Traditional skin-on-frame kayaks
Custom made to fit you
Sleek, light, fast, playful, elegant
At Frogtown Kayak, we build custom skin-on-frame kayaks using traditional methods developed by the native people of the far north. Our kayaks were originally used in Greenland and in the Bering Sea, and are comprised of a basket-like wood frame covered with nylon fabric.
Skin-on-frame kayaks are a connection to the origins of kayaking. For the people of the far north, kayaks were a necessity for travel, for hunting, for food, for life itself.
For us, here and now, the kayak is a means of recreation. It offers a way to become connected to the watery parts of nature and at times to realize a sense of peace.
A kayak of traditional construction can also offer us a window — however small and cloudy — into the world of the hunters who depended on these refined and cunningly designed craft.
Practically speaking, skin-on-frame kayaks are light and easy to carry at about 30 pounds. Your kayak is astonishingly responsive, because it is built to fit your body. If you care to learn the range of Greenlandic rolls, a well-fitted skin-on-frame kayak is the perfect craft.
Building your kayak begins by taking your measurements. Your kayak is fitted exactly to you, like a pair of custom shoes.
You can specify the type of kayak you want. A low back deck, for example, in a boat in which you intend to work on the repertoire of Greenlandic rolling techniques. More rocker for a boat that is more maneuverable; less for stronger tracking.
Or, you can choose a replica, patterned after the many traditional hunting kayaks that have been collected in museums and surveyed. It’s a fascinating way to get in touch with the ancient foundations of kayaking.
Your kayak frame is made of wooden pieces that are lashed or pegged. The oak ribs are steam bent. The skin is nylon fabric, sewn tightly and then covered with two-part polyurethane. Your kayak will weigh about 30 pounds.
Your kayak is a hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind craft that requires about 80 hours of work.
The price for Greenland-style kayaks is $1500. A baidarka (or iqyax) is $1800.
You must be available for at least two fittings and for taking delivery of your kayak, which, realistically, requires that you live near St. Paul, MN, or travel here with some frequency.
I've built dozens of kayaks over the past few decades. I was drawn to the work by the brilliance of a design that results in a light, lively vessel, and requires lttle more than some scraps of wood and a sheet of fabric.
From my shop in St. Paul, Minnesota I am constantly at work building new kayaks, undertaking the occasional repair, carving paddles and making various items of paddling gear.