Great chat with Finnish downhill madman and aspiring crash test dummy about the origins of Santa Claus, spending 6 weeks on the road for the IGSA Eurotour and the scene in Finland.
Hey Janne, where are you from?
I was born and raised in Turku on the south-west coast but lived in Helsinki for ten years, the capital of Finland and now back in Turku for now at least.
Where did you start skating?
I started to skate in Turku as a grom. Skated for a good five years (short board) but then stopped for some weird reason for ten years or so. Luckily I came to senses later on when I bought my first longboard six or seven years a go.
What was your first longboard?
My first board was Earthwing Superglider.
Small kicktail and narrow as hell: Randal Trucks and Earthwing wheels. Back then there wasn’t a lot here to choose from. I still use it sometimes because it is super lightweight and the little bit of kicktail comes handy. Great board! Took me few years to realize that.
Why did you start skating again?
At that time I worked with a guy (Thanks Panu!!) who had a BIG quiver and he hooked me up. Everything from mini-cruisers to 55” monsters. It was great to try out different boards and set ups. The sensation of cruising around with soft wheels and exploring the city with very little effort. After few days I knew I wanted a board mainly for commuting. Haven’t looked back ever since!!
How does the skating in Turku compare to Helsinski?
First off there’s more skaters in Helsinki because of the size of the city. In my opinion the scene & riders are a bit more connected in Turku and Helsinki has a lot more smaller crews that come together every now and then. Riders in both cities rip and keep tight connection between cities organising bigger sessions around southern Finland. During the past few years riders have really pushed their limits, making the most of the small hills we have here.
Mostly yeah. Cross-stepping/dancing is pretty strong too and a small but motivated crew of slalom skaters too. Anything that keeps your motivation going because (as I have said) it is very very flat here. We need to use our imagination to keep it interesting.
What discipline gives you the most pleasure?
Last few years it was downhill and going fast for sure, but it is not necessary to compete (although it just makes it more fun!). I try to do everything because it all helps with balance and stuff. Dancing and freeriding is so much fun too because you can explore your surroundings and really make the most of boring spots. I might even try slalom a bit more next year and miniramp/pool skating would be fun to master some day.
Where do you find hills to practice?
I think it is fair to say that southern Finland doesn’t have real hills. But we have a few more challenging individual corners that we sesh a lot. 60 km/h is a good speed here. Anything with a little decline goes! Within a few hours of driving to Tampere or Lahti you find something similar to a proper hill. Near Santa Claus in Lapland you can find fast sweepers and maybe even a corner or two. Some of my buddies went there last summer and it looks epic! 2:00 am and they hauled ass in day light. I wanna go there so bad this coming season! Only thing to watch out for are the reindeer, they can be a bit jumpy!
Whoa. Stop the press. Santa Claus! Santa longboards?
Maybe he will soon! We already have Reindeer longboards so maybe the guys behind that could give Santa a board. Might make it easier for him to stay fit too. Reindeer shouldn’t mind if Santa pushed around a bit by himself.
Haha but really, you say you find fast sweepers near Santa in Lapland?
Yeah well Lappland has a lot more drop to offer than southern parts. I haven’t been there yet to skate so I can’t tell for sure but that is what I’ve heard. Fast sweepers and beautiful nights without sun setting at any point. Also almost no tourists. Just you, your friends and a few rein deers. And your gear of course! If my buddy gets a video done from Lapland lets post it here!
I had always thought Santa came from/skated in North America/The North pole.
Hehe that’s quite common but the real deal is from Finland! Evil marketing people of Coca-Cola stole him from us!! The part about North Pole is correct though. North Pole here in Finland is the correct address. But he is a busy man so it’s okay to think he doesn’t lives here, hehee
What is a reindeer board?
Reindeer Longboards is a new brand from Finland. They make very promising freeride / DH boards and are about to release a whole bunch more models this season. Custom concaves and other interesting stuff. Official skateboard of Santa Claus hehe. I’m super stoked to see these Finnish brands to pop up here and there!
Are there many local board builders?
