Business to Know

Business to KnowLocal San Francisco entrepreneur and co-founder and CEO of Oru Kayak, Ardy Sobhani, shares his favorite spots around San Francisco, California. He recommends biking through Golden Gate Park, eating at Ike's Sandwich Shop, and kayaking through McCovey Cove as local musts in the Dirt Road Travels' San Francisco city guide.

San Francisco, California

Oru Kayak

"The translucent material of the boat means you can see the water passing through underneath your feet, which is just so magical."

Paddle to McCovey Cove
Golden Gate Park
The De Young Museum
Alite Designs
Wood Thumb

Oru Kayak

"The translucent material of the boat means you can see the water passing through underneath your feet, which is just so magical."

Recommended by:
Ardy Sobhani, Co-Founder & CEO of Oru Kayak

My Story

"I was in the last semester of my grad program when Anton Willis, the founder and original designer of Oru Kayak, was looking for a partner who could help him start a business and build this company. We hit it off and founder-dated for a while before we knew it would work out. Anton was working on the prototype, I was working on building a company around it.

I love making products with my hands. I used to paint and build motorcycles and cars. I like the physical aspect of things and how to create beautiful memories, physical things play a role.

My first time in the water on a kayak was on an Oru Kayak prototype a month after I met Anton. I'd never kayaked before that point.

I was in Golden Gate Park across from the Golden Gate Bridge. Anton and I set up the boat, and then he just walked away and left me completely alone in the water! It was 3:00 and the fog was rolling in. I had my phone and everything on me. I thought, 'Oh my god! I'm going to fall in.'


But I thought, 'OK. I mountain bike, I snowboard, I ski. Just relax. Relax your core and everything's going to be fine. When I did that, I took the experience of it all in. Seeing the fog and the Golden Gate Bridge and the bobbing of the boat and the translucent material, where you can see the water beneath your feet, it was just so magical. Immediately, I was like, 'Oh! I love camping, and this feels like I'm in the forest. I need to bring this experience to the rest of the people.'

That was my hook, that moment. I'll never forget it.'

I love the journey. The process of learning and adapting and dealing with ambiguity. There are so many unknowns, and that's the fun part. It's like being in school, but for real."

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Advice for Others

"Manage expectations, including your own. That's really important. As you start out, you're very ambitious and driven, which is good. But it's also good to be realistic, and understand that things go wrong and can be different than reality and how things play out. You've got to be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty."

Best Advice I've Received

"It's an analogy. As we get older, as we develop experiences, it's like we're wearing glasses. And those glasses can become foggier. As you build experiences, you become hardened, and it becomes easier to say no, or to not do certain things. It's important as an entrepreneur to always have an open mind and always try new things."

Oru + Topo Designs

My Perfect San Francisco Day

"Pack a bag with a bottle of wine and sandwiches and bike from the Lower Haight through Golden Gate Park, like the de Young Museum and the Conservatory of Flowers, and then go up towards Market Street. If you go to Mission or Castro, stop at Ike's Sandwich Shop. For paddling on an Oru Kayak, go out by AT&T Park and paddle towards McCovey Cove. If there's a game on, you can hang out on the boat and relax and enjoy the day with a beer in your hand."

Other San Francisco Companies

"This company called Wood Thumb makes a lot of wooden products and they have these workshops, so the aspect of community they're building is really cool. There's another company called Alite Designs by Tae. He's a great designer who's very innovative and they come up with cool outdoor products all the time. I really enjoy hanging out with him."

Oru in Rocky Mountain National Park

Oru Kayak


Oru Kayak
Ardy Sobhani
Oru Kayak
San Francisco
Paddle to McCovey Cove
"It's really cool because you can paddle between big ships. It's totally nuts."
Golden Gate Park
"The hippy ethos still lives on in that bubble around Golden Gate Park."
The De Young Museum
"A true masterpiece of a building."
Alite Designs
"For anyone who loves the outdoors and lives in San Francisco, it's like a non-optional stop."
Wood Thumb
"All their stuff is really cool, and the community they’re building is awesome."
Oru Kayak
"The translucent material of the boat means you can see the water passing through underneath your feet, which is just so magical."

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