A short mixtape from the summer (2015). CTRL team riders Panu, Fabio, Jaakko, Sandra and Vege in no particular order.
Teesu, you’ve been travelling a lot and last winter you were spending some time in Australia, India and Spain skateboarding. Tell us a little about your trips? What do you like most about skating abroad? How does the skateboarding culture abroad differ compared to Finland in your opinion?
T: Well travelling has been my passion for a very long time. Went on my first Europe tour when I was 16 and since then I have been hooked. When I started skateboarding, many years later, I realized I have another very legit excuse to escape winter in Finland. Last winter I spent 2 months in Australia, visiting friends and 2 months in India, where we had the Shanti skate school project with Lilja and Fia and then a month in Spain checking out the vibe there. What I like most about skating abroad? Hmm. It’s not really about where in the world I do it as long as I can do it! Sometimes when you travel alone it feels easier to meet new people that inspire you to do and try new things. Yeah! That’s maybe what I like about it the most, if you skate you have heaps of friends wherever you go in the world. At least it has been like that for me. I go skate alone somewhere when travelling and in the end of the day I have a handful of new friends. Meeting new people and getting new friends is never a problem if you skate.
In Oz it’s a lot about bowl skating and mini-ramps, people skate parks usually and you don’t see a lot of skateboarders hanging in the streets, not compered to Helsinki anyway. Backyard pool skating and sunshine, good times! In India skateboarding is a really new thing, it is very pure and a lot of fun! There you could almost say that all the skateboarders are one big Family. And when you go there to skate, as a foreigner, you very fast become a part of that amazing family! I really miss that vibe they got there. In India concrete parks are being built and rising from the ground like flowers in the spring and it is all thanks to Holy Stoked Collective and other passionate humans from around the world that wants to spread the stoke! Spain is what it is. I think I don’t need to say anything about it… It is a paradise! I would like to mention the skateboard scene in London and the UK in general. If you for some reason have not seen or heard about the growing rad scene of girl skaters there you should definitely check it out! And the best part about what is happening there amongst the girls is that they get huge support from their bro’s! It’s very fascinating to watch and to be a part of when staying there. Follow girlskateuk on instagram and get inspired!
Did you see lots of girl skaters for example in Oz?
T: When I used to live in Perth in 2012-2013 I did not know or see another girl skater around. I tried to get one of my friends to start, she even bought a board, but I don’t think she was that interested in the end because she never came skating with me. But I didn’t mind, I had just picked up skating myself and could only see the board and concrete under neat my feet.
Now when I was there last winter 2014 there were a few girls around. Didn’t get to know them though, which is a bit of a shame. Too busy skating with my other homies I guess. I think you could say that the girl skate scene is growing in all the corners of the world at the moment and it is awesome to be a part of it and witness it happening!
KEEP ROLLING MOVEMENT INTERVIEW
There is no doubt that girl’s skateboarding scene is on the rise worldwide but also here in Finland, and all the time growing amount of girls are getting into skateboarding. A good example of this ongoing movement and development of the culture related to skateboarding scene is Keep Rolling Movement. KRM is a collective of inspirational, active and creative girls who want to support the underground skate scene worldwide. They have also recognized the rising scene of she-shredders and new vibes going on and have wanted to push the scene further and to create own input to it. Keep Rolling Movement wants to support other skaters, every creative and talented people involved skateboarding culture somehow and especially encourage every girl skaters to jump on the board and learn new things. CTRL had a chance to interview this crew filled with can do-spirit.
Tell us shortly who you are and what do you do in life?
T: I’m called Teesu. Originally from a small Swedish speaking town in south of Finland but living more or less in Helsinki since 2009, with a few breaks because of travelling. In life I generally try to keep an open mind to stuff and learn as much as possible from different people.
L: I’m Lilja, a 25 year old Culture and Arts management-student curious to life in all possible ways; preferring it to be a bit crazy, erratic and of course funny.
F: Fia, I like to connect my life with skateboarding in different ways. Right now I don’t know what even happens tomorrow, just going with the flow. I just arrived to Finland, after travelling two years In India, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
B: My name is Bea. Born and raised in Helsinki and I’m 21 years old. I love doing creative stuff.
