out an Oru Kayak for yourself?
When an innovative product like this hits the shelves, there’s no denying its wow-factor…but it can be so far out of our comfort zone that it’s difficult to imagine actually using it.
She Went Wild + Yugen Adventure are concocting some demo mornings for late-June/early-July when Sydneysiders can get together for a cuppa and a paddle! Leave your deets below if you’re keen.