For those passionate about the sport, it’s about more than just catching fish – it’s also about escapism, spirituality and the challenge of the sport itself.

This is something that interested young New Zealand industrial designer Gordon Robinson – of 4ormfunction, an award-winning product-design consultancy in Christchurch – when he embarked on the challenge of designing a fly-fishing boat that performed better on the water, as he knew next to nothing about it when he started the project.

“Learning about something completely foreign to me made it interesting,” says Robinson. “I decided to design a watercraft after initial user research into ‘why fishermen enjoyed the sport’ indicated a need for a craft to support established fly fishing rituals.”

‘Pursuit’ is an inflatable pontoon watercraft designed specifically for fly-fishing. With the highly ritualistic component of the sport in mind, the craft was conceptualised to be more portable to make remote fishing spots more accessible.

Traditionally, crafts are usually made from steel tube – which creates about 50 per cent of the total weight and can be tedious to set up, particularly in colder 
temperatures, as it requires attaching small pins to piece the frame together. So the main focus for Pursuit was on the frame and the collapsibility of the vessel.

The uniqueness of Pursuit lies in its use of soft and organic materials. Pursuit features a collapsible flax fibre composite frame with nylon junctions mounted on a bladderless PVC polyester U-shaped pontoon. Not only does it give an almost silent operation, but it has the ability to be easily packed down, due to a 
collapsible frame, which means the fisherman has very little restriction in terms of where he or she can fish.

“With no constraint on where to fish, the Pursuit watercraft touches upon the ‘spirituality’ of the fisherman,” says Robinson. “There is the possibility of being the first person to discover that ‘perfect spot’ nestled deep in the wild, something that the fisherman can choose to tell their mates about at the end of the day.”

Robinson’s goal was also to reduce the amount of time it takes to get the boat unpacked and in the water, ideally with an almost one-step assembly. The idea is that the frame is set up only once, after which it can simply be collapsed for transportation, similar to a folding camp chair. Some of the pivot points on the frame were positioned where the frame attaches to the craft, to again make set-up time faster and the pivot pins were designed to be oversized in order to enhance the ease of dismantling, particularly in cold weather. A less time-consuming assembly and dismantling time also means more time on the water for fishermen.

The frame is attached at five points of which three are quarter-turn pins, allowing for quicker removal of the frame. At the rear of the craft, the two-ladder strap attachments allow a small amount of movement for the frame, which helps to alleviate the stresses put on it when rowing.

A folding seat is attached to the nylon frame, with runners, which means a small amount of leg drive can be incorporated into the rowing motion, allowing for less arm fatigue and more power if necessary, in fast currents and strong wind. Behind the user there is a net for storage of items such as big packs, while on either side of the seat there are two four-litre bags for smaller personal items.

The aim of the craft is to fill the gap between the two most popular boats on the market – the float tube and the pontoon. The Pursuit merges the portability of the float tube with the stability and performance of larger pontoons.

Robinson was awarded a prestigious 2012 red dot award: design concept in the Mobility category for the Pursuit concept and was the only New Zealand winner. “As a new designer this award has given me a lot of confidence, and it’s nice for New Zealand design to be recognised internationally,” said Robinson, who only recently started his career with 4ormfunction.

“I am delighted and proud for Gordon winning this award,” said 4ormfunction principal and professional designer, David Lovegrove. “It is no mean feat for him, as he was competing with professional designers and design firms presenting planes, trains and automobile concepts. His concept showed a lot of maturity in design and bodes well for a successful career.”

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