Artist Creates Full-Size Kayak From Fungus

There are lots of ways to make a boat. You can carve one out of a solid log, wrap cedar strips around a mold, or use animal skin, plastic, fiberglass, or any number of space-age materials.

But growing one out of a mushroom? That’s a new one for us.

But that’s exactly what California-based sculptor and mushroom enthusiast Sam Shoemaker has done.

Shoemaker, who seems like a fun guy (sorry), posted photos and videos of his truly unique watercraft late last month. The 15-foot boat is roughly kayak-shaped. It lacks a cockpit and is a true sit-on-top. As for how he built it? Patience, a mold, some wild mushrooms, and a lot of fungal know-how.

“A hemp substrate was used to propagate this mycelium inside a two-part mold over the course of about four weeks,” the artist wrote in his post. “After the gestation period, the mycelium was dried to render a strong, hydrophobic, and inert cork-like material. The boat was sealed with locally sourced beeswax. No rigid internal support fame or hardwood was used.”


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A post shared by Sam Shoemaker (@samkshoemaker)

Impractical, he admits

Mycelium is the root-like structure of fungus — the part that lives underground and can form into dense mats, as Shoemaker has so deftly shown. Shoemaker explained that he used an ocean fishing kayak as the mold. The craftsman admits that his boat — which weighs a hefty 61kg — is a kayak only in the roughest possible sense.

“You are welcome to call this floating object a kayak, a paddle board, a boat, or a baguette. For the people who have said that [61kg] is an impractical weight for a boat this size, I agree. Using a wild mushroom to build a boat is something worth doing, but highly impractical,” he noted.

For all its weight, Shoemaker’s boat seems to track fairly well (peep the above video.) The artist plans to make more boats and will eventually try to cross “the Catalina Channel on a mushroom.”

An unusual, if worthy, goal!

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
You can find more of his work at, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).