USA Today article


Source: USA Today 

Tennessee foldable canoe makers say their wild idea holds water

What if a canoe could fit in a bag?

It can: MyCanoe, made by a Knoxville-based team, is an “origami canoe” which folds into a case just 37 inches by 8 by 25.

A Kickstarter campaign drew 116 contributors, raising $109,195. That’s $64,195 above the $45,000 goal.

Early models have been made in South Korea but shipping is expensive and time-consuming, so the company is looking to move production to the Knoxville area, said co-founder Jay Lee. That should allow orders to be filled in a few days without keeping a large inventory, he said.

Lee, founder of fitness apparel company Coovy Sports, said he and friend Paul Jin, a long-distance swimmer, got the idea while using a regular canoe. Jin is from South Korea – and now lives there – where SUVs and home garages are relatively rare, Lee said. They decided there had to be a better way to carry and store a canoe.

Together with an architect partner, they began working on MyCanoe more than four years ago, Lee said. According to a project timeline, they arrived at the current version in October 2015.

“We’re pretty happy with what we have right now, but there are a few improvements we’re still trying to make,” he said.

California resident Will Brunker works for the firm which did MyCanoe’s Kickstarter video, and spent four days in January using MyCanoe for that – three days filming, one practicing.

It’s not like the canoes he used every summer while growing up in Minnesota, but it felt solid and safe, and moved well, Brunker said.

"I was definitely impressed with how easy it was to use," he said. "Totally comfortable in the water. I didn't really notice much of a difference."

Carrying a traditional canoe to the water was a two-person job, but MyCanoe is easy to pack in the car, Brunker said. Now he hopes to get a demo model of his own.

"I think it's really great," he said.

The Kickstarter campaign launched this February, and designers are aiming for general production and shipping in July. On the Kickstarter page, the basic model went for $930; an oar lock kit and paddles added $65, and a pair of strap-on stabilizers cost $230 more. That initial price was a reward to backers, earning no profit for the company, Lee said.

The canoe is made of a double layer of five-millimeter polypropylene, and weighs 52 pounds, plus optional paddles. It can hold up to 440 pounds, or up to 750 with add-on stabilizers. Its makers say in 10 minutes it can unfold into a 14.5-foot canoe, seating two and is able to handle a trolling motor.

Canoe & Kayak magazine reviewed MyCanoe in a March 13 article, listing the price as $1,390. Reviewers took it on a three-day run down the San Juan River in Utah, carrying overnight camping gear. They found it sat lower than a regular canoe, but felt stable, and survived several collisions with rocks undamaged.

MyCanoe will be sold on major retail websites, and long-range Lee would like to see it carried in REI, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Bass Pro Shops stores. But the owners want to be cautious, and not grow faster than they can manage or afford, he said.

In the coming months, the company will rely on its early backers to talk about their canoes, Lee said. The company is advertising on social media, but not doing much paid advertising, he said.

“We are not selling in physical stores, but Camping World is going to list our product on their website, and we will ship it,” Lee said.