Ishtar Bäcklund’s Asian Adventure

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Caught up with my one of my favourite human beings about her most recent adventures. Carrying on from where our last interview stopped; Japan, encompassing her time in Asia and her return to Europe for ISPO. Very warm and fuzzy, read on for good vibes.Surf's upHey Ishtar, stoked to talk to you again. How are you?
It’s all good with me and again, totally my pleasure!! I’ve missed you!

How is your week going?
Man I’m living in a dream hehe. I guess a pretty conscious dream but its been good, I’m on an island somewhere in the philly’s, taking a little break from taking a break. Learning to surf and stoking out on the way I’m progressing! Having fun!

What keeps you chasing your dreams?
My happiness. As long as I am happy, my dreams are coming true. Its that simple.

Is surfing as good as you hoped?
Better! It looks easy and the lifestyle is a dream, but once I commit to it, its all I can think about, makes me pretty emotional, cause I get to be so tuned in with the sea, the wind, nature. It’s really not as easy as it looks, and my body has gotten so much stronger. The best part about surfing though, and it makes me tripp like crazy, is how little pain it comes with! We break through walls, walls of water, and slamming is so much nicer in water than on asphalt… reef hurts but then again, I love it!

Does skating experience make it easier?
Yes! Balance, its all about balance! Getting comfy with stands and what not. Skating really helps, and also surfing inspires me in skating and vice versa, its nice to try new things and let other things rest for a while.. Time for inspiration!

Last time we spoke you were about to fly to the land of the rising sun, how was it?
Japan, yeah Japan is very interesting, an I’m stoked I did it. I’ve never been obsessed about Japan like others that I know, who just love everything about the culture, country and history. It was on my bucket list, and I needed to try something new, and I did! Such a trip and I learnt so much, very thankful for it all. Left with memories and  accomplishments  for life! Stoked.

Did you get to skate there?
Yes, I got to do all the things I hoped and dreamed for. And thanks to really amazing people, I had the chance to explore some rad new spots!
Japan fun

Who showed you around?
Ayumi was my saviour, she took time of from work to plan a rad skate trip to the north island, Hokkaido, and when she wasn’t working, we would skate our hearts out! Brad Bennett showed me stuff even some Japanese people don’t to experience! I’m very thankful for these friends.

What did you accomplish there?
Just the fact that I put myself in a situation that I normally would be terrified about, going to a very unknown country, no idea about it or where I will stay or how I will survive. Just letting faith, the universe and all good powers take care of me, it all worked out and everything that I hoped for happened!
I dreamt of getting into the art scene, skating new sick hills (one being Mt Fuji) and living the local vibes. I met Brad, who owns the beautiful “Studio C”in the  centre of Tokyo, where I stayed and got to know all kinds ad rad local artists and performers, he showed me around the mountain runs which were sick and beautiful to skate! I got to spread my art in the shiny ya area, which is sick! And on my last night there all the friends that I made came to the cafe where I just painted a big mural, for a sweet goodbye dinner.
Good times and friends for life! I grew a lot on that trip.

You’ve done a lot of travelling to distant lands, what made you nervous about Japan?
It felt very alien to me, it has such a strong energy around it. Maybe because it seems to have its stuff figured out, ways and plans are set. Their perspective, energy are used in a different way to mine, so it might have been hard to connect unlike other places in the world.
Japan stoke + baby

A lot of times, you go to these places with little assurance, why are you so sure the universe has your back?
I’m not sure, that’s why I do it! I want to test life out, test the laws of nature, see how far I can go or not go before I feel the push of luck behind my back. Like surfing; paddle paddle and then I feel it come, so naturally, pushing me ahead and giving me the opportunity to ride, have fun! Life is so simple, we just make it complicated with our fears and beliefs, but that’s life we have to live and learn.

