Gear Review: Oru Kayak Beach LT
Notes from a novice waterman's first experience with the folding kayak
First things first, I want to start by admitting that water and I aren’t the closest pals. I mean, I love the idea of life on the water—surfing, SUPing, sailing, all that good stuff—and sometimes enjoy splashing around in it, but truth be told large bodies of water kinda make me bug out. I really wish I loved water, and have tried for many years to ignore the uneasiness and anxiety it brings—I even tried to be a cold water surfer years ago when Oregon was home—but in the end it just seems to be one of those lizard brain things you can’t control. That said, I recently had a lot of fun in an Oru Kayak.
A few weeks back myself and a handful of other outdoor editors made our way from Seattle out to Washington’s prehistoric Olympic Peninsula. It’s a land before time type of place. There, on 1000-feet deep lake Crescent, we came face to face with the new Beach LT, the origami-inspired company’s most accessible design yet.
There’s a good chance you, like me, have seen Oru kayaks on social media for years. From their humble beginnings on Kickstarter to more recent collaborations with brands like Topo Designs, the photogenic products seem to live so very well on the internet. But I’ve always wondered what they were like IRL. Maybe you have too. With this curiosity serving well to push my watery hesitations I followed the instructions of Oru resident badass (and owner of the most insanely awesome Tacoma rig I've ever seen) Andy Cochrane, set up a Beach LT and went for a paddle. And boy was it fun.
Even working with brand new kayaks straight from the Los Angeles-based factory—Oru Kayaks are made with a highly durable, double-walled “learning” polypropylene material that is often stiff at first but will become more playable and easier to assemble after fold cycles—the kayak went from a large suitcase-sized rectangle to a fully functioning kayak in under five minutes. The experiences folks can do it in around 3, or so Oru claims. The assembly was super intuitive, and didn’t take much muscle at all.
The 28” width creates a stable base for novice paddlers and experienced kayakers alike. And the recently redesigned cockpit now allows for easier entry and exit for users of all sizes. My over 6-foot frame felt quite natural in position and had no issues with room or backrest height (it's adjustable). As for performance, it handled very well, keeping a straight barring better than anticipated with no agility issues to note. Idle floating was a breeze, demanding minimal core engagement to keep it steady. Same with paddling at a steady pace. While on the water other more advanced paddlers shared similar sentiments.
Now one could argue that having a more experienced kayaker review this handsome SOB would’ve made more sense, but given Oru’s goal of making the outdoors more accessible—something we’re deeply passionate about ourselves—and the purpose of the Beach LT speaking directly to this mission, and an urban-based consumer with little space for a full sized water craft, I felt I was the best man for the job (I also really wanted to visit the Peninsula). If that’s not good enough for you, test one out for yourself. You won’t likely regret it.