We’ve been making world-class kayaks since 1966. To celebrate over 50 years of designing, building and paddling kayaks and canoes, we’ve created these pages to tell you our story and showcase our old boats and more.
Our most complete catalogue ever. Here you’ll find a listing of all our past models going back through the decades. If you have photos or information that you’d to contribute to this archive, please get in touch. To get started click a link below.
History of canoeing
A brief history of Struer kayaks from my memory
By Dave Green (Subject therefore to some memory loss and possible conjecture.)
Our history is intertwined with that of wood kayak manufacturer Struer. Before carbon and vacuum bagging techniques hit the kayaking sphere, the stiffest possible racing boats were made from laminated wood veneers. We first started making the Struer designs under licence, in glassfibre in the 60’s, by carefully making a female mould from the wooden production boats themselves. Later we moved to Kevlar and Carbon. Our boats were much better suited to Marathon racing, due to lower cost and robustness – back then shooting weirs was part of the sport and the wooden boats were too precious. Marathon racing has always been an important part of our history and is where we gained much of our knowledge about build quality. Here’s a little about Struer.
Struer’s name came into prominence in the 1948 London Games
The town of Struer is on the shores of the Limfjiord – a large inland sea with an inlet to the North at Aarhus and an exit to the South near Struer. Historically famous as a meeting place for raiding Vikings from Norway and Sweden and Denmark before setting off on raiding parties to England and Europe. The central land between the Fiord and the sea is said to have many graves from the Viking period.
Struer’s original claim to fame was the company of Bang and Olofsson – the makers of high class recording and radio equipment.From the 30’s through to the 50’s radio equipment was traditionally housed in laminated wood veneer cases. Many of the workers in the canoe making industry came out of Bang and Olofsson.
Gerhard Sorensen and Mr Koberup were 2 of these. I believe that Sorensen and Koberup initially worked together but by the late 50’s they operated as 2 competing companies.
The designer of the canoes and kayaks was Jorgen Samson, a cartographer and canoeist who lived at Skovvengets Alle 18, Farum, Denmark. Farum being an island in the Danish archipeligo. Samson designed for both Sorensen and Koberup. So it was in late 50’s / early 60’s new designs tumbled out one after the other, first one company then the other. Eventually I believe Koberup went out of business and new relationships were formed, probably from the same work force.
So we had Kirk and Storgaard who made the K4’s and the racing C1, & C2’s and also touring canoes in laminated veneer on a male mould, applying compressive forces to the cold glued laminates with clamping straps; whilst Sorensen, reformed as Kajakbyggeriet Struer made K1’s and K2’s only, using more advanced technique with hot cure glues, the veneers being vacuum bagged onto the male mould which was then inserted into an autoclave and heated under pressure. Under this new arrangement Gerhard Sorensen’s son Peter took on the marketing for both companies. Peter was (is?) multi lingual and did an excellent job. Struer boats were used exclusively in all International racing right into the early 90’s when GRP and its derivatives began to make an appearance.
The limitation of designing for manufacture in wood veneer is that one is forced by the material to work in modified conical shapes. Once the GRP kayak/canoe became acceptable, no such limitation existed and as a result excesses could be taken with the antiquated rules.
Struer in the 2000’s is no longer the same company, personel have died or moved on and the company no longer is seen at the fore front of racing kayak/canoe design.
Manufacturing methods for small craft through the ages
A brief history of canoe manufacturing methods, from wood to carbon.
It is generally agreed that the sport of canoeing was started in England, Europe and the USA by John MacGregor who made several well publicised expeditions in his kayak “Rob Roy” to such places as the Nile Delta in the latter years of the 19th century and also formed the Royal Canoe Club in 1866.
In the 19th century and on into the early part of the 20th century the most common method of building canoes and leisure rowing boats would be by the clinker technique; in this, the overlapping planks fixed to light frames, produced a stepped pattern around the hull which could be said to increase stability. It had the advantage of not having to fit planks edge to edge fine enough to give water tightness.
The superior carvel technique became standard practice in the leisure canoes produced in Lakefield Ontario in the 1930’s. This consisted of bending thin 5mm thick basswood sheet over light frames to form a smooth outer surface. This technique could be said to be a logical development of the original native Indian birch bark canoe. It reached its zenith in the sport of rowing where companies like Banhams of Cambridge produced very light racing shells which in the case of “eights” could be up to 60ft in length.
In the 30’s leisure kayaking construction took the form of waterproofed canvas stretched over a rigid light weight wooden frame for the simple kayak, whilst in Germany at the Klepper factory they were already producing the first of kayaks with folding frames, that enabled the kayak to be broken down in to component parts for train travel and reassembled for use at the river bank.
The 1936 Berlin Olympics was the first time that races were included for canoes and kayaks. Due to the Second World War the next Olympic event took place in London in 1948 and by that time construction methods for racing canoes and kayaks had reached a new dimension. They were now made from laminated wood veneers stretched and formed over a male mould, using glues that had been developed during the war for the aircraft industry. The De Havilland Moskito, twin engined aeroplane was the fastest plane in service at the end of the war and was of wooden construction.
In the 50’s long distance canoe racing was in its infancy and all types of construction were in use. It was now that the first glass fibre kayaks began to appear from firms like Moonraker and Gmach. These kayaks were of chopped matt construction and were vulnerable to damage in rocky waters. It was not until the early to mid sixties that glass cloth was included to strengthen the laminate.
Moulding techniques steadily improved and additional resistance to damage in slalom kayaks was established in the early 70’s by the introduction of diolen cloth which had a higher tensile strength than glass cloth but tended to give a more flexible skin, ideal at the time for slalom but not good for racing.
With the 80’s came the introduction of kevlar which offered greater tensile strength to the inner layer and made kayaks much tougher although still flexible. Then towards the end of the 80’s sandwich constructions were introduced which restored stiffness to the light weight structure and signalled the end of the Struer veneer laminated canoes and kayaks for sprint racing.
Finally carbon cloth, that had been developed by Rolls Royce for the giant fans in their latest turbines became available, and stiff constructions could be made from combinations of glass, kevlar and carbon that gave an alternative to the expensive sandwich construction technique.