The Story of Nelo Kayaks

The beginning

In 1977, in the quiet and small Vila do Conde, Portugal, the young athlete Manuel Ramos started a revolution in the world of kayaking. From a little garage and with a great belief and passion for canoeing sport, he founded Nelo Kayaks on a simple premise: always to be better and always achieve more.

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The 80's & first models

After years of refining their expertise and gathering invaluable insights, Nelo risked on its international journey, starting in England. Known for its rich kayaking heritage and the pioneering figures like Rob Roy MacGregor, England provided the ideal scene for Nelo’s expansion.

The decision to establish a presence in England was driven by practicality and opportunity. The country’s strong outdoor culture and demand for top equipment made it a natural fit for Nelo’s high-quality kayaks. By entering into this market, Nelo aimed to leverage its expertise and reputation to fuel further growth and strengthen its global presence.

With England as its launchpad, Nelo set out to go out to new territories and introduce paddlers around the world to the passion of kayaking with precision-engineered equipment. This strategic move marked the beginning of an exciting chapter of development and expansion for Nelo, laying the groundwork for its continued success on the international stage.

In 1989, Nelo reached a milestone with the introduction of its first original model, the MIG K1. This iconic kayak was instantly recognizable by its distinctive rounded cockpit, engineered for a better comfort. However, its unique design later was controversial in the canoeing world, with allegations of gaining an unfair advantage from backwind. Despite this controversy, the MIG K1 left an unforgettable mark on the sport.

During its reign, the MIG K1 proved its quality on the global stage, with a bronze medal won at the World Championship in Marathon. Remarkably, this feat was accomplished with a boat weighing only 4kg, showcasing Nelo’s commitment to lightweight construction without sacrificing durability or speed.

Nelo produced extremely light versions of the MIG model, weighing just around 3kg.

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The 90's. Growing time & First Olympic Medal

As orders for Nelo boats flew, the company found itself facing the need for expansion. In 1991, driven by a substantial increase in production demands, Nelo decided to relocate its factory to Mosteir├│. This new location offered three times the space of the previous facility, providing Nelo with the space it needed to efficiently scale up its operations and fulfil orders while maintaining the high standards and quality that had become synonymous with the Nelo brand.

In 1992, Nelo celebrated a significant milestone as Portuguese athlete Rui C├óncio obtained the company’s first bronze medal in the Canoe and Kayak Marathon World Championships.

Four Years later, in 1996, Nelo achieved another remarkable feat when the Russian crew won the company’s inaugural Olympic medal in the K4 1000m event at the Atlanta Olympics.

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1998 - Canoeing scene was never be the same

The late 90’s brought us a Game-Changer in Kayak Design.

The K1 Moskito marked a revolutionary change in kayak design, representing the first line of boats designed entirely by Nelo. In an era where regulations dictated minimum width requirements and restricted concavities in the hull, the Moskito defied convention with its groundbreaking innovations.

One of the Moskito’s standout features was its strategic placement of the widest point towards the athlete’s area, optimizing impact and eliminating unnecessary drag. By lowering the seam line, Nelo engineers were able to prepare an ergonomic deck, facilitating smoother strokes and enhancing paddler performance.

Such was Moskito’s impact on the world of canoeing that caused the International Canoe Federation to reconsider its regulations, ultimately leading to the abolition of the minimum width rule. This key moment accentuated the Moskito’s transformative influence, solidifying its status as a true game-changer in the sport of kayaking.

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2000 / 2010 Olympic Affirmation

From Sydney 2000’s Olympics arrived 5 medals. A huge success at the time.

In 2002 Nelo developed a very impressive boat that was the genesis of the Vanquish range. “Vanquish” means to defeat thoroughly or decisively in a competition, conflict, or battle. It implies overcoming an opponent or obstacle with great authority or superiority.

In the Athens 2004 Olympics, Nelo obtained 14 medals. Also, this was the first Olimpic edition in which Nelo was chosen as an Official Supplier, a sign of its quality and responsibility.

There was no more space to fit all staff and production in 2007. So as result of a sustainable development and continuous growth, Nelo changed its location. Canidelo, Vila do Conde was the choice for its new factory and offices, which had 5000m2.

In the 2008 Beijing Olympics Nelo obtained a total of 20 medals.

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2010 / 2020 The Future Ahead

The 2012 London Olympics brought to Nelo 25 medals, making that edition a huge success at the time.

But one of the most considerable facts in the canoeing world happened in 2015. It was the year of the Cinco model, the first inverted bow boat model released by Nelo. By inverting the bow, the boat has become faster and more efficient. This technical superiority is proven by all the titles won, as well as Nelo’s concern to reserve the exclusivity of its design and functional characteristics for all “Cinco” boats, through the first patent ever granted for this type of sport.

In the Rio 2016 Olympics, the numbers proved the Cinco model marker. 27 medals in 36 possible, of which 8 gold, 9 silver and 10 bronze.

In 2017 Nelo moved his factory again to increase production. With 20000 m2, the facilities have the best possible conditions to continue the production of high-quality products and push the boat development ahead.

After that, in a peculiar edition of 2020 Tokyo Olympics made in 2021 due covid pandemic, Nelo won a total of the 25 medals at the Sea Forest Waterways. Eight were gold, seven silver and 10 bronze.

Now the future is on the corner and there’s more story to be made!

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