Last week, I had the pleasure of testing out Oru Kayak, the world’s first origami kayak. It was wonderful!

Anton Willis, the designer, and I met at the Berkeley Marina to put his latest iteration to the test. I had been watching Anton construct the kayak for months at TechShop and had always bugged him about taking me out for a test ride. I finally got my wish.

He pulled the folded kayak, roughly the size of a large artist portfolio, out of his car and set it in the grass near the docks. A small crowd began to form as he unfolded the cut sheet of corrugated plastic, the same material as the political advertisement in your neighbor’s front lawn. The entire build time took about ten minutes, but easily could’ve been halved without the peppering of questions from the onlookers.

Before I knew it, I was paddling around the marina at a surprisingly high clip. I don’t consider myself a kayak expert, but the Oru design felt fast and comfortable. You quickly forget that it’s a neatly folded piece of plastic. The big question on my mind, and probably everyone else’s, was: how much water would it take on? It was, after all, an origami kayak. After kayaking around the marina and near the larger waves of the San Francisco Bay, I was still completely dry without a drop of water inside the vessel.  Anton told me it doesn’t take on any more water than a typical kayak – spray and paddle drip.

Anton expects the kayak to retail for about $500. You can sign up to receive the release date announcement on Oru’s website.

David Lang

David Lang

Co-Founder of OpenROV, a community of DIY ocean explorers and makers of low-cost underwater robots. Author of Zero to Maker. And on Twitter!

  • Adam Lindsay

    Shouldn’t he be wearing a life jacket, esp in a demo video? Its a great product but there will be some people who will take away from this that this kayak is safe enough that you don’t have to wear safety equipment while inside it.

    • kim

      The photo of him in the kayak on the water has him wearing a life preserver. It is the gold vest.

    • Steve

      Most states you do not need to wear a life jacket while kayaking (some require you have one onboard). Use your own common sense. And stop reading things into videos that aren’t there.

  • chuck

    Super cool idea but how sturdy is this thing? The video doesn’t show him getting in the kayak so I wonder if it flexes.

    • David Lang (@davidtlang)

      Hi Chuck,

      Felt sturdy, both in and out of the water. The worry never crossed my mind. It feels light, if anything.


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  • Duncan Domingue

    I want one of these so much for my motorcycle! I haven’t done nearly as much kayaking as I used to since I began using only a motorcycle for transportation.

  • Roger

    Crapsicles that looks cold! Cool kayak, tho!

  • balloondoggle

    Geez, I can hardly fold a map…..

  • S

    Is the weight limit any different for an origami kayak?

    • David Lang (@davidtlang)

      Not sure. That question came up while we were out there and Anton mentioned that a 250 lb person didn’t have any issues. Not sure if he’s done the full weight limit testing yet, though…

  • Kayaking Bunnie

    For casual kayaking I am sure this would be great but for light white water I think this wouldn’t cut it. How strong is the hull? How is the durability?

  • Zak Zebrowski

    Very cool. If my budget allows it, I’ll be buying two in the following months!

  • Jana Seeliger

    Yep, how strong is the kayak….good question.

  • Simon

    Any idea if plans or even tips and tricks learned along the way will be made public? I would love to try and build on myself but I cant find much information on how some of the parts are put together. I’ll probably just end up figuring it out through trial and error but it would be nice to know more about what Anton learned in the development process.

    • Mike

      Anton’s patent application reveals a lot of the secret sauce, along with one of his other vimeo videos which shows how he made folds in the corrugated plastic for his hand-built prototypes. You can find the application through google patents or another patent search website. Remember, though, that patent protection applies to home-builds using the patented innovation. The patent has not yet been granted, but pending status provides retroactive protection if the claims are upheld in the examination process. I used Anton’s patent application drawings to build models using card stock, and turned a campaign sign into a little version to learn more about his idea. My little model makes a cute play kayak for the kids, but it showed me a lot of effort has gone into the design. It’s amazing how minor changes to proportion and fold lines for the folding shell can result in dramatic changes to the overall form. Beond the folding shell, the hardware needed to tie it all together isn’t a trivial matter either.

  • TJK

    Reblogged this on Corvidae Corvus and commented:
    This is a great application of a very old art form to an even older mode of transportation. Using new materials, Anton Willis has created something brilliant, beautiful and useful.

    • David Lang (@davidtlang)

      Well put. I’m glad you said that.

      After I posted this, I immediately wished I had said something similar. It really is an interesting blend of old ideas and new technologies.

  • mykayaks

    Wow! I have never seen anything like this. I’m very familiar with inflatable kayaks and their ruggedness and portability. Do you know how this kayak compares to the inflatables on the market? This is a very cool idea!

  • Alan Feldstein

    This is very cool. David – does it have foot pegs? Did you use flotation bags inside? Can you use it with a sprayskirt? And finally are the seams really that watertight? This is brilliant.

    • David Lang (@davidtlang)

      Hey Alan,
      No foot pegs yet, and Anton didn’t mention any in development. Doesn’t mean he isn’t planning on them, just didn’t mention it. No flotation bags. I think Anton mentioned a sprayskirt he was working on. Seams were very watertight.

