Oru Lake Kayak Is the Essence of Origami Design

Brilliant design makes this the smallest, lightest, and fastest-folding kayak ever.

kayak and dog on water

Oru Kayak

Origami was originally the Japanese art of paper folding, but for the last decade the company Oru Kayak has been folding polypropylene sheets into boats modeled after Greenland-style kayaks, with the goal "to change how people connect with the water." It now introduced what it calls "the brand’s most affordable and universally approachable boat yet, the Lake." The company notes: "Composed of only two loose parts, the Lake can be assembled in under 2 minutes and weighs just 18 lbs, making it the lightest non-inflatable kayak on the market."

Walking with kayak

Oru Kayak

Boat ownership usually involves owning a garage and a car, but the wonderful thing about the Oru Lake is it folds up so small into a box—the boat actually is the box!—only 42-by-10-by-18 inches, so you can store this in a closet or under a couch. You can carry it on a bus or on a cargo bike or even in a backpack, which makes boating accessible to a much larger audience. The company notes that "regardless of strength or age, the Lake allows more people to transport, carry, and store a fully functional kayak on their own." It's priced for accessibility, too, at $699.

According to Oru's press release:

"To create a superior user experience, Oru recognized the need to distill its kayak design as close as possible to single-sheet origami art. Fewer moving parts translate to less weight and a more efficient assembly experience. The 9’ X 32” wide Lake has only two loose components: a single sheet of double-layered polypropylene which forms the hull and deck of the kayak (as well as the box), and a custom folded floorboard with built-in 18mm memory foam seat. Whereas other Oru models rely on users to install bulkheads to provide rigidity, the Lake employs an innovative new folded floorboard to create the same structural integrity."
On relatively open water

Oru Kayak

It is an open-cockpit design that makes it easy to get in and out of but also limits its use to calm waters. If you want to hit faster water, you're gonna need a bigger boat, which Oru also sells.

In our survey of 2022 eco-trends, we noted this would be the year of "lightweighting."

"American architect Buckminster Fuller famously wondered: 'How much does your building weigh? A question often used to challenge architects to consider how efficiently materials were used for the space enclosed.' He understood the importance of lightweighting, which is exactly what it sounds like: making things that weigh less. Engineer Avi Reichental says in a LinkedIn post, 'Lightweighting is the wave of the future, and the automotive and transportation industries are leading the charge.'"
Assembling Kayak

Oru Kayak

The Oru Lake could be the poster child for lightweighting. There is almost nothing to it at 18 pounds, not including seat components and accessories. According to Reichental, lightweighting can be achieved through material substitution or through reduction with smart design. Oru did the material substitution years ago by using polypropylene, which is certainly lighter and more sustainable than traditional sealskin or other materials that were used to cover the frames of Inuit kayaks. They got the reduction through clever design; the stiffness of the board and the origami folds give it the rigidity it needs.

“The defining principle of this boat is simplicity both in terms of customer accessibility and design ethos,” said Anton Willis, Oru's founder and chief design officer. “Eliminating things is difficult, especially when we’re committed to the same standards of durability and user experience as our performance models. However, we make origami kayaks, and this boat is the essence of that–it’s the most purely 'origami' thing we’ve ever made."

French author and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once wrote, "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Willis and his team appear to have achieved that with the new Oru Lake.

Oru has launched the Lake on Kickstarter but this company has been around for a decade and sold over 15,000 kayaks.