I’d say quite a few have tried at least, it’s cool to put some time and effort to design and produce a board of your own. At the moment there are four shapers / builders who build boards for sale, Lonkenstein, Republic Longboards, Reindeer Longboards as mentioned and then Plum Longboards who is my sponsor too (Thanks Jegi for every board!!). It is cool cause they have all found their own style of building boards for different segments of riding.
Tell us more about the boards and the people behind them
Jani Välimäki, the man behind Lonkenstein, is focusing on one shape at the moment. He has this cool idea of putting a lot of effort on graphics on the board and he has done collaborations with various Finnish graphic designers and illustrators. He has something like 20 (might be even more!) designs so far. The board is a bit smaller then your average longboard but its a great cruiser commuter with good tail kick. It’s been proven to handle speed too so quite versatile board.
Republic Longboards makes topmount boards and longer pintails. Too bad I cant tell much more at the moment since I haven’t tried them that much but quality boards to say the least. They have new design in the making and they are also going to properly release a topmount prototype they’ve been working on!
Reindeer Longboards is a two man operation at the moment from what I’ve heard their going step up their game for the following season with new shapes, concaves and stuff! They focus more on building boards that can take the speed and handle well when freeriding.
Jegi Pekkala is behind Plum Longboards and he has a long history in snowboarding and riding powder and it is really obvious in his skateboards too! He makes top mounts and drop thru’s, with and without a kicktail. These boards have a nice responsive flex that really transfer the power to your turns. When ordering you can customize your future board quite a bit, decide the length, graphics, flex and so on! He is a very cool guy that does his best to make the board feel right just for you. Once again thanks Jegi for always listening my ideas and being all-around nice guy!
What’s your role in the local crew?
Skating hard of course!! For few years now I have been organizing events with Ruhje.fi and lately I’ve got the privilege of being the link between Finnish scene and European riders/scene through Longboard Europe. Thanks for inviting me, I feel honoured about it! During the following years I would like to make this thing grow even bigger, make better events and gain some kind of wider acceptance for it. It is not all about looking cool and cruise around with your pintail anymore! Maybe even street skateboarders accept us at some point instead of looking at us weirdly. It is all good as long as you skate if you ask me, stop hatin! At this point I need to thank all the riders that have showed up to our events and the whole gang of organisers as well, you know who you are! Organizing events would not be so much fun without you guys & girls!
What is Ruhje.fi?
Ah good question!! Did not realize you might not speak Finnish. Ruhje.fi is a webzine that runs by Finnish Downhill Skateboarding Association and is aiming to spread the Finnish stoke basically by writing reviews, articles and organizing events. Roughly translated it means road rash or some like that. We try to get more people involved because especially during summer it can be hard trying to produce content instead of skating. So apologies for the slow update rate to all you readers!
Haha I can say hello in Finnish!
That is a start! Next I’ll teach you the swear words and also the phrase ‘suu kiinni ja skeittaa’ is important. It means shut up and skate!
My shreducation is now complete!
Yeah, man! I’m not going to write the bad words here but I’ll send them to you privately if you want! Wink
Fun! What’s the Finnish Downhill Association?
It is Suomen Mäkirullalautailijat Ry. We’ve been more focused on the webzine but it is the official thing behind it. We try to get it more involved for the following season too! We have big plans for all this but so little time that can be used skateboarding too. We try to help people with stuff like racing insurances and also help local organizers any way we can. Slowly but surely.
When was it established?
I think few years ago, not totally sure! It hasn’t been that active since it was established but we try to get it more out there for riders. I think that we are just now getting to that level where we actually need an official association since there’s more riders and gnarlier hills ridden every year. We wanna promote safe riding and knowing your limits and then help more experienced riders if we can! HELMET OR DIE!
What is your role in the Sumoen Makirullallaulalalalalalaajat Ry?
Haha. I think I’m officially the fund manager but I don’t even have our bank account number so… Me and other active people have been trying to get a more official Finnish Cup to happen for the following season but we’ll see how it goes. We try to organize a bigger event up in north on a proper hill. Riders here are getting so good that we need to find bigger and faster hills. So basically organize gatherings, sessions, races and what not. Our organisation chart is quite loose as you might have guessed! But still we somehow get things done every now and then.
