Designed for Modern Paddlers
At Seawolf, we don’t produce Indigenous kayaks from Greenland or the Aleutian Islands from museum specimens. Instead, we design kayaks that do what we modern paddlers do with them — play in rough waters, photograph wildlife, camp overnight, expedition for weeks, fish the ocean. While I am traditionalist dedicated living close to the natural world, I am also a pragmatist that wants to do some amazing paddling and stay safe.
In short, Seawolf’s kayaks combine the best of ancestral technology and modern materials: ultralight, ultra-strong, traditional craftsmanship and modern hull shapes designed for today’s paddlers.
Our materials and building methods allow us to construct kayaks that are easy to maneuver on and off the water. Our cedar-frame sea kayaks weigh an average of 27 lbs (12 kg), compared to modern fiberglass or plastic versions that average 65 lb (30 kg). Don’t let their weight fool you: our skin-on-frame kayaks are ultradurable and are designed to withstand years on the sea.
Skin-on-frame is an ancient technology originating from the Indigenous peoples of the Arctic and sub-Arctic. Designer Kiliii Yüyan has spent time learning from some of the last elders in the traditional dsai and qayaq building communities across the North. We are inspired by traditional methods and designs, with knowledge passed down to generations and across cultures.
Most people first fall in love with the beauty of translucent skin boats. Hand-mixed clay based pigments mean that no two kayaks are exactly alike in color or transparency. Seeing the suns rays refract and feeling the water through the skin of the kayak connects you to the environment in a paddling experience like no other.
The single most important factor to a good kayak is a good hull design. Designing a kayak is more complex than sketching one out on paper or in a modeling program. In the real world, water is complex and paddlers shift their weight on the water in complex ways. The only way to make a decent boat design exceptional is build and test, and build and test.
Our kayak designs represent over a decade of researching, measuring, building, testing, starting over, crying, tweaking, re-testing…until finally creating a design that performs up to snuff for advanced paddlers in demanding conditions.
The philosophy behind the design and construction of Seawolf’s kayaks is that a traditional kayak should perform as well as or better than commercial plastic kayaks. The water we paddle in takes no excuses, and every time you sit in a kayak, you are putting your trust and life into its construction.
Seawolf has built, in combination with our workshops, more than 500 kayaks in the last decade. By listening to feedback from padders of our kayaks, and extensive testing ourselves, each kayak is an improvement over the last.
We have greatly improved upon the modern construction of SOFs by strength testing the individual parts of each kayak, and using some modern woodworking techniques to improve the construction.
For example: our foredeck beams are laminated curves bent over a mold, making them strong enough to jump up and down on. Nearly all other modern SOF kayaks use sawn beams, which break under a fraction of the stress of our laminated beams and are far heavier. We’ve incorporated dozens of small changes in our kayaks that result in an overall boat that is lighter, stronger, and handles better on the water.
Easier and More Renewable
It is possible to overbuild anything past its practical purpose (think a stretch Hummer limo.) Our goal is to design kayaks that are simple and elegant. Each step in our construction process uses minimal effort while maximizing hand tools and simple lashings, creates minimal amount of waste, and whenever possible uses renewable materials.
For example: our ribs are made of fast-growing bamboo timber, instead of old growth oak or ash. Bamboo is easier to source, bends better, and is stronger for its weight. We are always looking and thinking about where our materials come from and what our process is. We believe that for every kayak produced, the world should, on balance, be a better place.