Anita K2 1938
Ingvar in his first boat at the age of 16
In older times there was not any structured education, especially in the trades as it is today. The children learned from their parents and their lives usually became the same. This was especially true on the islands in the archipelago of Sweden. The father most often built the family's boats and at the same time taught the technique to his sons.
But when Carl Månsson was born in 1832 everybody realized that there was something special about him. As he grew up he displayed a real feel for boat building, to the degree that everybody in the area wanted his creations.
On the small island where he lived, St. Kalvön in the parish of Östra Ed, he started a small boat building works, where he always had a boat under construction, to work on when the weather did not allow for his regular work as a fisherman.
Carl had two sons, Carl Anton born in 1862 and Johan Alfred born 1873. Johan Alfred had been blessed with plenty of the "boat building genes" and had a real feeling for design as well as the material, just as if God himself had created the rib or the board in the boat that Johan Alfred was building.
Johan Alfred took off for Stockholm when he was about 17 years old, to train as a furniture maker. Not to work as a furniture maker but in order to refine his skills.
If Johan Alfred's boats were nice before his furniture making education they became something extra ordinary after the additional skills.
The World Exhibition was held in Stockholm in 1897 and a competition for the best Swedish boat builder was announced. Johan Alfred entered as the youngest, only 24 years old, and won. That must have been the most memorable day in his life, as he talked about it for the rest of his life.
In 1907 he moved back home and purchased property at Vitudden (outside the city of Västervik) as he had decided to build boats in bigger volume. He built a slip and hired staff and soon he had a shipyard that became famous along the coast.
Johan Alfred had two sons, Alvar born 1903 and Anker born 1907. Both boys were engaged in the boat building business from an early age. School was only every other day in those days, so they had time to work at the shipyard.
Alvar became so skilled, that in the 1920s he challenged his father Johan Alfred in a competition for the best Swedish boat builder. The cream of the Swedish boat builders were also entered but Alvar won with Johan Alfred second.
That made the relationship between father and son very strained and Alvar ended up moving to the city of Karlskoga.
Young Anker had also the gift and developed into a skilled boat builder. But something happened that resulted in Johan Alfred loosing also him from what he hoped was to be an ongoing family business.
When Anker was about 14 years old he saw a kayaker paddling past the shipyard. That lit a spark within Anker, he just had to build such a vessel.
The kayaks in those days were built mostly with the ribs and canvas method, but Anker wanted to create something different and choose to build his kayak in a technique where the boards are riveted edge to edge on the ribs.
Anker's friends were very interested in what he was doing and many came to watch. It did not take long until a friend offered 25 kronors for the creation when it was completed. Anker could not resist the offer and in this way he never became the owner of his first kayak. Not the second, nor the third. It was finally the fourth that enabled him to start enjoying the pleasures of kayaking. By this time the orders for kayaks started to arrive in a steady stream and the main part of his time was taken up building kayaks. In 1925 he registered the company name Vituddens Kanotvarv (Vitudden's Kayak Works).
By that time a kayak club was established in the nearby town of Västervik where Anker became a successfully competitor. The city had a champion in Nils Wallin who was the best kayaker in Sweden and through him it brought international attention to Anker’s kayaks.
There were no specific rules as how a kayak was to be designed in those days. It was known that a kayak would be faster if it had a long hull.
The narrow gauge railway that connected Västervik with the rest of Sweden did not allow for loads that were longer than 520 cm. When the International Kayak Federation was to set the standards, the 520 cm was chosen as the maximum length of a one-man racing kayak for this reason.
During the first 15 years of VKV's existence it was rather easy to make a new model. The time between design and the production could be as short as a week and many new models were developed.
Anker heard stories during the beginning of the Second World War of how the Americans were building floaters for sea planes by cross lamination of veneers in an autoclave. This fascinated him and he built himself a model autoclave and learned the technique.
