“Can you hear me clearly?” is the first question Jan-Erik Viitala, Founding Partner and Creative Innovations Director of Axopar Boats, asks me as we link in for a phone interview this week. “Ummm, it sounds like you’re on a plane….”, detective skills are clearly not my thing. No, in fact, Jan-Erik was, unsurprisingly, on one of his 37s out on the water off the coast of Helsinki on a photoshoot for their new adventure branding. This day’s adventure…fishing. If you log onto the website www.axopar.fi will see several of their already filmed teasers, which seriously made me want to find my adrenalin switch – a series of stories that aim to get to the heart of what it is that the brand stands for – Adventure! Interestingly when I ask Jan-Erik, where the concept of adventure comes from, he tells me that it has been driven organically from their customers themselves and what they are using their boats for and the experiences they wish to share. Check out the Moments section on the website to hear real life customer’s stories.
At the heart of it all is the concept of adventure. But as Jan-Erik is quick to point out, one person’s adventure could be the idea of heading out for a day, finding a beautiful Cala, dropping anchor, opening a cold beer and settling down to read a good book. Another’s could involve kayaking into the wilds or hooking on your carabiners and getting ready to scale the highest rocks and cliffs you can find. And this is the beauty of the Axopar because they are modular in design, they can be perfectly tailored to fit most people’s dreams and fantasies. Need to be able to attach a few water toys or some mountain bikes? No problem. Need a bigger fridge and grill space? Your wish is their command. He says he eventually wants people to see an Axopar boat and inherently know that the owner is into fun, the outdoors and adventure. I love the idea.
When I ask Jan-Erik what his personal adventure poison is I can hear the smile in his chatty and jovial tone. In winter he says it is all about the mountains and snow as he heads all over the world to find the perfect piste to go snowmobiling on. In summer it’s unsurprising that it is the boating itself. Finding new bays and cool places, spending the days kayaking and fishing. At the moment they are having a lot of fun playing with ‘fat’ bikes whose wide tyres make them especially fun for taking on beaches and remote small mountain trails. Both he and his fiancée, partner of twenty years, love being on the water and the freedom that the Axopars give them. They head out as often as humanly possible.
And you don’t need to take Jan-Erik’s word for it, the sale of 2,500+ boats so far in more than 70 countries, with more than 500 currently on their order books, speaks volumes in itself. All this since they founded in the company in 2014, swiftly becoming the largest boat manufacturer in the Nordics. Jan-Erik puts this down to the company’s less than conventional way of operating. Instead of the traditional CEO they instead have a Coaching Example Officer, in the form of Mikael Heikfolk, whose pedigree in the airline industry with big blue chip corporations sees him perfectly suited to steer the operational side of the 80million plus euro business. The split of responsibilities allows them to remain flexible and nimble, much like the boats themselves.
But it’s not all fun and games, though it does seem that they have their fair share. It requires long hours, dedication and a passion to stay ahead of the crowd, whilst remaining efficient and affordable for their customers and maintaining a healthy bottom line. Even the photoshoots require their fully committed attention, hitting the water at around 8am every day for a week and not coming back in until the sun starts to set which at this time of year in Finland is at around 9pm. 13 hour days, whilst doing something quite frankly cool, can still be exhausting. And it not a team of models that are being photographed doing some seriously funky stuff, it is actually the company’s employees. It is clear that Axopar is one of those brilliant companies where like attracts like. Want to make a seriously cool and sexy boat that can take you on whatever adventure you wish to go on, wherever you want to go? Then it seems you must have that sense of adventure innate within you. These are people who live and breathe the brand not because they have to, but because they simply do. I’m a little bit in awe.
One of the reasons that the boats have been such an utterly resounding success is you can quite literally take them anywhere. Check out the photos. They can go into 50cms of water, enabling you to get close to the most deserted beaches in utter style and comfort. They are easy to drive and are being bought by anyone, from first-time boat owners to experienced seamen. With 700 boats being manufactured a year and a target of 1000 for next year they are seriously flying off the shelves.
This sadly segues nicely into the conversation it seems one cannot not have these days. What impact has Covid-19 had on this wonderful company. Thankfully Jan-Erik is quick to reassure me that actually, against all odds, they have actually just had their best three months so far. When they discovered that the world was about to go into lockdown they called each and every customer to see if they still wanted to go ahead with their orders and everyone said yes. It seems the Axopar world has worked out that one of the safest ways to socially distance while still having a shed load of fun is on a boat. So, they stockpiled everything they needed and got to building. Obviously, there are concerns about the potential second wave, but Jan-Erik is maintaining a positive outlook.
It’s hard not to be swept along with the positivity and passion of Jan-Erik and his Axopar family. A deckhand from the age of 8 on sightseeing boats in his local hometown, he built his first boat at 15, with his father doing the exterior, and Jan-Erik building the interior. Whist he is not classically trained, he has the passion of 10 certified boat builders! The vision, marketing, and branding of the company are safe in his innovative hands as he works side by side with naval architect and designer, Jarkko Jämsen, founding partner of Aivan! design agency.
If you want to see these boats in the flesh and you are based here in Mallorca head on down to Port Cala Nova. This smaller and more intimate marina is the absolute perfect fit for Axopar. Whether you are interested in a day boat, a tender for a bosses superyacht, a daily commuter vessel, the perfect boat for VIP charters or as a scuba boat for luxury hotel guests, these Swiss Army Knives of boats have everything from devastatingly good looks, to perfect handling, to easy maintenance, with incredible value-for-money. What’s not to like?
All aboard the good ship Axopar for the next great adventure!!
ADDRESS: KEILARANTA 1, 02150 ESPOO, FINLAND
+358 (0) 40 645 8203
By Victoria Pearce