The Kodiak Goes to Holland: A Review From an International Fan

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In honor of the return of our expedition kayaks we wanted to share with you how one Dutch recreational kayaker became one of our international Folbot fans. Kees Toorenaar was looking for a folding kayak to replace his Canadian Ally 15DR, a folding canoe. He spent an entire season investigating which boat fit his needs best.

He settled on a Kodiak. Read his personal account below:

“Two years ago I was thinking about buying a foldable kayak. I already owned a foldable Canadian (Ally 15DR) which I paddled most of the time solo. Now, I wanted a boat that was faster and had better tracking.

I spend a whole winter investigating which boat would fit me the best. All brands were considered. Of course, I had certain demands:

  • The boat had to be very stable, have good tracking and be relatively fast.
  • I also needed a large cockpit (I am over six feet, have long legs, over 60, and not too lean).
  • Putting the boat together had to be very easy.

From the beginning, the classic German Klepper was a contender. It did, however, have two disadvantages: it was too expensive and too heavy. During my research I discovered a company in the U.S., Folbot, which offered a number of good-looking boats for a reasonable price. The Kodiak drew my attention. It turned out to be the boat I was dreaming about and I happily bought it.

I’ve owned the Kodiak for two summers and I am very satisfied with it. Last year, I took it with me on vacation to Norway. The one small disadvantage of the Kodiak is that it breaks down into two bags and the larger of the two did not fit in my (very) small car. I had to carry it on the roof. During my vacation, I went from campsite to campsite and had to put the Kodiak together many times – which is very easy! I had been used to putting together my old Ally, which always made me sweat a little. The Kodiak is a piece of cake! Getting the kayak’s parts back into each bag is easy and they are so roomy you can pack extra gear. My paddles, when broken down, fit into the longer bag.

On the water, the Kodiak turned out to be the boat I was dreaming of. It’s very stable, fast and tracks beautifully. I’ve never tried but I think you would have to put a lot of effort into getting the Kodiak to capsize.

This summer, I used the Kodiak for a four-day trip on the Loire River in France. All of my camping supplies fit easily inside the boat and on top of the deck. The Loire is a usually a broad and quiet river but I did encounter some rapids. Along with the use of the spray deck the rapids were no problem for the Kodiak.France Loire 1

One time there were rocks on my way and I had to make a few quick turns. Using some firm backstrokes the Kodiak surprisingly avoided them easily.

Finally, there are two things about the Kodiak that I am so happy with: the solid construction and the comfortable air form seat, which is great for long day trips.”

 

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Faces of Folbot: Shayne Kasai

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Kootenay Lake

Shayne Kasai is up early. I barely fit in a shower before our early morning Skype meeting. It’s 8:00 a.m. for me on the East Coast of the U.S.; it’s 6:00 a.m. for him in Vancouver, British Columbia when we begin our interview.

For the past three years, Shayne Kasai has pursued his passion as an independent filmmaker. His then current project (which is now complete), Sinew and Yellow Cedar, is a short film that examines the current state of wooden boat building in British Columbia. Shayne made the film in hopes of reminding viewers about the importance of working with their hands in a world where most boats are pre-made and plastic.

So, it makes sense that Kasai paddles a Folbot Cooper, a kayak crafted by hand.

Kasai purchased his Cooper for the purpose of exploring, as the folding aspect of the kayak makes it extremely convenient for filmmaking. Though he hasn’t used it while filming quite yet, Shayne hopes to film while paddling in the future.

“I’d like to explore where I’m from,” he explains, specifically his childhood stomping grounds of Kootenay Lake, B.C.

Once, while paddling on Kootenay Lake, Kasai observed petroglyphs in the rock faces that he’d like to further investigate.

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“It gives you that Indiana Jones feeling,” says Shayne of discovering something from the past while paddling.

A close second to Kootenay Lake? The channels of Venice, Italy.