What was the art scene like in Japan?
Fun, inspiring. Even our neighbour was an artist, he’s a retired business man chilling now days making beautiful Japanese tree figures, animals etc. He gave me a beautiful dragon he made one day. Actors, photographers… It’s fun to meet people in Japan that think outside the box, pretty rare cause many of them are super busy working 9-5 jobs. Whenever I would be chilling at the studio, doodling and drinking tea, the passing by folks would share a lot of love and attention when they saw me and my doodles, they brightened my days!

Did you leave any art behind?
Yes, I made a new sign for Studio C and also a big mural at a cafe place. Got some personal work done as well.

The art funds the skate adventures?
It’s a never ending hustle, I’m happy to learn from!
Emmylou Quilaton photo

How was the skating?
The roads were so smooth! Tight, safe drivers and the surrounding was sublime! The scene of longboarding  is pretty small though. But I managed to score rad company at every jam. One of my best skate memories has to be skating Mt Fuji, it was a dream come true. The whole day I was stoked just because of the fact that I was at MT Fuji! I wrote about it in Skate Slate.

What made it different from the 100 mountains you’ve skated previously?
Mt. Fuji is very mystical, surrounded by beautiful and peaceful scenery but it also radiates a dark side. The forest surronding the mountain has a scary history and I could feel it as I skated through it. But again, its amazingly beautiful, magical and rad!

Do you have any words for skaters hoping to visit Japan?
Yeah! You should show your respect for the growing scene over there by maybe hitting the locals up for a jam, it’s a cool way of connecting and showing your respect for the riders and also for the scene of skating. Many doors open through skateboarding, and adventuring in new places is always much easier and fun through skateboarding!

How long did you spend in Japan?
I was there for about a month and a half. I don’t really count my time, just roll with the flow. Came in late summer, early fall and left just before it got cold, Perfect! I know that Japan is known for its amazing blooming spring, but the fall is just incredible, all the colours that make up the surrounding makes me feel like I’m a piece in a live painting. Rad!

Where did you go after Japan?
I went back to Finland to spend the holidays with my family. It’s been a while since I did that, and with the whole world ending and shit, I thought the best would be to surround myself with my loved ones.

Did you have your zombie survival kit?
Haha yeah, our house was safe, under layers of snow! I was more worried about freezing to death!

Where else in Europe did you visit?
Before heading east I stopped by Berlin to paint a mural at the Funky Summer shop! Had a good couple of days over there before heading to the ISPO fare in Munich. Rad to see all my friends again,and to finally meet up with my LGC sisters.
ISPO fun

What was Berlin like?
I’ve spent time in Berlin before, but those times were strictly related to my underwater rugby career. The champions league is held in Berlin every month. This time was probably the best time I’ve had there. The visit was pretty short but my good friend Frank Sommer took good care of me. He kinda spoiled me a little with good food and interesting stories. I enjoyed my time there.

How do you know Mr Sommer?
I met him at my first IGSA race in Eastbourne, 2009. I’d just started skating and my buddies talked me into joining them on their skate-trip over to the UK. Franky was the laid back dude camping next to us by the track. He has this safe “uncle” vibe about him, and with stories for days about all his past adventures, he can keep my attention for days! So when he heard I was back in the EU for a bit, he invited me over to Berlin before ISPO and I got some sweet work done!

How many skate shops have Ishtar murals?
I don’t really know anymore. But I’m stoked to say that the number keeps on growing.

How was ISPO?
16 big buildings, each building is the same size as a big football field. The longboard sections took a very little corner but that’s where the best vibes were! I was stoked to start the year with a get together with all my friends that showed. So stoked!
The whole fare felt like a business mindset, not really where I would hang out normally, but the cool thing was how after the clock hit 6pm the mode just changed into party. Especially in the longboard crowd! All the dudes who had been talking business all day were now holding beers in their hands chiling and vibing. SO cool! Longboarders are something else, showed the family we really are, and how our love for the sport brings us together even though we might be competing on other levels.

