Inroduction: Oru Kayak Bay ST Review
The Oru Kayak Bay ST (Oru Kayak Website) is a beautiful lightweight folding kayak, that can take you on amazing day trips or epic overnight adventures. Unfortunately, its design comes so close to perfect but falls short in ruggedness and comfort right out of the box.
The Oru Kayak Bay ST is currently listed for $1,499 or $125/month with financing (Oru Kayak Financing) at the time of writing this. There are other models ranging from $899 to $1,999.
All Oru Kayak Models
- Inlet - Lightest most portable Oru Kayak
- Beach LT - Fun easy casual paddling, flatwater recreation.
- Bay ST - Versatile fast and sporty
- Coast XT - Open Ocean and long expeditions
- Haven - Tandem kayak, works best with two people
This Review is broken down into the following sections:
- What Makes an Oru Kayak Unique
- Oru Kayak Un-boxing
- Folding the Kayak
- Gear Storage
- Customer Service
- Wrap up
What Makes an Oru Kayak Unique
Oru Kayaks are quite a beautifully interesting design, they fold up like origami and pack down to be stored away. The other key advantage is that they are extremely lightweight, making them easy to pack into your car.
Oru Kayak Un-boxing
When our Oru Kayaks showed up it was an extremely exciting day, I never thought we would be able to fit one let alone two kayaks in our one-bedroom apartment!
I am not quite sure why but the delivery guy decided to stack the two Oru Bay ST Kayaks on top of each other outside our apartment:
Luckily I have been working form home lately so they were not stacked on top of each other all day long while I was away at work.
How could a kayak and paddle fit into a box like this?
As you open the Oru Bay ST box, they have some nice text on the box reassuring you that the first time or two that you set up the kayak may take long but after that, it will get easier and easier.
Honestly, I watched the YouTube video on the Oru Kayak Website a number of times so I only had to glance at the instructions a couple of times on my first set up. It was actually a lot easier than I thought.
Once the box was fully open I was even more shocked to see that the Bay ST didn't even fill up the entire box! If I didn't order a paddle too, it could have fit into an even smaller box.
On top of the Kayak under the bungee, you can see the instruction manual which has the directions that will walk you through the first set up.
Once everything was out of the box we had an Oru Bay ST Kayak and an Oru Paddle ready to go!
Folding the Oru Kayak Bay ST
We couldn't get out to the water the day that our Oru Bay ST kayaks arrived but we couldn't wait to set them up:
As previously mentioned I had watched the YouTube Video on the Oru Kayak website a number a times before my initial set up. I still diligently followed the directions for the first set up not wanting to bend something the wrong way and break it. Even though they say on the website and on the box that it will take a bit long the first couple times you set it up, I still found myself able to set it up in an easy ten minutes. I was honestly shocked by how easy it was to set up the first time! Every piece elegantly had its spot and its purpose and it was wild seeing the box transform into a beautiful white kayak.
Although it is definitely quicker to disassembled the Oru Bay ST as opposed to setting it up, I did have to read the directions a couple of times to make sure I didn't fold it the wrong way when forming it back into a box. I was a little paranoid that if I folded it the wrong way it would break. After the first 2-3 times of folding it up though, it becomes second nature and is also really easy and quick!
Here is a minute and a half timelapse of Rachel and I setting up our Oru Bay ST kayaks on the shore of Lake Powell before a three-day trip.
A normal set up of the Oru Bay ST Kayaks would actually be much quicker than the one above because we are organizing gear for a 32-mile kayak trip and had to organize our gear correctly. The video demonstrates a couple of interesting things about the Oru Bay ST:
- Where ever you set up your Bay ST you will draw a couple of strangers who will ultimately have lots of questions.
- Storage on this boat is pretty unique and you have to unfold the kayak to get items inside for long hauls which can be a little annoying at first but also great if you have a lot of camping gear.
Some users report that it takes a number of folds and unfolds for the joints to become more flexible allowing it to be easier to fold and unfold. We actually didn't experience this and our boats were pretty easy from day one to set up.
Oru Kayak Gear Storage
Earlier in this review, I briefly mentioned that storing gear is a bit unique with the Oru Bay ST. One thing you might notice of the beautiful white design of this kayak is that there are no hatches to store gear inside the kayak.
Since there are no hatches on top of the kayak to get into the hull of your Bay ST, you need to remove the zipper channels. In the picture above you can see I removed 2 out of the three zipper channels as I am preparing to get inside the hull and remove the gear that I will need for my campsite that night.
