Oru Kayak / The Folding, Origami-Inspired Boat for Urban Dwellers

Combining traditional art with new technology, the Oru Kayak team is committed to connecting urbanites with the outdoors.

The Inspiration

The idea started in 2008 as a personal project of designer Anton Willis. Anton had recently moved into a studio apartment in San Francisco and had to put his kayak in storage. Around the same time he read a magazine article about origami, and was inspired. Why not make a kayak that can similarly fold like a piece of paper?

1 paper
Anton started folding paper models in his apartment.
2 garage
He gradually moved on to building prototypes in a friend’s garage.

A TechShop Collaboration

Anton immediately joined the SF TechShop when it opened in 2011, enabling him to fast track his design and prototying process. There, he teamed up with partners Ardy Sobhani and Roberto Gutierrez. They made many more prototypes using the shop’s advanced equipment, and launched a very successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012.

The team continued to work out of TechShop for a while after the campaign. They continue to use the space to develop their core product, design new kayak models (to be released soon), and brainstorm future plans to expand their product offering beyond kayaks.


Anton speaks highly of the relationships built with other makers at TechShop: “It feels like we’re in a class of companies that grew out of there. We all stay in touch and ask each other for advice.” Some of his favorite TechShop “classmates” include LumioOpenROV, and Mark Roth of SF Laser, who laser cut the pieces for many kayak prototypes.

The Making Of..

The kayaks are completely manufactured in the US, in a facility near Los Angeles.

Anton, at the factory examining the first prototype.
The body of kayak is made of one single sheet of white corrugated plastic. The orange plastic is the floorboard when assembled, and the lid when folded.
Cutting the corrugated plastic.
Tim, Oru Kayak’s manufacturing consultant, inspects the floorboards.
5 extruded plastic
A long piece of plastic is extruded and soon to be bent into shape.
Cutting and screen printing hulls, as well as building bulkheads, footrests, and seats.
Final assembly, packaging, and shipping.


The Makers

Meet the team behind the Oru Kayak.


Buy an Oru Kayak.


 Are you a maker? Request an invite.

Photos via Oru Kayak.