What was the highlight of your time there?
I was sharing a nice apartment in the middle of nowhere with the rest of the LGC crew from Madrid, I had so much fun, felt like we all had been living together forever and I loved it!
The first night I arrived, I got greeted by the whole crew back at the pad. I was so stoked to finally get to hug and squeeze all of them in real life, and I couldn’t believe we were all together finally! SO much fun.
The parties each night were pretty rad, and I can honestly say I didn’t drink any beer for a while after that trip! Still taking it easy on the beer, preparing for this upcoming summer in Europe. For sure, Europeans know how to party. Pronto!
Funky Summer photo

How did it feel to meet the community of lady shredders in Europe?
Awesome, just to get in touch with the whole European scene was rad. I haven’t really spent much time there, cause I’m always on the other side of the globe during summer time. The girls were so stoked, eager working on their summer plans. Just made me so happy to see their drive!

You finally met Sonso!
Haha yeah, she’s wild!

What is your role in the LGC family now?
I became one of the international ambassadors, but because I live on the road for now, I’ll take the role of the gypsy ambassador. Super stoked for the opportunity to share stoke and be creative with so many strong women all over the world! The amount of dedication and work these ladies put into the scene and how strong their love and belief in it is amazing . They are so professional!
I’m stoked to have their back, and to know that they’ve got mine. It feels safe to dream and get creative with the knowledge!

What have you learnt about the European scene?
There’s so much to it, its great! People are dedicated, and stoked to make things happen. I can imagine it being  so much harder to make events and organize races over there compared to many other places in the world. Paperwork in EU takes for ever! Organizing an event legally can take so much energy, time and dedication – determination! Not to mention the cost of it all. But the people making things happen, you guys rock! And I can’t wait to attend all the events going on in Europe this summer.
Riders are sick as well, gnarly and fast! There is a fire in Europe that is true. A strong fire that makes many impossible things happen.

It’s the same fire that fuels your first adventures!
:)

What European events are you doing this summer?
I’m gonna try my hardest to make it to Kozakov. I’ve been waiting for this one, I really hope to make it! Kinda nervous though.

KnK & Almatrieb?
Yes. I hope.

Where was the next stop after Germany?
Shortly after Germany I flew away to the east. Philippines was calling my attention and so I followed. First time in the Philippines, and I’m still finding it hard to leave, even though my time is wrapping up. I’ve had an amazing time here! SO freaking stoked and I can’t wait to come back in October for big surf season. I hope I’ll be able to tough up and paddle out with the big sharks by then!
Achie Lan photo

What did you hope to find in Phil?
Love haha. I was just so impressed by the skate community over here, it’s so big and SO active! They make things happen all the time and not to mention the LGC crew, its huge over here! So stoked on what I came to find! Amazing!

Have you found love?
I found love, so much love… overwhelmed!

Who are the girls pushing the community there?
Kristine, Trina, Clau and Kara are just a few of the rad ladies working hard, so hard to push and get more girls into it! Its amazing, on my first skate trip (two days after I landed) we packed a van with 15 skaters, and more than half where female, I was stunned! They all ripped as well. Stoked!

How is the skate culture there?
It’s pretty solid. Its been growing since before I even started skating! I remember hanging out at the kaha shop, when I just got my first board, looking through an issue of concrete wave and seeing Adam and Adam’s article about their experience here. I was amazed! I had no idea they were skating all the way over there, and racing! What really got me stoked were the hammocks they used for camping, I just had to try it!! And now when I have, I’m never sleeping in a tent again haha!

Is there anywhere in the world with a similar vibe?
I haven’t found it yet. The locals are so extremely loving! It’s amazing, makes me humble. The water makes us sensitive you know, and the country is just a big get together of more then 7000 islands! Paradise around every corner. They are rich on love here, that’s all I have to say, and that’s enough.

What is the skate terrain like ?
They’ve got some nice spots, actually one of my personal favourites today is Domajog, its amazing with over 20 hairpins. Transfer from one way to another, so quickly, I love it! Feels like surfing, getting pitted, boom, one stand after another. I get stoked just thinking about it! I love that hill.
It was the final track for the VLT (visaia longboard triology) the biggest downhill tour in Asia! Skaters from all over Asia joined, two and a half weeks on the road, travelling island to island skating rad spots with the best big skater crew ever! I had a blast.

