The Kulu riverrunner is designed to be the perfect first whitewater kayak – for kids just starting out, as well as for more experienced young paddlers looking to take their downriver skills to the next level.

While not a freestyle kayak, the Kulu offers great playability. Its planing hull has rails just sharp enough for easy spins, and the super-forgiving sidewalls make controlling the kayak downriver while playing every feature a breeze. The bow has enough volume to make technical runs easy and safe, while the stern strikes the right balance between sliciness for squirting and forgiveness for staying on top of turbulent water.

Unbelievably easy to roll, the Kulu provides a huge confidence boost as kids begin whitewater paddling. Additionally, it carries enough speed on flatwater for children to keep up with adults on longer trips.

Kids on the lower end of the weight spectrum will find the Kulu exceptionally forgiving yet still responsive and maneuverable, with ample volume to install confidence in slightly bigger rapids. Kids on the high end of the weight spectrum will find it to be a lively kayak that they can learn to squirt too, but still forgiving enough for beginners to learn the basics. The sweet spot in terms of paddler weight for the Kulu is quite wide, making it a great kayak to progress in and not outgrow too fast.

Note: Petite adults (typically smaller women) who fall within the weight range will naturally experience the same benefits of the design.


Length: 210cm / 6’10”

Width: 60cm / 23.5″

Height: 32cm / 12.5″

Weight: 12kg / 26 lbs

Volume: 165L / 43 gal

Paddler weight range: 30-60kg / 65-130 lbs

Cockpit size: 77x44cm / 30.5″x17.5″


My kids grew up paddling. First joining me on rafting trips, then as soon as they were old enough (around 4 years old), they started paddling with sit-on-top kayaks. I strongly believe that most kids, especially smaller ones, should begin with sit-on-tops for safety and confidence reasons. This is why I designed two kids’ sit-on-tops in the past: first the Fluid Vaya and then the Vagabond Kwando. My kids learned many skills in these sit-on-tops, including different paddle strokes, running rapids, catching eddies, ferrying, and front surfing. However, at some point, both were ready to move on to the next level.

The natural progression was for me to design a whitewater kayak that would allow them to progress in the safest and funnest way possible. For sizing, I wanted the kayak to have a weight range of about 30-60kg, which would typically mean kids in the range of 8 to 14 years old. This turned out to be spot on, as my kids started paddling the Kulu prototypes at around 30kg (they were about the same weight at that stage, despite being 3 years apart in age). My son paddled his pre-production Kulu until he was 15, then he outgrew it and was ready to move on to a more high performance kayak. My daughter is now 18, but being a petite young lady now, the Kulu is still the perfect kayak for her.

Having designed a kids’ whitewater kayak before (the Fluid Small Spice), I knew how important it is for young paddlers to have an ergonomically correct kayak. I wanted the kayak to be fun to paddle, not scary. I wanted it to be super forgiving, but at the same time have enough of a planing hull that they could learn to surf and spin. Even more importantly, I wanted the kayak to be super easy to roll. I wanted decent rocker, a relatively voluminous deck, and a stern that would be squirtable with some technique. The design looks a bit like a half-slice at first glance, but technically it isn’t; the volume is more balanced to make it more predictable.

After months of tweaking the design, I cut the plug and made a prototype for testing. My kids were the primary test paddlers, but I also had quite a few other youngsters try it to check performance and sizing. The hull was spot on, and the bow and stern volume and shape too. The only further tweak I had to make was to raise the cockpit a bit for the taller, lankier kids who fit within the weight range but found it too tight.

After raising the cockpit, I made the mold and manufactured the first few kayaks. These were put through their paces on river trips and even on the ocean to ensure I got it right. The pics and video clips below attest to that: I’ve hit the nail on the head with this design.

Celliers Kruger


The Kulu is named after the Umzimkulu River in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The Umzimkulu has many different sections to paddle, from easy class 1 to some proper class 4 sections. The river caters for the full progression of kayakers’ skills, from beginner to expert, and the Kulu offers the same progression in a young paddlers’ learning curve.