While Shayne’s Cooper makes his filmmaking and adventuring more convenient, it also makes living in Vancouver easier. As a major metropolis, space in Vancouver is precious. According to Shayne, most people live in condos.

“Folbot has a huge advantage over any other kayak,” says Shayne. He loves being able to store his kayak in the apartment instead of in a rental facility, where his wife stores her paddleboard. Living a block away from the ocean, Kasai wanted easy access to his kayak and possible adventure.

“A Folbot to me means being able to explore,” says Shayne.

We’re so glad.

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Shayne Kasai

the best folding kayaks

Folbot gets active on LifeKraze

Staying active in an increasingly sedentary world can be challenging. A little encouragement can go a long way to keep you motivated and active, which is why Folbot has joined LifeKraze, an online community where people encourage each other to be active offline.

At LifeKraze, what you do is what counts. With each healthy choice you document — be it food or activity– you earn points for rewards, like 15% off the price of a new Folbot kayak.

Watch the video below to see how you can get involved:

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“Like a Saga of Adventures”

A wet and wild spring break

Many of popular culture’s favorite movies begin with a group of guys on some kind of adventure — American Pie, The Hangover, The Three Amigos, Ocean’s Eleven– and as hilarity and capers ensue the bonds between each of the characters strengthens. (This is also apparently Hollywood’s formula for movie sequels.) For most college students, the perfect time for such shenanigans is spring break. No other rite of passage entails getting wet, wild and having fun with friends in quite the same way. For a group of guys from UNC-Chapel Hill, that’s exactly what their break from college included– though not how you’d probably imagine.

While most guys were boarding cruises headed for tropical destinations, friends Wilson, Bennett, Austen, Lawson, Will, Sam, Logan, Jonathan and Nathan were packing their kayaks with supplies. Their spring break plans? To paddle from the South Santee River to Charleston, S.C. via the Intracoastal Waterway. A trip that would take them 65 miles over the course of about six days.

Out on the open water

During their time on the water, the indomitable nine paddled the Santee River, set up camp in the Francis Marion Forest, explored the wetlands of Cape Romain, faced strong headwinds and currents, tied their boats to channel marker 88 (to escape from rain, wind and currents), camped out on Capers Island and claimed the island’s boneyard beach for themselves in true pirate style.

Camping in Francis Marion Forest

Camping in Francis Marion Forest

For some on the trip, kayaking was new and eye-opening:

“This was the first time I had ever done anything like this,” confessed Bennett, “I’ve goofed around in my friends’ kayaks and I have a canoe I take out around the marshlands at the beach but this was very much a new experience. It’s definitely something I’d like to continue doing now!”

For others, the kayaking aspect enticed them just as much as the trip itself:

“When I heard about the trip I would have gone regardless, but when I heard that we would be taking kayaks I was even more interested,” explained Jonathan.

Challenge accepted

Though the compatriots paddled along miles of natural, beautiful coastline, they were not spared when it came to difficulties. In fact, when asked what moment during the trip was the most challenging everyone gave the same answer: the day of channel marker 88.

After three days of easy paddling the nine were confronted with inclement weather in the form of stormy gray skies, cold wind and sporadic, spitting rain. The wind kicked up swells that were between 4-6 inches of chilled water, “which is a lot when you’re in a fully-loaded kayak,” says Sam.

“The wind was completely against us,” recalls Bennett, “a condition which was intensified by the fact that the current was also completely against us.”

“It was the paddling equivalent of taking two steps forward, one step back,” remembers Jonathan.

It became clear that the day’s plan to reach Charleston wasn’t going to happen; the guys were tired from fighting against the waves, wind and current. Unfortunately, a place didn’t present itself to disembark and rest immediately. So, Sam pulled a 20-foot rope from his kayak, “because you need rope if you’re going adventuring, always,” he said, and paddled to a nearby channel marker. After tying a quick knot to the marker, Sam let the current take him back to Logan’s boat, to which he tied the other end of the rope. The nine guys grouped around and held on to Logan’s kayak until they were hydrated and rested enough to return to Capers Island.

