Editors note: We reached out to a handful of the more experienced members in the Oru community to see if they'd like to share their thoughts on and adventures with Oru kayaks. Below is the first response of many.
My Oru Experience
by Jim W.
I live in southeast Louisiana where there’s plenty of water so, like every resident since way before Columbus, I’ve had boats all my life. Up until a few years ago, my boats were all about fishing and waterskiing, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more interested in just seeing the sights and using boats for physical fitness. Thus, I got into kayaks. My first yak was a Native Watercraft Slayer Propel, more of a pirogue than a kayak, and equipped with a pedal-powered propeller. This is an excellent boat for both fishing and long-duration exploring but it’s also big and heavy so must be transported on the roof of my Prius, a time-consuming chore. Thus, taking trips in her beyond my own pond tend to be major expeditions planned well in advance. As a result, I began looking for a folding boat I could take anywhere anytime to enjoy those perfect paddling days that you wish you’d known were coming.
There are many folding boats out there with long and successful histories but they’re almost all skin-on- frame, like tents or umbrellas. I was leery of that because my waters are full of sharp, pointy things like submerged tree branches, wrecks, and alligator teeth. Then I discovered the Oru, which combines a tough, rigid hull like a rotomolded boat with the portability of a skin-on- frame folder. Besides, I liked the whole origami concept. So after cogitating for quite a while, I decided to take a chance and bought myself a Bay+ sight-unseen for Christmas 2014. This turned out to be a great decision.
Above is an example of the sort of places I take my Oru. This is actually the Mississippi River during a recent flood so I was paddling over normally dry land and the number of sharp objects on and just under the surface was at maximum. I needed a folding boat to get in here at all but using an inflatable or skin-on- frame would have been suicidal. Only the Oru made this trip possible.
Of course, with all the submerged branches, rolling isn’t a good idea, which puts a premium on stability. I have found the Oru to be very well-behaved with zero inherent tippiness at all, and with a large margin of safety when cutting. Any apparent tippiness is actually user input from tense, jittery legs. The Oru is so light and responsive that she’s very sensitive to leg movement, which is a good thing because it makes deliberate rolling (which is quite fun) a snap. But for the inexperienced kayaker, this can be disconcerting. If this is your first yak, start out paddling only with your upper body while keeping everything from the waist down completely relaxed. The boat will stay totally level if you just relax. Once you get used to the boat and confident in her stability, then start putting your legs and back properly into it, letting her rock from chine to chine with the water lapping alternate cockpit edges with each stroke. She’ll leave a wake and still not be even close to tipping over.
Above is my Oru after doing some speed runs in a scummy bayou. If you continue the scum line from the bow up along the deck, you’ll see the waterline was quite frequently right up to side of the cockpit. And yes, the scum washed right off with the help of that brush.
While exploring swamps and yielding to crossing alligators is all very well, however, my Oru more often gets wet for fitness. I’m fortunate to have a park with a fairly large pond just around the corner from my office and my office has a locker room. So I try hard to paddle a few miles before work at least a couple times a week. Because the Oru folds up small enough to fit in the trunk of a Prius with room to spare, she works perfectly for me.
NOTE: All the orange trim is really still there, it’s just that my phone doesn’t take good photos.
I’m a fairly large guy, 5’11” and 235#. I’m right about at the upper limit for the Bay series. If you’re bigger than me, you might consider the Coast series instead. Still, the Bay carries me well enough.
All in all, I’m very happy with my Oru Bay+. She’s very good at what she does, which is to get me and a minimum of stuff on the water quickly and conveniently. She’s only really suited for day trips and grabbing quick workouts whenever you have the chance, but she can do this even in inaccessible places full of pointy things. This is exactly what I bought her for because while I have several other boats, none of them could do this. If you want more capability, get a bigger boat.
The only real drawback I’ve found with my Oru is that she gets quite hot inside in the heat of Louisiana summers, especially if I’m using a sprayskirt, even those advertised as being designed for the tropics. But that’s a problem with all sit-inside yaks down on the bayou, not just Oru. Thus, during the middle of the summer, I tend to use my Oru only in the twilight. But that just gives me an excuse to light her up from the inside like a Chinese lantern, which is scores huge style points with other boaters.
I’ve had a few of the minor fittings break but the main hull is totally sound despite frequent abuse. I got my Bay+ soon after it went public so some teething issues were only to be expected and I think it a credit to the design that none of my breakage affected seaworthiness. Oru customer service has been excellent in getting me replacement parts expeditiously and usually for free, and the new parts have usually been more durable than the originals. Thus, I expect new buyers these days will have even less trouble I’ve had, which hasn’t been much.
Bottom line: if you want a small, highly portable kayak with high durability and excellent protection from being holed by sharp objects, and don’t plan on needing a sprayskirt in the heat of a tropical summer day, then you can’t go wrong with an Oru Bay series. She’s also good for recreational rolling. The boat is a dream to use and the company stands firmly behind it. However, know what you really want before you buy. The smaller the boat, the less she can carry, so if you have aspirations of long-duration trips camping out over several days, get a bigger boat.