      Overall, it exceeded my expectations.

  • Werner

    Wonderful product for the recreational kayaker on fairly flat waters that are looking for a easily transported water craft. There would be safety issues on open ocean waters though, where you need a sprayskirt and some type of bulkheads that are watertight or flotation bags to put in the hull. People could get in trouble if they expect this craft to give them the same safety level as a sea kayak in ocean conditions.

  • Chris

    That’s nice but I would stick with an established brand like Folbot. They’ve been making folding kayaks since 1933.

    • Hmmmmm

      That Folbot is nice, but it is not the same thing as tis at all. This is a nice product and it is something I would to try.

  • Anton Willis

    Hi everyone!
    Thanks for the interest and comments. I’m the inventor/founder of Oru Kayak, and our small team is working around the clock towards launching soon and getting origami kayaks out into the world!

    I’d love to answer a few of the questions from this thread:
    -Oru Kayaks are very sturdy. They are not designed for whitewater, but are great in waves and swells. And yes, they are compatible with float bags and spray skirts.

    -The Oru Kayak is made of one seamless sheet of material, there are no seams below the water. On the deck, there is a rubber gasket that keeps water out.

    -Oru Kayaks do have adjustable footpegs; they weren’t yet installed in the prototype David tested. They make paddling much more comfortable!

    -And yes! I should have worn a life jacket in the video!!! I always do—but like David said, must have been so focused on the product when we shot the video that I think I left mine onshore. Please always wear life jackets.

    Hope to see all of you out on the water in an Oru Kayak soon!
    Anton Willis
    [email protected]

    • Alan Feldstein

      Anton – Thanks for the reply to everyone. Many of those questions were mine as they might have a use for my company (I do kayak trips in Africa). Sent an email to your company. Look forward to hearing back. Again, congrats.

  • Peter McLaren

    How does it handle with a load of gear? Does edging the boat, to turn direction put stress on the seams?

    Looks like it might be a great boat for traveling, or to take on a sail boat, for paddling in local waters once you arrive at a destination. At $500 price not too much to lose.
    Who do we contact to place an order?

  • john bradley

    How would such a construction work for larger people?
    I’m 376 down from 415, and I’d like to get into kayaking!

    • Mike

      I can’t see this craft handling that size. The cockpit width seems similar to what Tom Yost is using in his home-build kayak plans. Those don’t have much room for folks who’s 40″ waist days are years gone by. A rotomolded HDPE sit-on-top kayak might be a better choice for the 300+ portion of the market.

  • Corrugated plastic sheets

    i have one of those and they are really portable and fun on vacations

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  • jimmydemello

    I will buy one when a cheaper knockoff comes out of china.

  • Mike Kwan

    First, big congratulations to Anton for his brilliant and revolutionary innovation. I too have already signed up for one as soon as it comes to the market. I wonder how well does it roll. The rear deck looks quite low hence promising even for a Eskimo roll. A pair of knee/thigh braces would most certainly facilitate a roll (and edging/bracing as well). What is the length and beam width of the Oru?

  • Mike Kwan

    Just got an email from Oru kayak that they are going to launch it on 14th November for a wooping $800 a piece!! Well, I now agree with jimmydemello, and wait for a knockoff from China. $800 for that is a real ripoff.

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  • j greene

    Dear Mr. Lang, it’s been a year since your maiden voyage on the Oru Kayak. In that time, a very successful Kickstarter launch has happened, and many hundreds of these boats have been sold. Sadly, all of us who spent money are still waiting for our Kayaks to arrive. Oru Kayak appears to be a company in crisis. The original shipping schedule has been abandoned. Orders placed in November (and promised for early May) have not been completed. People expecting their boats midsummer have been told not to expect them until late summer, etc. There is no phone number for the company, and they do not return individual emails. Furthermore, they do not post updates or progress reports on their website or Facebook page. The last time we heard a word from them was a brief notice of pending delays one month ago. there is no evidence any of the boats has shipped, or that the company is still in business at all. would you please address this on your blog? if you know mr. Willis personally, would you please ask him why he has gone incommunicado? thanks.

  • yahunter

    hi there ithink life jackets should be compulsery nothing worse than waking up drowned one morning but we are allto clever to drown ah

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  • Boat buddies

    The lame thing about the past 10-20 years is that it’s just a joke how ideas are stolen and modified and sold as original. These guys give no credit to the original coroplast kayak guys. I hate scum like these idiots…

    • Alex

      This is the first origami kayak, so your remarks aren’t valid.

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  • Alex

    I guess the $500 cost didn’t stick, it sells for $1,195.00 now.

    • FreeSpeechIsntCrime

      I would expect such a price adjustment with a new kayak product such as this. The $1,195.00 sounds reasonable to me.

  • David Lang (@davidtlang)

    You’re right. As someone who’s spent a lot of time on the water, I always emphasize life jackets and safety.

    When we went kayaking that day, Anton was very adamant about life jackets, too. I think filming those demo videos can cause you to be really focused on the product and not necessarily be thinking about the life jacket issue.

    Glad you pointed it out. I’ll pass the word on to Anton for future videos and demos that he does.