Packraft maker Kokopelli dives into paddleboard market with lightweight version

Kokopelli in Longmont launching SUP line

Kokopelli’s latest product is a lightweight stand-up paddleboard. (Photo courtesy of Steven Paschal/La Storia Productions)

Longmont packraft manufacturer Kokopelli is floating its hopes on a Kickstarter campaign to launch its latest product: a lightweight stand-up paddleboard.

After a decade making ultralight packrafts and kayaks, Kokopelli will roll out its first inflatable stand-up paddleboard (SUP) next spring. The company launched a Kickstarter campaign Thursday for the Chasm-Lite, a 13-pound board that packs down to the size of a sleeping bag, with a goal to raise $50,000 around the product’s launch by Oct. 23. The Kickstarter has raised $100,000 so far.

The SUP marks another wave of expansion for Kokopelli, which got its start making packrafts and later added inflatable kayaks.

Beyond the boards, Kokopelli founder and CEO Kelley Smith said he hopes to grow the brand’s offerings into a full range of paddling, bikepacking, backpacking and camping gear that makes it easier for customers to get outdoors.

Community feedback has helped shape Kokopelli’s strategy and product development, Smith said, including decisions to create the paddleboard and take it to market through a crowdfunding effort. This campaign marks Kokopelli’s fourth Kickstarter, a fundraising strategy the company uses to generate buzz, Smith said.

“We listen to our community and so we want to launch it back and give them the chance to get it at a discount,” he said.

Donors to the Kickstarter campaign will receive discounts on and early access to the paddleboards, which will retail for $999 when they become available in stores and online in spring 2023.

Although Kokopelli has historically focused on building lightweight gear for water sports, its scope is widening. Around the same time SUPs become available next year, Kokopelli also plans to launch a line of waterproof bikepacking bags that will be compatible with transporting its boards, rafts and kayaks.

Traditional backpacking packs and camping accessories will follow the bikepacking line in the next few years to round out gear that supports customers from their approach, to the water, to camp, Smith said.

“As we’ve grown, we’ve really broadened our mission to be more focused on getting people into the outdoors and making that experience easier,” Smith said.

For the SUPS, that meant creating a lighter, more portable board — one Kokopelli is touting as the lightest in the world. With minimalist design, Kokopelli’s 10-foot-long paddleboards are made from 500-denier PVC (a material also used in the company’s rafts), and the boards’ drop-stitch construction helps create a more rigid internal structure.

9.8D Term Sheet Kokopelli

Kokopelli plans to expand its product offerings to include waterproof backpacks and camping gear. (Photo courtesy of Kokopelli)

Smith estimated Kokopelli’s boards are 30 percent to 40 percent lighter than other inflatable paddleboards on the market.

Kokopelli is marketing the Chasm-Lite as a recreational board for use on reservoirs and lakes rather than rivers and rapids, and Smith hopes it appeals to mountain athletes as well as novice paddlers.

As Kokopelli enters the stand-up paddleboard market—an industry estimated to be worth at least $337 million—the company faces local competition from Colorado SUP makers including Hala Gear, SOL Paddle Boards, Badfish and High Society Freeride Co.

Smith wants to see Kokopelli’s SUP business grow at least as large as its raft and kayak lines.

“We want Kokopelli to be synonymous with the word ‘adventure,’” Smith said.

Founded in 2012, Kokopelli has nine full-time employees. Smith declined to disclose the company’s annual revenue, but said it sells about 5,000 units per year through an even mix of direct-to-consumer sales on its website and wholesale retailers.

Its forthcoming products have potential to boost business after the raft maker saw demand soften during the first half of 2022, a problem Smith chalked up to a combination of high inflation and the glut of inventory that outdoor industry retailers are housing following a supply-chain stall during the pandemic.

Kokopelli in Longmont launching SUP line

Kokopelli’s latest product is a lightweight stand-up paddleboard. (Photo courtesy of Steven Paschal/La Storia Productions)

The Longmont company, which has been making ultralight packrafts and kayaks for a decade, will roll out its first inflatable SUP next spring.

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