The obvious issue here is that you can not easily get items out of the hull of your kayak while on the water. So snacks and other items you may want while kayaking should not be kept in here unless you plan on stopping for a break to retrieve them.
The less obvious but awesome benefit of unfolding your kayak to store gear inside is that you can store much larger items. Witch top hatches into the hull of a kayak you are limited by the size of the hatch on what gear you can get inside of the kayak. Since the Oru Bay ST opens up as it unfolds, I was able to get a huge dry bag inside the hull!
If you are interested in the full size of that dry bag, I actually made it myself and you can see more about that here. If I only had hatch access into the hull I would never have been able to get this large item into my kayak for transport!
One thing to note about gear storage is that the Bay ST is definitely not dry storage and all your gear should be wrapped in waterproof bags. Not water-resistant, waterproof!
I will say I did not purchase a skirt for this Kayak so I definitely had a little water enter in through the cockpit while paddling but the bow and stern of the boat is plugged with a rubber stopper and that is covered by a neoprene sleeve.
You can see the neoprene sleeve on the bow of the Bay ST Kayaks in the above image. They help slow the water that hits the plug but ultimately over time a decent amount of water will get inside if you are not in calm water. Make sure to have a bilge pump handy on longer outings if you do not want to stop to empty the water out and it generally a good safety practice to have one on you.
Pro Tip: Never leave shore without a good bilge pump. The Pump I am using above is an NRS Kayak Bilge Pump (Amazon Affiliate) and it worked fantastic.
Since Oru Kayaks are not normal kayaks though it is pretty easy to quickly get the water out when you get to shore. All you have to do is unfold your Bay ST and the water easily drains out immediately!
Oru Kayak Performance
Our first paddle with the Oru Bay ST kayak was a nice calm trip on Mission Bay in San Diego. You can see some GoPro Footage from the trip here:
Overall the Oru Bay ST performed great in the calm water of Mission Bay San Diego. It was a pleasure to paddle and tracked straight for a 12 ft Kayak and I had no issues navigating the wakes from passing boats and jet skis later in the afternoon as traffic on the water picked up.
At no point did I feel like I was going to be rolled over by any rogue boat wake. I felt stable and confident in the cockpit. The lightness of the boar felt fast and we didn't have much wind on this trip. I think the smile on my face here sums up how I felt about the Bay ST on the water for the first time.
The next big test for the Bay ST was a 32-mile camping trip across Lake Powell in Utah which I briefly mentioned earlier.
On this trip, we really tested out the kayaks loading them with gear and paddling through some rougher waters and winds.
In this video, you can see some footage of the kayaks in windy and rougher water conditions:
After this trip, I made the observation that the lightness of the kayak made it seem to bounce off waves and boat wakes instead of cutting through them. I did not take video footage of the day where we hit 24 mph wind gusts but I was definitely bounced around pretty good.
On the flip side though, the Oru Bay ST handled 24 mph wind gusts! The waves were not huge in Lake Powell but there was some decent chop. Despite the chop and 24 mph wind gusts I still felt stable in the Oru Bay ST and did not feel endangered of rolling. I am not saying I would recommend taking an Oru Kayak out in these conditions but it handled just fine for me. I was more tired than worried about the integrity of the boat.
Oru Kayak Design/Comfort
Hands down the Oru Kayak Bay ST is thoughtfully designed Kayak. The way this thing folds up is a testament to the fantastic design.
Every time I fold and unfold the Bay ST from a box into a kayak or from a kayak into a box that I can easily carry back to my car; it just amazes me.
All the small pieces that are used to add stability and structure also conveniently fit into the box to be carried away when folded up is also a really nice touch.
The Bay ST literally looks like a work of art:
The all-white coloring of the Oru Kayaks always turns heads and I feel like I stand out on the water to the motorboats as they race by. I can't tell you how many boaters recognize the all-white kayaks and will inevitably ask something along the lines of "Are those he folding kayaks?" Everywhere you bring your Oru Kayak you will stand out and receive a million questions.
In my opening paragraph of this review I wrote:
its design comes so close to perfect but falls short in ruggedness and comfort right out of the box.
For such an expensive kayak, Oru falls short on one main thing when it comes to comfort and that is the horrible seat. On Oru's own website describing the Bay ST they say:
Ideal for camping excursions, adventures, day trips, or paddles close to home.
The fact they advertise the Bay ST model for a camping excursion implies to me that this is a great kayak to take on a long trip to get away and camp. That is if you can stay seated in the Kayak that long. The "seat" in the Bay ST comes with a flimsy foam pad which does basically nothing.