How was last season for you?
I try not to use the word epic here but I might have to because it was EPIC! Did my first ever IGSA Eurotour and loved every second of it. Toured around Europe for almost six weeks and paid for accommodation the grand sum of 5 euros total! Few quite random places to sleep (Austrian grandmom, never forget!!) But it was all worth it! It was awesome to meet riders from US, Canada, Europe and all over the world and really feel the family atmosphere everywhere we went. It was almost weird at first having beers with rad riders who you’ve been looking up for many years and trying to learn from them. They were all very laidback and didn’t make a big deal of them selves which I liked a lot. Special thanks to every Finnish ripper and rad guys and girls from all over too! Team Finland didn’t win any races yet but we definitely won few parties around Europe. I raced in Insul, Teolo and Verdicchio but didn’t do that well yet. It takes a bit of time to get used to riding in tight packs, high speeds and challenging hairpins but I’m confident that next year I might do better! It was enough for me to gain confidence and grow my balls few inches. This year I’m doing it all over again I’m sure and not going to miss Kozakov this year either! Few interesting new races too so I’m stoked already! Too bad Verdicchio was cut out of the circuit since it was way better than Teolo.
Here in Finland there was a lot of new riders in every competition, sick freeriding and all around good vibes that will continue this year I’m sure. It was also a big step for us to attend IGSA races since no one had ever done it yet. I’m confident that within few years there will be more Finn’s winning parties and maybe even races at that point!! Groms get out there!!
Who is the Finland DH team?
Once again we are quite loosely organized but last year there were Janne Lehtinen (My brother from different mother, big up!), Ville Hietala (Thanks Ville’s dad for free petrol), Juho Kosonen, Anssi Mattila, Samuli Riekkinen, Lasse Mäkelä, Hanna Jaakola, Kaisa Viitanen and Julia Jansson. And lets not forget Daniel Hawes from Australia who now lives here in Helsinki and is becoming a Finn before you know it. Also there was Team New Finland for a brief moment when we met a guy called Callum from New Zealand! He liked us so much (For some weird reason) that he even came to Finland to skate after Eurotour! He is RAD and famous for something he won’t tell me. People kept wanting his signature and photos where ever we went.
A lot of Jannes floating around.
Jay & Jay always ripping!
On a somewhat related note, someone called Daniel Hawes just made the most hilarious pro-helmet anti hipster comment on the Longboard Europe page.
Whut?! He is very pro-helmet for what I know. Maybe he doesn’t like hipsters? Or he might be jealous for not having the fashion sense or legs to be a hipster. No pun intended, Daniel!
How did you manage to spend so little money in 6 weeks?
The 5 euros was just the accommodation so I guess I spent my money on cold beers and what not. Ville’s father helped us too by sponsoring free petrol for the trip. Thanks again Ville’s dad! I was totally broke when I got home so the money must have gone somewhere. We had a trailer with our car so we spent few hot and moist nights in there with the guys. Hammock also helped a lot! After a couple weeks of living out of your car you kind of don’t care about anything like personal hygiene or where you’re going to be sleeping the next night as long as you skate gnarly hills daily. The usual plot was to go to a bar, drink several beers and then try to figure it out. We managed to come up with some creative solutions on where to sleep and so on.
What was your favourite stop on the Eurotour?
Hard to say. I think when it comes to skating Verdicchio was best cause I was really happy on my qualification there. The track was also fun because it had a bit of everything. Fast sweepers and technical parts as well. I liked Insul too but I think I was a bit too nervous there since I had ever skated anything like that. Teolo was slow for sure but still very challenging because you had to keep your speed at all times.
It’s hard for me to pinpoint one stop that was better than the other. The whole experience was just so off the hook that it feels like a one big happy blur after 6 months. The people, the spots, the random things that happened, everything!! I felt like a young boy again!!
