Oru Kayak Bay STGET IT
I’ll admit to rolling my eyes when San Francisco-based Oru Kayak burst on the paddling scene in a high-profile Kickstarter campaign in 2013. As a dedicated sea kayaker with a quiver of sleek, high-performance fiberglass boats, my knee-jerk reaction to an origami-inspired folding kayak was to thumb my nose. Sure, I admired designer Anton Willis’s innovation; but as an expedition paddler fortunate enough to own a detached home and a 1.5-car garage I struggled to relate to a demographic of day paddlers looking for ease of transport and storage in small urban living spaces.
Fast-forward nearly a decade and I’m now an Oru Kayak convert. The compact yet full-featured, 12-foot Bay ST won me over with its winning combination of convenience and remarkable on-the-water handling for its small size, perfect for day trips on pretty much any type of water.
The 25-pound hull paddles like a leaf, accelerating instantly to a modest cruising speed. (The Bay ST feels extremely nimble, but don’t expect to set any speed records with a 12-foot boat.) This is a full-fledged sea kayak, with a cockpit coaming that accepts a sprayskirt and ergonomic thigh braces and footrests that allow you to become one with the boat; I felt completely at ease tackling swells and rough water with the addition of bow and stern airbags for floatation.
The great maneuverability of the Bay ST also made it fun to paddle in easy whitewater. Most people are drawn to Oru Kayak for its trademark origami construction, which allows the Bay ST to fold into a package the size of a large sofa cushion. On my first attempt, a few friends and I were able to build the boat in under 15 minutes—and of course we neglected to check out Oru’s handy instructions. The boat’s laminated plastic construction is rated for 20,000 fold cycles; it also withstands impacts and abrasion and slices through the water efficiently, with hard edges further stiffening the hull. For the price you won’t find a more practical and capable kayak for paddling day trips.—Conor Mihel, Men’s Journal contributor
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