An in-depth review of the portable Oru Kayak by Adventure Kayak magazine.
In late 2012, when California architect and designer Anton Willis and partner Ardy Sobhani launched a Kickstarter campaign to crowd-fund production of the Oru—an origami-inspired folding kayak Willis had designed as a hobby—they pre-sold more than 500 boats, raising over $440,000. The pair promptly built a factory near San Francisco Bay and started cranking out kayaks.
Each kayak is engineered from a single sheet of light yet strong corrugated plastic—which Oru claims is rated to 20,000 fold cycles—that is scored to allow it to fold into a 30-inch-square, briefcase-shaped package. It’s not a boat in a box; the boat is the box—the lid of the case becomes the reinforced floor of the kayak. A single rubberized seam along the deck is joined by a series of clips; neoprene bow and stern sleeves complete the watertight seal.
The Oru kayak’s simplicity belies the elbow grease needed to manipulate plastic signboard into a sturdy, rigid 12-foot kayak. Unfolding and refolding the kayak is much easier with two people and, with practice, takes less than 10 minutes. I struggled and swore for twice that before grabbing a helper.
With its semi-translucent white hull, acute angles and hard chines, the Oru evokes its traditional skin-on-frame roots. Edging is stable and responsive for carved turns. A full bow aids capable rough water handling and even surfing. It tracks well and feels agile in the water, accelerating quickly and cruising at a speed comparable to similarly sized hard-shells.
The foam seat and adjustable-height backrest are comfortable enough, and the floating foot bar offers adequate support for efficient leg drive. The cockpit opening accepts a standard-sized spray deck, although there’s not much below the rim to brace knees and thighs.
The Oru kayak is an elegant realization of childhood transformer fantasies. There’s enough space for carefully packed camping trips, but it’s more suitable for urban commutes and impromptu after work adventures.
Ideal for: Grab-and-go midweek escapes; day trips on lakes, rivers and coastal waters.
Assembly Time: 10 minutes or less
Oru Kayak Specs
Material: Double-walled Coroplast
Weight: 26 pounds