It was also good to see the organisation side of things and try to learn from that too. Things don’t always go as planned, no matter how well you are prepared!!
You mentioned earlier about Longboard Europe, what’s that?
Longboard Europe is the illuminati behind EVERYTHING. Secret gathering of people who aim at world domination! I’m joking… (or not) mwahahaha
Its a group of European riders who aim at spreading the stoke through Europe. Every country has at least one spokesperson who connects with his or hers own scene and informs people what is up. It is a great way to link with foreign riders. You might even find a place to sleep or rad spot through this group. We have been discussing about organizing freerides and gatherings for the following season so everyone who likes to travel, skateboard and meet new people should be excited!
What’s your role in Longboard Europe?
I’m not sure if I have any specific role but I try to contribute when ever I can. As long as its fun and I can help somehow I don’t mind doing it at all. It is always fun to help around and spread the stoke around!! Be sure to check the FB page (www.facebook.com/longboardeurope) during this spring because some awesome stuff is coming!!
What kind of stuff can we look forward to?
No promises yet but maybe more freerides with locals, bus rides and possibly even a filming crew capturing it all. We are aiming to get people skating more between IGSA-races and help them to find cheap places to stay. If anyone has any ideas what to do, don’t hesitate to tell! We are very open for good ideas.
Awesome stuff. What do you ride?
Earthwing Carbon Bellyracer for my downhill needs and Plum Santa Maria mk2 in various lengths for commuting, cross-stepping and stuff. Randall and Paris trucks mostly. When it comes to wheels I like to try out different brands. Cult wheels, O’tangs, Abec 11’s, Sector 9’s you name it! Venom bushings in every setup, double-barrel gets all the ladies!! I’m not too picky! It’s fun to try out different setups and learn something in the process. If any brand needs a crash test dummy, I’m your man! Will skate & spread the stoke for free gear hehehe!
Because you like to crash?
Hah! Who likes it? But crashing is a sign of pushing your limits so yeah I crash every now and then. A good road-rash once in a while keeps you awake!
Do you go crashing in nearby countries?
Yeah, man! Last year I did crashing around Europe!! Next up Knk Slovenia in April & May, cant wait! Team Winning_The_Parties is coming so get ready! The following season I try to make it in Eurotour and freeriders around Europe as well. Would like to travel to Norway too! Awesome vikings there with brilliant hills!! And can’t forget U.S. and Canada! Been drooling over Maryhill etc. for many years and needs to go there some day!
Haha Team Winning The Parties?
Yeah! Last Eurotour we didn’t do good in competitions but we won few parties for sure. It does not have to be too serious if you know how to party like a boss!
What event/country has the best parties?
I wasn’t in Kozakov but I heard good things about it. Verdichhio was nice too, every rider got a bottle of excellent local wine so no complaints. All in all I’d say that our trailer had the best unofficial parties. People who have spent time here in Finland also agrees that we know a thing or two when it comes to partying. Last year’s Påminne contest was very much fun.
I guess what Thomas Kahle said about the Kozakov party and Czech women was true!
Choose 3 numbers between 1-22
Umm… 4, 8 and 21
Im ready! Hit me! :)
4 – Whos is the best person you’ve seen skating ?
Oh boy!! This is hard if not impossible! I think I have to say James Kelly just because he’s steeze when freeriding and also he’s super-fast competing. Fellow skater Janne Lehtinen also keeps amazing me with the level of creative stuff he pulls off!
8 – Best board you’ve ever ridden
I’m going with my current board, Earthwing Carbon Bellyracer. It’s just all there and nothing extra. Depends what you are doing though.
21 – Would you pick the red or blue pill?
Can I have ‘em both, please? Split-duro style.
Haha. Nice. Thanks a lot for the chat, had a great time getting to know about the scene in Santa land.
Anytime! What better (besides skating) than to chat about skateboarding. Hope to see a lot you fellow riders out there the following season! Also thanks to mum & dad, my girlfriend, Plum and Boardsport for support, Juha from Offshore for bringing the whole sport here years ago and last but not the least ALL THE RIDERS!