Which islands have you visited so far?
Many but far from all. I have found my own personal paradise on Mindano. I’ve been living here for over a month, in a tree house with three local, wonderful kids! Learning how to surf and just be happy with what I’ve got. Nature is supplying me with all the necessary factors for survival and I have never been this connected to anything before. I am very happy. And I’m learning so much each day by the perspective I’m gaining on life.
Marilyn Tjosavik photo

What was the first event you attended?
The tour started in Sigihour. Its a mystic island known for its clack magic… spooky. We camped by the water, in our hammocks, and explored the whole island while not skating by renting motor bikes and cruising all over. Waterfalls, high jumps, scooba diving and more, just pure fun!

What has been the skateboarding highlight of your time there?
I had so much fun skating Domajog with my Swedish homies. We were 3 Swedes representing during VLT, one of them being Fredrick, the founder of Stokeholm, and Kristian. So much FUN. We had an international “fun race” where all the internationals bombed the hill. So good!

Oh yeah, I just remembered that dimples travelled back!
Haha yeah he’s cruising through south east Asia right now. I hope to catch up with him later and maybe head for a surf trip down south somewhere. Stoked! After VLT I brought him and another fella, Ashraf from Malaysia with me back to paradise. Molin guessed he would need less then 24h if he joined, but he trusted my words and despite the Swedish logics, he joined. And I’ve never seen him that happy! Man, I’ve barely seen anyone that happy. When I woke up to the sound of Fredrick screaming his lungs out after coming back form his first surf session, ever. He had stood up on the board which would make anybody stoked! Shortly after, he had to jump on the bus and spent the next 30 hours travelling back to catch his flight back to Bangkok. Love that kid.
Stokeholmers abroad

Ahmed Ashraf? Dude is stoked, he gets around!
He’s RAD! He arranged for me to attend the JOHO arts and music festival. Thanks to Ashraf and JOHO, I’ll be given a beetle car to cover with my art. Hella Stoked. Later on, JOHO is helping out and supporting some kick-ass local riders form the Philippines to travel over to Malaysia for a rad skate trip! Its amazing how these guys help each other out and make dreams come true, together! So much love.

Were there many other internationals during your time there?
Switzer came back, national hero here I’ll tell you! Guys from indo, Singapore. Haha ALI man! Ali from Singapore,  he’s a legend now! “Oh Meeeeeen” haha that’s his signature saying, oh meen…. heheh!

Why should skaters visit the Philippines?
If you’re ready to lose all bullshit and do something for fun, then you know where to go. To be honest, these guys couldn’t care less about fancy shit, cause there just isn’t enough money for it. People are creative, they shred what they find, there are no labels cause they shred everything. Give them a piece of wood, any wood and they will shred it. They’ll skim it, surf it, rip it down hills. It’s true, pure stoke and the stoke just screams through the talent this place holds. I don’t know how else to explain it. I love it here and people are so humble, caring and gnarly! There’s no sense of time, just adventure!

Have you done much art in Philly?
Lots! The inspiration just flows here, and hopefully it will lead to bigger things. I’m hoping to start making my own apparel this coming future. I cant wait to see my friends wearing designs I’ve made, hell people are already permanently wearing my designs! This guy that I bumped into at VLT had my drawings (actually doodles) tattooed on him! I was shocked, and after recognizing one tattoo on his chest, he pulled up his pants and showed me this giant tattoo on his leg that was made out of one of my drawings! Unreal.
Getting inked

What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’m heading down to the JOHO art festival in Malaysia at the start of June. After that I’ve got 28 days to explore South East Asia. I gotta catch a flight to Sweden on the 28 of June, celebrate my grandmother’s birthday which I have missed three years in a row for Maryhill. But its time to celebrate her day now, also through that I got a ride back to explore my first European summer! Excited.

Super stoked to catch up with you sis. Miss you lots, and maybe we’ll bump into each other somewhere this summer. Stay true.
I hope so, that would be unreal!

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