Fortunately, this is an easy fix and there are a number of cushions you can easily buy on Amazon to replace the one it came with. But for this price, I wish I didn't have to buy a seat cushion for my kayak.
Oru Kayak Ruggedness
I treated the Oru Bay ST like a baby knowing that it had light "skin" I was always worried about a puncture or crack. Ironically the main body of the kayak which I was most worried about is not where I had any issues other than slight cosmetic issues from normal wear and tear.
After landing or departing from any beach that is not soft sand or grass the bottom of your kayak will ultimately start to scratch.
I am not scratch adverse and realize even hard plastic kayaks will obviously have marks like this after a few beach landings but I worry about the folding seams and how they will last once they take some wear and tear.
On the Oru Kayak website they claim:
Our boats are lightweight but extraordinarily strong. They're created from 5 mm double-layered, custom-extruded polypropylene with a 10-year UV treatment. Translation? Oru Kayaks are incredibly puncture + abrasion resistant and built to last. With a super tough hull, they can withstand sliding over rocks, bumping into obstacles, and they are rated to 20,000 fold cycles.
I do not doubt the 20,000 fold cycles of the seams, but I do worry that that number will not matter as much after you go on a number of trips and those seams scrape up against rocks etc.
On "beach" landings like the one above I would attempt to get out of the kayak in a little bit of water in order to try and not rob the bottom of our Oru Bay ST on the rocks. Then we would use the two of us to pick up the kayak and carry it over the hard rocks to a safe place.
I have seen a lot of patches with duck tape or other types of tapes being recommended on the Oru Kayak Owners Facebook Group. I do have concerns about Oru Kayaks' longevity, but you could argue these are quick fixes with tape. For me, it's a hard pill to swallow when you spend this much on a kayak and then have it covered in tape to patch holes but maybe that the pill you have to swallow for an ultralight foldable kayak.
Again I never had any issues with the hull of my Oru Bay ST, I just worry for the long run. Even though I did not have any issue with the hull of my Oru Kayak, I did have a few smaller components break in only a couple of uses of the kayak.
On one trip we had two issues, the first being the footrest that you rest your feet on in the Kayak:
From the pressure of the foot on the footrest, the nylon strap that holds the footrest in place started going through the plastic and cutting it in half. This, unfortunately, happened on our second trip.
On that same trip, we also had a paddle break where it was glued together:
Lastly, we had the plastic crunch on one of our seats:
After the seat broke we ended up working with Oru Kayak to return our Kayaks.
Oru Kayak Customer Service
Customer service is a hard topic to talk about here. For the paddle and the footrest which broke on the same day, Oru got back to me in a couple of days and said they would ship out a new piece. After a couple weeks of not getting anything in the mail I reach out and it was silence.
The reason why I say customer service is a hard topic to talk about is that it is hard to give them a fair assessment on response time because this was all during the COVI-19 pandemic. All companies were hurting and it is just a really odd time.
What I can say about their customer service is this. Despite the slow response times during COVID-19, they honored a full refund of both our Bay ST Kayaks.
Oru Kayak has a love your boat guarantee which states:
After receiving your boat, you will have 30 days to unfold and assemble your Oru Kayak. If you don’t love it, you can return your boat to us for up to a full refund* or exchange for a different model. This policy also applies to all gear and accessories purchased on our site.
you can return it within 30 days in new, unused condition with the original packaging and tags.
Our Kayaks were just past the 30-day mark so they could have not accepted them, but to be fair it did take them over 30 days to get back to us on the replacement parts. But it also says they must be in a new unused condition which we took out a couple of times on the water. I can't guarantee everyone will have the same experience as us but despite the long wait time, Oru Kayak did us right in the end which I have tremendous respect for.
Overall I really did love my Oru Kayak and enjoyed my short sweet time with them. If they fix the issue of their small plastic components breaking often then I would buy another in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, if you browse the Oru Kayak Facebook Owners page you will see we were not the first to have these issues and there is quite a trend of users who have had the same problems.
The Oru Bay ST ended up not being the best kayak for me, someone who likes to go on multi-day adventures and can't guarantee a soft sandy beach landing. But if you are someone who can not lift a normal heavy kayak on your own and plan on staying in lakes or places with non-rocky beaches then the Oru Kayak Bay ST, or any of the other Oru Kayak models may be the key to your freedom on the water.
The one thing I will miss the most about being an Oru Kayak Owner is the Community at the Oru Kayak Facebook Owners page. They are the most helpful awesome group of individuals ever, so if you do get an Oru Kayak make sure you head over there.
Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below and I will happily get back to you in 24 hours unless I am out on my own adventure!