Oru Kayaks pioneered origami-style boats – easy-to-transport craft that come flat-packed and fold out into sea-going freedom machines – and the Bay ST is the most versatile of the fleet
The Oru Bay ST folding kayak turned many heads at this years Southampton Boat show. I tested it out on the water and here’s what I think of it.
- Price: £1,415 (UK) / €1,599 (EU)
- Weight: 11.8kg / 26lb
- Length (assembled): 373cm / 12ft 3in
- Width (assembled): 64cm / 25in
- Packed size: 84 x 36 x 74cm / 33 x 14 x 29in
- In-boat storage: 90L Max paddler height: 190.5cm / 6ft 3in
- Maximum carry weight (including paddler): 136kg / 300lb
- Set-up time: 10–15 minutes
Reasons to buy
- Versatile and capable in a range of conditions
- Easy to store and transport
- Good dry storage
- Great features
Reasons to avoid
- No rudder
- Hard to repair
- No colour options
Rocking up at the seaside with a large bag, and then performing an apparent magic trick by unfolding said bag to create a full-size sea kayak, is the kind of behaviour that attracts a fair bit of attention – so when you finally launch, you really want the boat to hold water and not make you a laughing stock.
Thankfully, the Oru Bay ST is an excellent product – one of the best folding kayaks available – and when I tested it out for the very first time on a busy beach on a sunny day in Devon recently, the crowd of onlookers ended up crowing about how impressive the kayak was, rather than giggling at me. Which was a win.
The design of the Bay ST is based on the original origami-style boat that propelled Oru Kayak into the water in the first place. Like all Oru kayaks, the Bay ST comes flat-packed in easy-to-carry ‘bag’, which is actually an integral part of the craft’s hull (meaning that, once you have finished assembling it, you don’t need to leave anything behind at the beach or store a cumbersome bag in the body of the boat).
To transform this shell into a sea kayak, you simply undo a few straps, insert a couple of brace pieces and slide some seam connectors (‘watertight zipper channels’) into place, and voila! You have sea kayak with a performance profile and an excellent cockpit.
In all honesty, although I’ve just made that sound simple – and the instructions from Oru also imply that it’s a breeze – the first few times you put it together, some of the stages can feel fiddly and tricky (especially when you have an unexpected audience looking on), but even from a standing start it doesn’t take much longer than 20 minutes to assemble the Bay ST, and then you can be on the water in seconds. And once you know what you’re doing, it just gets easier.
Super lightweight and easy to carry, the Bay ST can be paddled in a variety of conditions, from lakes and rivers to reasonably challenging seas. I chose to take my test boat out on the sea, from my local beach in Seaton, East Devon, and I paddled it to Branscombe and back, which is a total trip of around 6 miles/10km. Conditions were calm on the day in Lyme Bay, although there was a reasonable swell once I was out past the rocks of Beer Head.
The Bay ST tracked reasonably well across the water, although the fact that it’s so lightweight and relatively short means the wind does push it around quite a bit, and you need to correct your course by adapting your stroke when this happens, because there’s no rudder. However, overall I was extremely impressed with the performance of the kayak, which has lovely lines – just like a standard rigid-body sea kayak – and decent stability.
The seat is padded and comfortable, and there is a fully adjustable backrest. You can attach a spraydeck to the impressive coaming around the cockpit. Innovations on the new model include aluminum cockpit latches and extra-reinforced strap anchor points for increased durability.
There is plenty of storage capacity in this kayak, including decklines and bungees on the front for stashing kit you need to reach quickly, plus some ‘dry storage’ space behind the removable bulkheads at the back (definitely use dry bags as well here) for transporting bigger stuff for larger trips, or even overnight adventures.
You can get Oru Bay ST the in any colour you like, so long as you want a white one. However, the semi translucent hull of the Bay ST can be illuminated from the inside during night paddles, which looks absolutely amazing out on the moonlit water.
The Bay ST does not come cheap, but for a folding kayak that is so easy to transport (you could literally take this boat on a bus or train) it offer exceptional levels of performance, and opens up all sorts of paddling opportunities for people who can’t easily store or transport a standard sea kayak.
When I arrived back at the beach, a few of the people who had watched me launch were still there, and I drew another audience while getting out and packing the Oru Bay ST back down into a ‘bag’. It genuinely seemed to blow people’s minds – several strangers struck up conversations about it with me, and plenty more were pointing and talking excitedly to one another. I can’t wait to take it out again – I’m not used to turning heads like this…