Paddling an Oru kayak in Switzerland

Oru, The Origami Kayak

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In 2012, something miraculous was born in the dynamically artistic city of San Francisco, California. It was a company called Oru Kayak. Their ingenious creation? A 12 foot origami kayak.

The idea was born of one man’s desire to have a lightweight, easy to transport and store, high performance, multi-purpose boat.

The Oru Bay, their original model, is 12 feet long but weighs in at only 26 pounds (12 kg). In just a few minutes, it can be folded down from a 12-foot long, fully functional kayak to an over-sized rectangular case. Panels of the kayak itself form the exterior of the hard-shell case, and the entire shebang can be packed neatly in a custom backpack for hiking excursions to hard-to reach waterways.

Incredible, no?

Paddling demo on Bodensee, Switzerland
We demo our first Oru kayaks on a gray day on Bodensee, Switzerland.
Oru kayak demo in Switzerland
Two Oru kayaks are ready for our first paddling demo at Kanuschule Bodensee.

To get funding for this innovative project, the founders launched a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. They easily raised the necessary funds, and followed that initial success with the Oru Bay+, an improved version of their maiden boat.

Since then, the Oru Coast and Oru Coast+ have each made their debut.  Both are 16 foot kayaks, also origami, but more akin to a sea kayak; despite their extra length, they still weigh only 28 pounds (not even 13 kg).

Carrying an Oru at Kanuschule Bodensee in Switzerland
I lift a folded Oru kayak during our demo at Kanuschule Bodensee in Switzerland.

When Oru launched its first Kickstarter, Travis and I were unaware of it.  We were still living in Oregon, quite content with our two 12-foot Dagger Blackwater kayaks. We had a 4Runner and racks to easily haul them, a garage with plenty of space to store them, and they were superb boats for paddling, tracking, and hauling enough gear to do extended camping trips.

Sadly, we sold our beloved boats when we moved to Switzerland and have sorely felt their absence since. Though we loved our old boats, I most miss the sense of freedom, adventure, and peace that they provided, something the Orus can most certainly also provide.

By the time we learned about Oru, we knew we’d likely be moving to Europe soon and would have to sell our Blackwater kayaks. Despite my constant impulse for weeks to just buy them while we still lived in the US and ship them to Europe, Travis would calmly talk me off the ledge, reminding me we really should try them first.

I can’t even imagine all the weird stuff I’d own if it weren’t for him.

Boat made in California, USA
Oru kayaks are made in California, USA.

After finding out Oru had a trade show scheduled at the end of June in Portland which is only two hours north of us, we made plans to go. We were super excited about possibly buying a couple of their – at that time – limited supply of boats.

The show was just days before we were scheduled to move to Switzerland, and we were hoping to be able to include them in our shipment of household items.

Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen issues, Oru had to cancel their Portland show last minute, and we were left kayak-less.

Since then, we’ve been waiting. Waiting for our finances to settle, waiting for them to reach a retailer near us, waiting for an opportunity to demo one. Then Travis lost his job, and we’ve been waiting to find out where we’ll go next.

So much waiting = not enough kayaking.

Miraculously, a kayak school called Kanuschule Bodensee recently started carrying the Oru boats and gear.

Nearly 3 hours from our apartment in Switzerland, we had a chance to stop by their shop on our way back from Romania. Though the owners, Beat and Michaela, had time constraints because of a paddling class, they welcomed us to stay to demo the boats, answering tons of our questions.

Later they showed us how to dismantle an Oru and let us drool over the fun outdoor gear in their paddle shop after-hours.  Helping us carry the Orus to their dock, they encouraged us to paddle as long as we wanted, requesting only that we not go all the way to Germany.

Haha, not this time!

Paddling an Oru during a demo in Switzerland
Travis paddles an Oru kayak for the first time on the Bodensee in Switzerland.

The boats handled like a dream, quite similar to our Blackwaters, though we weren’t able to see how they track in rough water since the huge lake was dead calm. But what a fantastic kayak!

Needless to say, we’ll definitely be buying a couple, along with some gear. We shipped our PFDs, skirts, and throw ropes to Switzerland when we mvoed, but we need new paddles and stuff sacks. We’ll also likely buy Oru’s special backpacks.

And of course, we’re definitely going to get a couple of sets of their solar inflatable lights to illuminate the boats at night. That’s a must-have.

So when are we going to buy them?

Just as soon as we know on which continent we’ll be living in the foreseeable future.  For now, we’re still waiting…

Whoever said you can’t buy happiness, never had an Oru kayak.

Update October 2, 2015

We finally take the Oru plunge!

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