About Nick Schade

Nick Schade

Nick grew up around canoes and kayaks. After beginning a career as an engineer for the US Navy, he knew he wanted to get back on the water himself. But as a recent graduate, he could not afford the kind of boat he wanted. So he decided to design and build a kayak using a technique he had seen used to create canoes: the “"strip-built" method. This method was popular for canoe construction but was not commonly adapted for kayaks. Nick and his brother worked together to develop the processes needed to make kayaks using the “"strip-built" method.

As his skill as a kayak paddler and boat builder evolved, Nick's designs evolved to match his changing aims. The driving goal has been to maximize the on-the-water performance while respecting the natural materials used to create the boat. Out of these efforts Nick has created the business Guillemot Kayaks, centered on designing high performance sea kayaks for other craftsmen interested in building their own boats. He is the author of two books about boat buiding: The Strip-Built Sea Kayak, an instruction book describing the strip-built method for building sea kayaks, and most recently Building Strip-Planked Boats which extends the method to canoes and row boats. Through his efforts Nick has helped foster a revival in people building their own kayaks.

He specializes in high performance kayaks whose visual beauty is a reflection of their ability to perform on the water. His technical background has influenced his use of the latest computer modeling technology to engineer high performance into his designs. Combined with an innate aesthetic sense, the resulting boats are as beautiful as they are functional.

Interview by Bespoke Global

Nick’s studio is currently located in Groton, Connecticut, where he builds prototypes of new designs and makes a select number of custom-built kayaks. He has taught kayak construction at Mystic Seaport, the WoodenBoat School and the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. His boats have paddled the bold coast of Maine and exhibited in the American Craft Museum. Guillemot Kayaks has drawn the attention of the national press, and has been featured in ForbesLife, the Robb Report and Wired Magazine. One of his kayaks is now in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art. They are suitable for riding late-season hurricane generated swells or for display in a post and beam great room. They are designed by a dedicated kayaker seeking to achieve the highest performance standards and built by a craftsman who feels that beauty and performance go hand in hand.

Nick Schade

Artistic Statement:

I started designing and building kayaks out of a simple desire to have one. I had the idea that I could design and build a better boat than I could buy. My efforts remain centered around that idea. A “better" kayak is efficient, seaworthy and responsive; it is also lightweight, strong and durable. Function has always been the primary design criterion. Although visual appearance is a strong secondary consideration, I understand that the power of the ocean enforces design rules of simple grace. Awkward shapes will not perform as well.

My aesthetic sense is founded on functionality but makes room for a sense of whimsy. Natural materials have their own aesthetic integrity without a need for distracting enhancements. But, if a material limitation presents itself, I like having a little fun working around it.

My construction material of choice is wood because it is lightweight, resilient, and naturally forms efficient shapes. Strength is also a result of careful craftsmanship. The natural environment rewards objects that are well put together. My design inspiration ranges from several sources: the grace and beauty of the original kayaks built by the Inuits of Greenland, the refined elegance of the “"baidarkas" of the Aleut peoples of the Bering Sea, the mahogany runabouts of the last century, as well as influences from the modern boats of the America's Cup. The results are boats of distinctive beauty that perform to the highest standards. The outward refinement is the manifestation of careful attention to the details of how the boat will respond on the water.

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