Bespoke Kayaks Result in Flow State

Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.
Frank Lloyd Wright 

Nick Schade, a former Navy engineer, has taken the craft of kayak building to unchartered heights. Function does not give way to form.  Each is stunningly beautiful and strong enough for racing swells.  His organic designs appears to draw inspiration from nature, his love for the water, and a deep respect for the history of canoeing and kayaking.

The result: a state of flow or oneness between  kayak, owner and the environment.

1Few material objects achieve this state.  We talk about environmentally friendly products – as if they are exceptional –  though there was a time when all of man’s creations  were made out of necessity and a need to live in harmony with the environment.  Today, when a creation reaches this level of  “environmental friendliness” is when we are given an opportunity to experience the epitome of  what we consider luxury design.

Out of the ordinary,  a need to build a “better” kayak “that was efficient, seaworthy and responsive yet also lightweight, strong and durable,” came the extraordinary.  Nick’s kayaks today are renowned for their beauty as much as their kindly handling.  Referred to as graphic art in wood and believed by some to be created and reserved for protected spaces  – such as living rooms,  nothing could be further from Nick’s intent, that function not be outdone by form.   Yet – Nick may be hiding his artist here as form has not been outdone by function.
And while each kayak is distinct, and unique,  they all stem from the core foundation that:
“Every kayak [be] designed with the keen recognition that the most important aspect is how it performs on the waters.  Whether those waters are the glassy surface of a secluded lake, the chop off an exposed headland welcoming an approaching storm, or rolling ocean swells,  the crafts are made for the conditions. From there the craft’s design is free to diverge, or as he says, there is “room within the constraints of performance for a full expression of the individuality of the craftsman.”

Despite Nick’s philosophy of creation – that each craft be built to withstand the rigors of the owner’s intended use,  they each somehow magically reveal a beauty that is patently obvious to one’s senses.

No one is certain whether the beauty that appears out of the wood work  is due to original inspiration  – the Inuit and Aleut peoples, of the far north – people that crafted the first kayaks out of wood, seal skin and bone or to Nick’s way as an artist, and renaissance man, who cherishes these historic gifts and enhances them with unique properties and capabilities of modern materials and boat building techniques.

4Like the Inuit and Aleut, who came before, each boat is built  out of numerous narrow strips of wood. Nick then diverges from history and the wood is contoured into a smooth, fair surface and covered with a layer of fiberglass that is saturated with epoxy resin. This composite construction provides a stiff, rugged shell that lets the beauty of the carefully selected wood glow through.

5Whatever the root cause, Nick’s kayaks have a smoother motion through the water than others. The sweep of the sheer and the smooth arc of their decks draw the hand as well as the eyes.  Form and function dance in harmony – evidenced by the fact that these kayaks are as fit for challenging waters as they are for a place in the Museum of Modern Art.

6Or as the artist says, “My aesthetic sense is founded on functionality but makes room for a sense of whimsy. Natural materials have their own aesthetic integrity without a need for distracting enhancements. But, if a material limitation presents itself, I like having a little fun working around it.”   Our bet is Nick has much more than “a little fun” sharing what he loves.

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About tonyberkman


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