CLC's boss John C. Harris grew up admiring magazine ads for Nautiraid's line of elegant, high-performance folding kayaks. Like so many, he dreamed of booking a plane ticket to someplace tropical and bringing a nice folding kayak as checked luggage.
In recent years Nautiraid has not had the visibility it deserves in the North American market. Thus it seemed serendipitous that Nautiraid's French owners, Eric Flambard and Guillaume Fatras, set up a booth next to CLC's at Canoecopia last month. "I want a Nautiraid kayak!" John exclaimed. "How do I get one in the U.S.?" "Funny you should ask," replied Mssrs. Eric and Guillaume, who were there looking for an established paddling shop to represent Nautiraid. CLC and Nautiraid soon shook on an agreement to distribute their folding kayaks in North America.
John finds Nautiraid's offerings exceptional in a market that includes some very old and respected names like Klepper. "The fit and finish of the parts is amazing. You want to hang the frame up in your house as a work of art. Nautiraid has been making folding kayaks for 80 years and it shows in all the details. If you set out tomorrow to design a perfect folding kayak, it would take you 80 years to get to this level of refinement."
He points to the frame assembly as an example. "The last folding kayak I owned was a heavy bundle of sticks in a bag and it took ages to assemble. The frame for the Nautiraid Narak 550 we have here at CLC comes out of the bag in three folded sections. The frame goes together in minutes."
Made of varnished ash, the Narak 550's stringers incorporate clever stainless steel hinges, to spare you from having to sort out which stringer goes where. Even better, all of the frames are permanently hinged on the keel and deck stringers, so they're already in the right place when you open up the bag.
The rugged skins are pulled over the frame, and in the case of the Narak 550, tensioned with a clever cam-action hinge in the keel. The tandem Grand Narak 550 includes inflatable sponsons to tension the skin and provide extra stability.
As of April 2016, we have one Narak 550 and a tandem Grand Narak 550 in stock, ready to ship. (Scroll down for more info.)
Nautiraid, established 1936, is a French company specializing in the design and production of lightweight skin-on-frame folding canoes, kayaks and dinghies, from 6-18ft in length.
Nautiraid's reputation was established in the military stealth commando market – to which they still cater – so the quality of workmanship and materials is military-grade.
The basic concept of stretching a pliable skin over a skeleton frame, making a seaworthy, semi-flexible craft, is older than written history.
With the availability of modern materials such as Hypalon for the skin, Nautiraid have been able to adapt and update this technology for the 21st century. All of Nautiraid's designs fold for easy storage and transport.
It takes between 15 and 30 minutes to remove a kayak from its bag and assemble it, and launch. Thus transport in cars, trains, and planes is possible and compact storage (on sailing boats, in apartments, etc.) is easy.
The wooden frames are all made from French ash wood. The ribs, stem and stern are cut from marine grade Finnish birch plywood. Ash has always been used at Nautiraid for stringers because of its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio. Ash is still used for archery bows and tool handles, and was once used for tennis rackets and skis. Ash has long fibers, so it'll bend but is very hard to break. When it does break, it tends to be a long split, meaning it can be repaired easily with a lashing if necessary. Ash for Nautiraid kayak stringers and cockpit coamings is cut high up in the Alps, then air-dried before being machined. Aluminum frames are available, but we feel that the combination of ruggedness and repairability makes wooden frames the best choice for serious expedition paddling.
The ash parts receive three coats of dipped varnish. The birch plywood parts get four. The Finnish birch plywood we use for ribs is 12mm thick and comprises 9 cross-laminated layers. This wood’s durability is manifest; Nautiraid oftens sells replacement skins for frames are already 25 years old!
Wooden frames need little maintenance as they are mostly protected by the skin. When, from time to time, a part needs refinishing, it is generally the centre keel or exposed cockpit parts. A light sanding and one or two coats of varnish, and you're back to 100%.
The metal hinges and joints are made from stainless steel and can withstand seawater without corroding. However, we recommend rinsing your boat with fresh water before repacking it. Always store the kayak in a dry, well ventilated area to avoid mold.
All Nautiraid single- and two-seater models with wooden frames pack into 2 carry bags (except the Raid I 416, which needs only one bag).
The Stabilairs are two inflatable longitudinal chambers available on many of Nautiraid's kayaks.
