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Made in Myrtle Beach: Foldable kayaks

A sample  of the foldable kayak
A sample of the foldable kayak

When Dan Norton started folding paper boats and floating them in the sink, his wife wasn’t sure what he was up to. Had he taken in interest on origami or perhaps read Stephen King’s “It” one too many times?

None of the above.

Norton was in fact in the embryonic stages of what was to become the first iteration of a foldable kayak called the Tucktec.

The Conway resident recently teamed up with a local manufacturing business, Shamrock Plastics, to put the Tucktec into production.

Priced at $349, the Tucktec [] is a hard shell, lightweight kayak that can hold up to 350 pounds. At almost 10 feet long when assembled, the durable polymer (high-density polyethylene) kayak folds into compact and portable 48 by 15 inches.

The kayak can be assembled in as little as 90 seconds.

Norton was not necessarily an avid kayaker or canoer, but he enjoyed camping and other outdoor activities with his kids. The idea for the Tucktec, like many good ideas, came from a random thought.

“I just thought one day that it would be cool to have a solid kayak that you don’t need a trailer or a roof rack for, and was just as portable as an inflatable,” he said. “I didn’t want to get a flimsy inflatable that people can’t really get in – and if it popped, you were out of luck.”

Norton is also in the art pottery business and said he has done manufacturing in the past.

“I knew how to source things and knew how do design things – so I basically designed it with the CAD program and sourced all of the materials. Then I started working with Shamrock Plastics. They do all of the plastic fabricating and the CNC [computer numerical control] machining,” he said.

At this stage of the game, Norton also does all the website work himself.

“I do everything now until the launch and everything gets going,” he said.

Although the website is up and running, and Norton is already receiving wholesale inquiries, the big reveal will come this weekend at the 2018 Grand Strand Boat and Sportsman Expo at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Norton said price, durability and portability set the Tucktec apart in the marketplace.

“You could get a similar kayak to ours and pay the same price, but it wouldn’t fold up,” he said, adding that the Tucktec is perfect for apartment dwellers, RV enthusiasts, campers and fishermen.

“If they want to go fishing after work, they don’t have to run home, grab a canoe and put it on a trailer. It’s a convenience thing.”

Shamrock Plastics was founded in Ohio by Tom Ruffner in 1989. Ruffner set up shop on the Grand Strand when he moved here in 2012. His son now runs the shop in Ohio.

In Myrtle Beach, Ruffner and company stay busy with custom fabrication for local sign companies, retail stores, bars and restaurants – and local attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium.

“Dan basically came in one day and said, ‘can you cut this?’ I said ‘sure,’ and we cut [the kayak body]. We started talking, and I cut another one and another one – and now we’ve got like 80 or 90 of them on the floor – and we’ve got another 200 or so to cut,” he said, adding that Shamrock Plastics also cuts the seats and foam rails for the product.

Ruffner noted that Norton did his homework when designing the Tucktec.

“He checked out all of the engineering specs – where the folds are – and it’s stronger than what you think it is,” he said. “It will hold 350 pounds. The engineering makes it so strong – and that thing folds up into a little suitcase and pops out into a 10-foot canoe. Everybody that comes in here and sees us running them or folding them up – they’re like, ‘I want one of those.’”