In 2002, Anton Willis — Chief Design Officer and mastermind behind revolutionary Oru Kayaks — moved to the Bay area and immediately encountered issues getting outside the way he wanted, as one is apt to do living in urban areas, even in a place like SF that is surrounded by waterways and open spaces.
Paddling was always an escape for Willis, but he simply couldn’t store a rigid (traditional) kayak in his studio apartment. Five years later, Anton stumbled across an article in the New Yorker that detailed a physicist who abandoned his career trajectory to instead use math and engineering to create intricate origami designs, that are beautiful and often useful in real-world applications. This is what you might call one of those light bulb moments.
Anton wanted to create a foldable kayak that city dwellers could easily transport and store between paddles. After many prototypes and product iterations, Anton finally had a fully functioning Origami-inspired kayak, made of lightweight, corrugated plastic sheets, much like you might find used in a white Postal Service bin. He joined forces with Ardy Sobhani and Roberto Gutierrez, and they launched a very successful kickstarter campaign to bring the kayak to life. they made 554 percent of their original $80,000 goal, coming in close to $500k. Successful businesses are usually solving a problem for people, and apparently they had hit on a real problem.
They then brought the Kayak to ABC’s Shark Tank. Robert Herjavec made an investment of $500,000 for a 25 percent stake in Oru Kayak, and the team accepted his offer. They then headed to Southern California to manufacture the boats; and Oru are now sold internationally, direct, and at large retailers such as Amazon and REI.
The Inlet is the latest iteration they are pushing for the holidays. To achieve the Inlet’s unheard-of specs, Oru worked out an entirely new Origami folding pattern — the first completely-new folding pattern since the company was formed in 2012. In a handful of simple steps, Inlet owners can now be on the water in less than three minutes: 75% faster than past Oru kayak models.
Developed by Willis, the new folding pattern produces a significantly streamlined box-to-boat assembly that eliminates many of the loose parts found in other, previous Oru Kayaks. Notably, the Inlet features Oru’s first fully-integrated floorboard, enabling a more intuitive and speedy assembly.
The new folding pattern achieves more than just speed, it also maximizes spatial efficiency, and reduces overall weight. When fully assembled, the Inlet is 10 feet long, 31-inches wide, and weighs 20 lbs. The Inlet then neatly folds into a compact box, similar in size to a guitar case (40”x18”x10”).
For Willis, the Inlet is literally a dream come true: “This boat represents what I always wanted for Oru: kayaks with intuitive and quick assembly, great stability, an affordable price, and unbelievable portability,” he said in a release. “I strongly feel that the Inlet is as close as we’ve ever come to building a product that breaks all the common barriers to boat ownership.”
In its first-ever sub-$1,000 folding kayak offering, Oru is introducing the new Inlet, designed to eliminate all barriers to owning a fun, effective and convenient kayak for anyone with access to a waterway.
The Inlet represents the company’s most compact, lightweight and easy-to-set-up kayak to date.
The Inlet utilizes a completely new origami pattern resulting in remarkable space savings, ease of assembly, and weight. At only $899, the Inlet is also 30 percent less expensive than Oru’s currently cheapest model (The Beach LT). The brand’s hope is that the packability, ease of storage, light weight and simplicity to build may just eliminate any barriers for anyone wishing to own a boat. Again, from box-to-boat, Oru says the Inlet takes less than three minutes to assemble…a record time for any folding boat.
+ Weighs 20lbs. (36% lighter than current lightest Oru Kayak – The Bay ST)
+ 10’ x 31″ when assembled for stable on-water experience
+ Folds into a compact box about the size of a guitar case – 40”x18”x10” (34% smaller by volume than the next smallest Oru Kayak)
–Follow author Aaron H. Bible on Instagram at @DefinitelyWild.