Other brands of folding kayaks use these inflatable sponsons to tension their kayaks, but situate them inside the frame. Nautiraid's Stabilairs are located outside the frame, where they maximize stability and help protect the frame in the event of a collision.
Stabilairs boost the kayak’s rigidity, minimize the risk of capsizing, and make the kayak unsinkable. They are an important safety feature. The polyurethane internal bladders inflate in only a few minutes and are easy to replace.
Note: Stabilairs are optional on the Narak 550 Single.
TOURING, TOUR-EXP AND EXPEDITION VERSIONS
Nautiraid's kayaks are available in three trims: "Touring, "Expedition," and "Tour-EXP."
The Touring version features a 1100 Dtex PVC hull from German performance fabric manufacturer Mehler.
The Expedition version is for ultra-rugged use (expedition paddling in the tropics and through icy landscapes), with an Orca Hypalon (CSR) hull by Pennel. Hypalon provides better resistance to scratches than PVC and greater dimensional stability (no shrinking in cold temperatures). Expedition decks include pockets for storing emergency paddles, longitudinal carrying handles, two round access ports, a towing ring, a reinforced mid-deck, and lateral stowage strips. The Expedition versions are 2-4kg heavier depending on the kayak.
The Tour-EXP version features the Expedition’s performance deck on a Touring PVC hull, to keep both the weight and price down.
If your kayak use is infrequent or light-duty, the Touring range offers you a lighter, cheaper version of the same Expedition kayak. If that is not your case, or if you want a fully-equipped kayak, go straight to the Expedition range.
Beaching strips are 5cm strips stuck to the bottom of the skin at points where the frame is in contact with the skin: the keel, floor spars, lower rods and upper rods.
This creates a double thickness layer to prevent premature wear from friction with solid parts. The strips are glued on and can be replaced if worn.
Kayak seats have to be comfortable, or you'll hate the kayak. Nautiraid seats are comfortable. Custom inflatable seats are standard equipment for all Nautiraid folding kayaks with wooden frames in the Expedition range. These seats are available as an option to boost the comfort of the standard seats in folding kayaks with wooden frames in the Touring range.
The inflatable seats are not only comfortable, they contribute meaningfully to your reserve flotation. When deflated, they take up almost no space in the carry bags. The Grand Narak, Tour-EXP and Expedition versions include inflatable backs on the seats.
All Nautiraid kayaks come with a 5-year factory warranty.
Currently Available to ship from CLC
Narak 550 Touring Single (White)
Inspired by Arctic kayaks, the Narak 550 is an adaptation of a Greenland kayak to European sizes.
The Narak 550 features a West Greenland-style hard chine hull, making it one of Nautiraid’s fastest and best ocean-going kayaks. The only concession to modernity is a larger cockpit opening, making entry and egress possible. (It also facilitates assembly of the folding frame.)
The Narak 550 pays careful attention to ergonomics as well, with a upscale inflatable seat, hip braces, rigid knee braces, and sturdy adjustable foot braces to make you feel at one with the boat. This fast, mile-eating 18ft sea kayak is as nice to paddle as hard shell kayaks of similar size and weight.
Assembled Weight: 51 lbs
Max Payload: 240 lbs
Cockpit Opening: 37" x 16"
56" x 13" x 9" (35 lbs)
45" x 14" x 6" (20 lbs)
Assembly Time: 25 minutes
Grand Narak 550 Tourexp Double (White)
The Grand Narak is a tandem that may be converted to a single.
Designed as an oversized single-seater, it stands out with its ability to be just as enjoyable to paddle with two people as by yourself. Just shift one of the seats to the attachment points in the center of the cockpit.
Inflatable sponsons ensure a taut skin and provide great stability. The Narak's fine bow slices through the sea, while the hard-chined hull contributes to excellent tracking, edged turns, and surfing in following waves.
Narrower than the Grand Raids, which can carry bulkier loads, this is the fastest of the Nautiraid two-seaters. You daily range is therefore greater and less tiring.
Used as a single-seater it becomes an expedition kayak with a giant load capacity.
Nautiraid Canoes and Kayaks are available in four colours; grey, white, blue and red. Call us before ordering to discuss your requirements and colour preference. Depending on what we have in stock, we may need to have your boat built to order by the artisans at Nautiraid in France.