I've gravitated towards the sea my whole life
If you come from Savonlinna in the middle of Finland's lake district and spent most of your youth and also adulthood in the ice hockey rink, the sea might not be the first thing that springs to mind. The founder of the Billebeino lifestyle brand and former ice hockey pro Ville Leino has, however, an explanation for his longing.
"My father was a sea captain and later worked as a ship pilot in Savonlinna. I would sometimes join him on his sea travels. As a child, we also had a boat and we spent a lot of time on the water. Perhaps that is why I always enjoyed coastal cities, and for my whole life I've gravitated towards the sea. I like the sea, out of the natural elements I find it the most calming and it also shows you the power of nature.
Leino sees his adopted hometown Helsinki through a maritime lens. "I don't really even visit Esplanadi or the rest of the city centre. I've noticed that my Helsinki is fully by the sea. I work, do sports, eat, sleep and spend most of my time right by the sea."
Leino moved around his whole adult life in pursuit of hockey. He started playing in Helsinki's Jokerit team at the age of 23 and has also lived in American cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia and Buffalo. "A city with no sea around it, such as Buffalo, has a different atmosphere. I take my passion for the sea so far that when, for instance I visit Los Angeles, I will rather stay in Santa Monica than in Hollywood – because of the sea."
"When I moved to Helsinki, the coastline was mostly dotted with dockyards and harbours, shabby metal piles. In Savonlinna, I got used to the idea that everything happens around the water. The opera festival, outdoor markets, even restaurants are always near the water. It came as a huge surprise that Helsinki's shoreline had no services. Now the situation is different."
While Leino has lived in many locations in several countries, he considers Helsinki his hometown. "Helsinki is surrounded by the sea and the sea is an element you can't bring to the city. My summer cottage is also by the sea. I like the contrasts that evolve from the combination of straight architectural lines and nature. The Oodi library is a fine building but it is not out in nature and has no direct link to nature. I much prefer the Löyly sauna where wondrous nature and architecture meet – right at the sea."
Löyly is the greatest thing to happen to Helsinki in a long time. A unique experience, I visit it at least once a month. I enjoy Löyly especially in the wintertime. Straight from the sauna to an icy dip in the sea – the contrast of hot and cold adds up to such a cleansing feeling. In autumn, you can sense a similar Nordic Noir feeling like in crime shows such as The Bridge.
Finland's first padel court was built at the Merisatama harbour but has since been transferred to the nearby Hernesaari district. I started playing there eight or nine years ago. I can safely say that the Hernesaari padel court has the best location in the city, and the whole country. The game can be played year-round. It hails from Mexico and is super popular in Spain. The closest experience to the original, along with the peoplewatching aspect, can be reached in Hernesaari, it's absolutely magnificent.
I do a lot of sports and many aspects of my life have something to do with sports or wellness. I like to go running around Kaivopuisto park, sometimes all the way to Katajanokka. A higher standing spot above the Mattolaituri café called Tyynykivi is a fine lookout where I often pause to check out the great view.
The best food and ambience in the city. A dimly lit place where the rough interior and everything else works just as it should. There are many restaurants in Helsinki that I like to visit and where I know many brilliant characters, but BasBas goes one step further in many ways. I often just tell the kitchen what my hunger levels are at the moment, and give them a free hand. Every meal has always been good.
By far the best bar in the city. If I want to step away from the surrounding world for a moment, this is where I head for a drink. The chatter of people, top service, good drinks and my own peace. I have to say that I have some vested interest as I'm a co-owner of the place. But I loved to visit before I was!
Usually the best offering of contemporary art. The building is already legendary in itself, a significant part of the cityscape. My late grandfather painted a lot. I also started to paint while living in the US, and now I have my own painting studio in the countryside. I work creatively, but I find that painting brings out the most sincere and clean type of creativity. When you paint, you have to dive into it and focus fully. There is something absolutely fascinating about it. Art is both therapy and a life-force for me.