Protagonist of this section is undoubtedly my folding kayak Klepper Aerius II Expedition, and I really want to write a post of presentation for it before getting to the real trips, so much it deserves that.
Klepper: proudly German
The Klepper folding kayaks mix true geniuses of different people living in totally opposite parts of the world: Germans and Inuit. They are a perfect synthesis of construction ideas, skills, abilities and courage. To write about them is to write about a whole world.
The best Germans are always animated by a universal spirit, by a powerful intellectual and spiritual inclination toward what in the world is furthest away from them.
Alfred Heurich surely belonged to this category of Germans I truly respect and love.
Certain passions come in with the first unripe years of life. The kid Alfred, seven years old son of a pharmacist in Metz, had barely learned to read and write when – in 1890 – he built his first wooden boat, which he left floating on the relatively calm waters of the river Moselle, a tributary of the Rhine. He didn’t give himself satisfied: five years later the world of folding boats conquered him and in 1897 he built his first model using bamboo sticks and sailcloth. Adventure had begun!
Later, as a young architecture student in Munich, the fulminating and definitely inspiring encounter takes place in the Museum of Anthropology, when the concrete and brilliant culture of the Inuit bursts into his life in the form of their traditional kayak displayed in the museum.
Inuit, yes: the kayak is unquestionably their invention. The lightest boat imaginable, the agility itself, born for hunting seals and walruses, to target preys silently like polar bears.
Essential structure, perfect as a skeleton, made of driftwood beached on the coast and whales, dolphins and sea lions bones, dressed with seal leather stitched with skill and waterproofed with whale fat.
More than a boat: a suit tailored to make man a floating creature artificially imitating marine mammals in a kind of back-to-past evolution.
Alfred Heurich had then and there his basic idea of a folding kayak.
Later the encounter with the german tailor Johann Klepper in 1907, a genius in business and marketing, who acquired the patent from Alfred and began mass production. Thank to this meeting, the legend of Klepper was born, kayaks that well packaged travel around the world on the most different means of transportation. When they reach the target – a river, a lake, a sea to be explored – they get assembled and the heavy sacks, where they are well packed, turn into water butterflies ready to slide on the surface.
Since Klepper folding kayaks have conquered Germany first and then the world, many adventurers have put their life in danger (and many truly died) shaping the most beautiful enterprises.
Conquering the Oceans
In 1923 Karl Schott paddled from Germany to India. In 1928 Franz Romer sailed a custom-built Klepper from Portugal to Puerto Rico. Adventurers sailed and paddled Kleppers around Cape Horn, to the magnetic North Pole, across the South China Sea, and halfway around Australia.
But the one who really gained my sincere admiration is for sure Hannes Lindemann, who made a solo and totally unassisted transatlantic crossing in a 17-foot Klepper Aerius II. A double folding kayak, essentially the same model which is the protagonist here, just modified to carry two masts and an outrigger. His book Alone at Sea documents the trip and is an exceptional statement of how challenging for mind and body such an adventure can be, capable of transforming even his personality and its future development.
Today there are many producers of good folding kayaks, but I still think that Klepper is number one.
If you are willing to pay around 5k € for a brand new double Klepper Aerius II Expedition fully equipped, then this is still the best choice. But if you don’t neglect to spare some good money, there are great second hand opportunity in the german market, since Germany is still the place where the most of them are sold. I suggest you to give a good look into ebay local announcements site, you will find for sure the one fitting your money bag and your expectations.
After checking for months for a good opportunity of a second hand kayak, during spring 2016 I connected with a guy in Bayern owning a Klepper Aerius II Expedition in very good conditions. Deal was quickly made and the only issue was the delivery. With DHL or other couriers or searching a passage for it with someone flying from Munich to Sardinia (my provisory base camp) result was always the same: extremely expensive. So I backpacked and took plane first to Munich and then from Munich back to Italy (Bologna) with blablacar, a great online service connecting drivers and passengers.
From Bologna to Genoa by train with 3 sacks, carrying what I guess was the heaviest weigh of my lifetime, then from Genoa to Sardinia by ferry boat.