Camping after exploring the wetlands of Cape Romain.

Camping after exploring the wetlands of Cape Romain.

The best of times

Crazy currents and exhaustion aside, Wilson, Bennett, Austen, Lawson, Will, Sam, Logan, Jonathan and Nathan spent most of their trip beneath sunny skies enjoying natural landscapes and seascapes– and what’s a kayaking adventure without a dolphin sighting?

“Two dolphins came up [to Lawson and me] and kept surfacing around our boats for about half an hour, sometimes coming so close as to rock the kayaks,” describes Austen, who counts the experience as his favorite moment during the trip.

For Logan, Capers Island held special value, “I’ve never seen a beach anywhere else like it; the ocean goes right up to the edge of the forest. It’s pulling the trees slowly down to the beach where the trunks become petrified wood.”

Claiming Capers Island
Stand strong and adventure into the wild.

Stand strong and adventure into the wild.

Jonathan also appreciated Capers Island for its tranquility, “…camping out on Capers Island was amazing. There was nobody for miles around you.”

Looking back

Travel truly is the one thing you spend money on that, in the end, makes you richer. In the case of Wilson, Bennett, Austen, Lawson, Will, Sam, Logan, Jonathan and Nathan, they emerged after six days of travel as a closer cohort than ever before– with great stories to share with friends and family….

“I feel like that week on the Intracoastal brought me closer to them than the whole year of living right next door to everyone,” confessed Austen.

This is what a Folbot group hug looks like.

This is what a Folbot group hug looks like.

“I’ve been telling stories to my family constantly since I went, and I still haven’t hit the bottom yet. It certainly was one of those trips where it was just like a saga of adventures, and you can talk and talk about it, but you never quite say that all that there is to say about it,” says Sam.

…and places to take their future kids someday.

“I will definitely describe this as one of the best adventures I ever had,” says Bennett. “I’ll definitely take my kids to those same places someday.”

While Austen doesn’t want to imagine having children just yet, he says, “To describe it to a younger person, I would definitely call it a formative experience; I had never been camping one night in my life– a pretty awesome introduction to the outdoors.”

As for Wilson, the brainchild behind the endeavor, “I’ll keep it simple for them: ‘One of the most wonderfully buck-wild and enjoyable undertakings of all my youthful adventures.’ I will tell them of the simple beauty of the Lowcountry and remind them of their ancestral connections to the land. I will tell them of my admirable friends that I spent a week on the water with. And I’ll probably leave them with some awfully cliché aphorism like, ‘Never stop exploring.’

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

 

Folbot turns 80 years old. Save the Date!

Major milestones, like turning 80, deserve more than cake. 

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As Folbot celebrates its 80th year, we thought it only fitting to throw a big birthday bash and invite all who have made Folbot a success over the past eight decades to celebrate along with us. That, of course, includes you, our fellow paddlers, adventurers and faithful customers.

If you’re already on our mailing list you will soon see invitation from us inviting you to the upcoming party on Saturday, September 14. Please join our mailing list so we can register your RSVP once the invitations are sent out.

Who’s invited? Everyone! Folbot fans, kayak enthusiasts, lovers of the outdoors and all of our supporters. Kids and furry friends are welcome. This is a family-friendly event.

Why should I come? This is your chance to visit Folbot’s headquarters in the award-winning travel destination of Charleston, S.C.!  Kick back with kayakers from all over the country at our birthday bash or make a weekend out of it and tour historic Charleston, visit picturesque beaches and paddle your Folbot alongside dolphins in Charleston’s waterways. 

Most of Folbot’s staff have lived here for many years and we’re still discovering our great city– and we’d love to share it with you.