In the middle of the wartime he ordered from his own drawings, an autoclave. It arrived by horse drawn sleigh in the middle of the winter 1943. The autoclave required a rubber bag, but how to get hold of such when all rubber was heavily rationed. He found a way by putting an ad in the papers looking for old shoes with rubber soles and soon they arrived by the hundreds. The soles were removed and sent to the factory in Trelleborg, where they were made into the needed rubber bag.
The era of form pressed veneer kayaks got started. An era that would put the VKV kayak works on the international map.
Some proven models such as Anita 1 and Anita 2 were converted to the new technology. But new models were also developed. Many became legendary such as the VKV 48. At the time there where some kayakers from Västervik that won world championship medals. The biggest winning kayak model was VKV-100, which was developed in 1962. Rolf Pettersson won his Olympic Gold in Tokyo in 1964 in a VKV-100. VKV-100 won over 300 Swedish championships and was at the starting line in 5 Olympic games.
The production came to an unfortunate end in 1979 with the Swedish ban on use of epoxy glue in this kind of application. But another era got started.
Anker's son Ingvar was born in 1938. Even he had inherited the "boat genes" from Carl Månsson, but also a drive to learn. As a youngster he was known to dismantle everything he got his hands on, just to figure out how it was designed and why. He learned how to use tools from the age of 3 and was spending more time at the shop than with his friends.
Military seaplanes were stationed at the nearby island of Luzerna during the war. Ingvar would watch almost daily the start and landing of these planes. He was fascinated by how fast the airplanes could go on water and understood that it was possible to build boats with the same potential for speed if one could make them to be carried by the air.
He experimented with that concept on models and he was only 16 years old when he was ready to build his first full sized boat.
The boat got lots of attention and resulted in an additional 5 advanced boats.One of them was featured in an article about the 20th Century most noticed boats. Two of the designs were capable of speeds around 100 knots
In 1967 VKV got an order of 5 Anita K2 kayaks from a group of Americans with National Geographic Society. These kayaks were to be used in a paddling expedition along the east coast of Japan. The result was 50 pages of pictures in National Geographic Magazine and lots of international exposure for VKV.
Anker celebrated his 73rd birthday in 1980 and turned over the company rudder to Ingvar when the Swedish ban on epoxy was a fact.
That law killed the manufacture of racing kayaks and VKV had to find an alternate product. It was in fiber composites. Ingvar had experience of this from his hobby work with model airplanes.
But it turned into a difficult re-alignment period with full attention to long distance paddling and paddling expeditions. This was a part of the kayak sport that was most interesting to Ingvar and his ideas could flow freely. He already had done some experiments using reinforced plastic materials in the 1970s and had developed proto types for the Kåe and Lisa models and even some lay up forms for Anita K1 and K2. He developed models Yo-A-Kim in 1982, Seagull Elite in 1991, Seagull Off Shore in 1992 and Seagull Ocean in 1995.
Yo-A-Kim turned out to be the real family kayak, but it has also been used in expeditions such as the crossing of the Baltic Sea from Sweden to Latvia, the Biscay Expedition from Portugal to France.
The Seagull models have been used in all the Seven Seas. It has been paddled around Cape Horn - in both directions, gone around North Cape, in both directions and around the Island of Borneo.
The Swedish long distance paddling ultimate test is paddling the total Swedish Coast Line from the border with Norway in the west to the border marker with Finland in the north, earning "The Sea Kayak's Blue Ribbon". About five times as many paddlers have used a VKV kayak as any other make.
The list of VKV expeditions is long.
Since the beginning in 1925, VKV has built about 13.000 kayaks, of which 4.800 were racing kayaks of different models. About 4000 were Lisa kayaks. Lisa is the most purchased kayak in Scandinavia. Built for the Swedish conditions, she is a real success story.
The Seagull models are winning more and more international acceptance.
Ingvar is still the head of the company but his two sons Kim and Kåe are there when time comes to hand over the leadership to the next generation.
Anita K2 1938
Ingvar in his first boat at the age of 16