13 March 2024

Above the weighing scales at the end of the Nelo production line is a screen with two dials that set the company’s goals. 

The aim is to produce 24 boats a day and 120 a week. 

Nelo is the official provider of Canoe Sprint boats for the Olympic Games and is one of the International Canoe Federation’s Gold Partners. 

It has come a long way from the days when Nelo Founder Manuel Ramos, a former Portuguese paddler, started building boats in his father’s garage with the help of his brother in the late 1970s. 

His business has experienced rapid growth, producing and distributing top-of-the-range boats to more than 100 countries across the globe. 

Covering 20,000m2, Nelo’s factory in Vila do Conde on the outskirts of Porto, Portugal is a boat production machine. 

Models ranging from the Moskito that changed the sport when it was launched in the late 1990s due to its technical advancements to the Nelo 7 created for Tokyo 2020 are proudly on show when entering the factory doors. 

Nelo factory canoe sprint Olympics

More than 150 people work at Nelo with each of them playing a crucial role in ensuring the boats are as fast and efficient as possible for the paddlers. 

Fabrics are cut to precision and small parts such as seats, rudders and footrests are accurately assembled. 

Pictures of Olympic champions that used Nelo boats adorn the walls of the main factory floor where the boats take shape. 

Molds of the hull and deck are created to cater for the different boat sizes before being painted and then put into the ovens to dry. 

Mr Ramos is ever present, riding his bike around the factory to check to make sure each component of the operation is running smoothly. 

Each boat is polished by hand for at least one hour before the seats and footrests are fitted. 

A team of quality controllers then carefully scour the boats to spot any blemishes that are repaired. 

Nelo factory canoe sprint Olympics

Once weighed and packaged up, the boats are then shipped all over the world. 

You only have got to look at the list of Olympic medal winners to see the success of Nelo boats. 

At the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, athletes using Nelo boats won 25 Canoe Sprint medals including eight golds, seven silvers and 10 bronzes. 

While results at major events are important, there are three other words beginning with the letter “R” that are measurements of Nelo’s success. 

“Reuse”, “Recycle and “Reduce” are key words in Nelo’s efforts to put sustainability at the heart of production. 

Nelo has looked to better separate its waste to see whether it can be salvaged and refused. 

Rudders are being created from recycled plastic bottles, carbon waste is being used for backpacks and watch holders and load weights are being replaced with reused materials such as resin or polyester. 

Nelo 400

Policies have also been put in place to reduce water consumption at the factory, while solar panels are being used for energy production to nearly 60 per cent of its total consumption. 

Nelo has secured a partnership with Sea Shepherd, a non-profit organization that aims to protect and preserve marine life, defend the oceans’ biodiversity and ensure that future generations can enjoy the benefits of the planet’s natural resources. 

Heralded as the “boat for everybody”, the Nelo 400 is a model of sustainability. 

The boat, which has been developed for people of all skill levels, is made up of 50 per cent recycled materials. 

Due to the Nelo 400’s durability, it can last for many years meaning it reduces the need to create more kayaks and avoid waste of natural resources. 

The Nelo 400 underlines the company’s commitment to cutting the company’s carbon footprint, helping to deliver on the ICF’s sustainability mission across the paddle sport community. 

Click here for more information on Nelo

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Canoe Sprint