Tell me about the party. In short, it’s going to be good old fashioned fun, but we’re keeping the details a surprise. (Yes, even 80 year olds like surprises.) Folbot’s 80th birthday celebration will include great live music, kid-friendly activities and games, and delicious Lowcountry food in a comfortable, laid back atmosphere. It is Charleston, after all; we know how to throw a memorable shindig.

 

Operation Frankton

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You love your folding kayak for its portability, performance capabilities and the freedom it gives you. It’s for those same reasons the British Royal Marines used folding kayaks for a top secret mission during the second world war.

On November 30, 1942, the HMS Tuna set sail in secrecy from Holy Loch in Scotland, just outside of Glasgow, for France’s Bay of Biscay. The port, located in the Gironde estuary, was a major destination for much of the supplies that supported the German war effort. As such, the port was heavily guarded and patrolled– and a prime target for the Allied forces.

The top secret mission was scheduled to begin on December 6, but bad, stormy weather and an aquatic minefield detained the naval submarine, delaying the mission a full day. By December 7, the HMS Tuna had reached the Gironde and surfaced roughly 10 miles from the mouth of the estuary.

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On the deck of the naval submarine, five folding kayaks were assembled. By nightfall, 12 Marines would paddle the vessels all night, stopping only five minutes per every hour to rest. By the end of the raid, there would only be two survivors.

During the night, one of the five kayaks disappeared, most likely due to strong cross tides and cross winds. The remaining four kayaks suffered through five foot waves, until another of the kayaks was capsized and lost.

Despite their losses, the three remaining vessels carried on, their Marines paddling over 20 miles in five hours.  Upon reaching St. Vivien du Medoc, a town along the estuary, the three kayaks and their crew each took shelter during the day. One crew was captured, leaving only two folding kayaks and their crews to complete the mission.

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During the second night, the remaining vessels paddled 22 miles in six hours. During the third, the kayaks covered 15 miles, and on the fourth night the boats covered nine miles.

On the eve of December 11, the Gironde was flat and calm. The sky was clear. The British Marines began placing limpet mines on the shipping vessels docked at the port late in the night on December 11 and finished while the sky was still dark on December 12. Though almost caught by German soldiers, the kayak’s camouflaging kept the marines from detection. After attaching as many limpet mines to enemy ships as possible, the two surviving marines escaped to a small town in France, where they hid for 18 days until escaping to Spain.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill believed the mission shortened World War II by six months. Admiral Mountbatten, commander of Combined Operations, considered the raid the most courageous and imaginative of all carried out by members of the Combined Operations.

A fictionalized version of this story was told in the film The Cockleshell Heroes.

East Coast Paddlesports & Outdoor Festival 2013

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Despite blustery, chilly days and a few threatening clouds, the James Island County Park was bustling with men, women, children and four legged friends this past weekend at the East Coast Paddlesports & Outdoor Festival. Paddlers of all experience levels and ages took advantage of product demonstrations, a variety of classes and the opportunity to speak with kayaking legends.

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Amongst the well-known kayakers present was Dubside, a world-class paddler who’s known as an expert roller and preserver of Greenland paddling and kayak rolling traditions. Always dressed head to toe in black, Dubside is able to perform a plethora of kayak rolls– some of which are extremely difficult and require extreme strength. Who better to teach paddlers of all ages and experience levels how to “roll with it” than Dubside? In addition to demonstrating various kayak rolling techniques, Dubside hosted several other seminars at the festival, including a how-to session on folding kayak assembly including Folbot’s Citibot model.

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During the weekend’s festivities, several longtime Folbot fans shared their own personal stories and Folbot adventures with us. One of our favorite anecdotes was told to us by a man who decided to become an engineer because of what he read about Folbot in Popular Science as a teenager. Another shared his story of visiting our Charleston headquarters as a teenager, meeting Folbot’s founder, Jack Kissner, and purchasing his first Folbot at the age of 15 (when we still used wood in our designs).

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