Oru Kayak has done it. The innovative company and designer Anton Willis just solved a huge issue for open water swimmers who wish to swim with an escort in far-away places…or even waters near their home.

Willis created the Oru Kayak, a watertight 12-foot long kayak that folds in a carrying case that is nominated for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year.

The Oru Kayak website explains their products best, “Stash it in a trunk. Check it on a plane. Stow it on a sailboat. Hike it in to remote waters. No garage, SUV or roof racks necessary. The Oru Kayak makes boating simple, easy, and accessible— so you can spend more time on the water.”

Willis grew up in northern California, but he was forced to store his kayak in storage when he moved into a small San Francisco apartment.

Inspired by origami, the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, he sketched a few ideas for a folding kayak. His sketches turned into countless paper models and, tirelessly, over 20 full-scale prototypes that were tested in bays, lakes, rivers and oceans over a 4-year period. “When I moved to San Francisco, I started thinking, “What if a boat could fold away like origami? What if you could take it on journeys in the water or anywhere you want to go?

Those questions are wonderful words to hear for open water swimmers, especially since the Oru Kayak is the answer.

After obtaining start-up money through crowd funding via Kickstarter, Willis and co-founder Ardy Sobhani raised US$440,000 in 35 days and pre-sold almost 500 boats to launch Oru Kayak. “It is a folding boat that packs into a folding case. It is perfect for fast, stable and it handles incredibly well. It is perfect for paddling on bays, lakes and rivers,” Willis explains.

And now they are off…and so are many others in the open water.

The nominees for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year includes products, services and concepts in the open water swimming world:

1. 21 Yaks and A Speedo, Storytelling Life Lessons by Lewis Pugh (U.K.)
2. Amphibia Sports Ring, Simple Silicone Solution For Swimmers (Ireland)
3. Bold & Beautiful, A Pod by the Shore (Australia)
4. Driven, Documenting Distance and Dedication (U.S.A.)
5. FINIS Agility Paddles, Training Tools of the Trade (U.S.A.)
6. Global Open Water Swimming Conference, Culminating In Cork (Ireland)
7. International Ice Swimming Association, Cooling To The Extreme (South Africa)
8. Ocean-navi, Navigating Throughout The Pacific (Japan)
9. Ocean Swimming & Prone Paddleboarding for Athletes with Spinal Cord Injuries (U.S.A.)
10. Open Water Swimming Manual: An Expert’s Survival Guide by Lynne Cox (U.S.A.)
11. Oru Kayak, Origami of the Open Water (U.S.A.)
12. Ouma Academy, Swimming The Sea (Tunisia)
13. Plastic Disclosure Project by Ocean Recovery Alliance (Hong Kong)
14. Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association, Far Forward Thinking In The Ocean (U.S.A.)
15. Swim Smooth, Styling Streamlined Swimming (Australia/U.K.)

Online voting takes place here until December 31st 2013.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association