Kayaks are clumsy, heavy, and difficult to stow—it’s no secret. Furthermore, play-boats aren’t typically revered as works-of-art. Until now. Based in San Francisco, the company Oru Kayak rolls over all of those difficult features with an all-original design: the origami-inspired kayak.
The foldable kayak starts in the shape of a 32″-by-13″-by-28″ size box and transforms into a 12-foot, 26-pound floating device—in just 5 minutes. The rectangle opens into a single sheet of corrugated plastic, which snaps into a kayak with a strap-and-buckle system.
“[Oru Kayak] is a beautifully designed product that answers every pain point of kayaks,” said CCO and co-founder Roberto Gutierrez.
The boat is also recyclable and created more sustainably: the process demands 70% less petroleum than that of a standard kayak.
“Plus, the price point is relatively accessible for a boat,” Gutierrez said.
Oru origami kayaks retail at $1,195.
In 2012, the company’s idea rapidly went from paper to prototype in only five months. After reading a New Yorker article covering the evolution of origami—titled “The Origami Lab,”—CEO and co-founder Anton Willis speculated whether it would be possible to design an origami kayak: a boat that was easily foldable and packable, yet durable.
The lack of space in Willis’ small Berkeley-based condo forced him to send-off his kayak to his family’s barn in northern California. Driven by creativity and necessity, the graduate in architecture experimented with some sketches and realized that the concept could work.
In November 2012, Willis and the COO and co-founder Ardy Sobhani launched a Kickstarter campaign to fundraise $80,000 for the company’s start up. In less than 6 hours that amount was met. In the end, close to 700 supporters pledged, and the company received $500,000 in pre-orders.
Moreover, 40 percent of those backers had never previously kayaked, indicating that the origami kayak appealed to new paddlers. Unlocking outdoor experiences, “even if it is in the bays behind your city,” is a big part of Oru Kayak’s goal, Gutierrez said.
“The idea of Oru Kayak is allowing the urbanite to go out and explore where they typically wouldn’t be able to,” Gutierrez said. “It’s designed for anybody, and the goal is that anyone can use it. It’s beautiful and it glows, but at the same time it’s very functional.”
Gutierrez explained that this same eye-for-aesthetics drives every aspect of the company from the branding to the meetings to product design.
“We let our inspirations drive what we do first, and then we refine them with perspectives, data, analytics,” he said. “The pen-on-paper drawings and making prototypes is not just how our products are built—it’s how our spreadsheets are made. It penetrates all the way through the company.”
Want to see the Oru Kayak in action? Check out this short video below of the origami kayak being put together. And the second video of Oru Kayaks at night is pretty rad as well.