What is Keep Rolling Movement? What is it all about and how did it all start?
KRM is a movement that supports the underground skateboarding scene in different ways. This means that we not only want to encourage and motivate the skaters, but also all the people around them; the ones taking the pictures, filming and editing and all the artists doing amazing artwork, musicians who inspires and so on.
It all started from the idea to be able to, in our own way, express ourselves and spread the joy we get out of skateboarding to others. We felt like the skate scene for girls in Helsinki and Finland in general was really poor. This was also because there were not many girl skaters in Finland and those who existed did not get much recognition or acknowledgement. We could see a growing trend and so the idea to have some kind of a movement, something in which name we could actualize our dreams and ideas started forming.
What is your relationship to skateboarding? How long you’ve been skating and how did you get into it?
B: I have been skating since I was 12 years old. I tried many sports back then and skateboarding was one of them. I guess I fell in love with it cause it’s still what I do and what I want to continue doing.
L: Skateboarding has been a part of my life one way or the other since I was about ten years old, from watching my big brother practice ollies outside our house to being part of creating an autonomous youth-house with skateboarding as key in its activity. It was during that time I started rolling around with a board and after that I have been skateboarding on and off. Today I feel like I want to do it more and more so Keep Rolling Movements activity supports it perfectly!
F: Hard to say, I stood on the board the first time when I was like 15, after that I rolled with a cruiser from place to place. I wanted to use the board for more and started to use the deck. In Sweden girl skate camps I found the real kick of skating. There are many girl skaters who are still big inspiration for me. Nowadays skateboarding to me is all about having fun, challenging myself, friends, travelling, teaching and spreading the stoke.
T: Started skating myself at the age of 22. My life has always been surrounded by skateboarding though, all the way from stealing my brothers board to have a try as a kid, to being a part of creating the same autonomous indoor skate and self-expression Mecka as Lilja mentioned. All these years I thought skateboarding was not for me, too hard and impossible to learn. How silly! When one of my friends asked me if I could open the doors to Kronomagasinet for a few girls, from Helsinki, that wanted to have a skate there I was honored. When I watched Tuuta, Säde and their friends skate the place I had spent so much time watching the guys skate I realized that it is never too late to start and you shouldn’t expect it to be easy, but it is not impossible. Most importantly I saw how much fun the girls had skating together, it was on a totally different level, so I decided in that moment that I will buy my own board and try it out for real.
What is the best thing in skateboarding?
L: Freedom! Also the feeling from challenging oneself and overcoming ones fears.
F: Freedom, I don’t like rules. Connecting with people.
T: The freedom but also the continuous challenges and the people you meet through skateboarding.
Teesu, Lilja and Fia, you had a skate school project in Goa for a couple of months during this winter. You were working with kids and teaching them to skate. How was the project and what kind of experience was it to organize a skate school in India? What did you learn about it? How is it working with kids and use a skateboard as a tool to communicate?
The project went well, even better than expected. The kids, which were many, enjoyed and liked the classes and many cultural norms were broken amongst them and the community. We are also happy that the grownups were pleased to see some activity in the neighborhood. Throughout the project we had the communitys support. People helped us in many unexpected ways, all along the way, from collecting the boards in Australia to pimping the ramp and bowl in Goa and instructing the kids. We got a lot of help from other skateboarders who were located in Goa for the season or just on holiday for a couple of weeks. Big thanks to them! Especially to Jonas, Matias and ALIS from Denmark and of course Sian from France.
As an experience it is worth golden and the amount of lessons learned are unreplaceable. It was the absolutely first project that KRM executed and there could not have been a better one for us.
As mentioned before the skateboard became a tool with which to break the boundaries and norms amongst the kids. This was especially amazing considering that the group of kids consisted of locals, tourists and the seasonal child workers from the beach. With skateboarding we could connect them all in an unseen way. The atmosphere during the sessions was relaxed and fun and not so serious. All in all it was a good project and we would love to do something similar again someday somewhere. We learned a lot about how to do things and how not to do things and next time it is going to be even better. You live and you learn.
Girl’s skateboarding scene seems to be thriving at the moment in Finland and there’s really positive vibes. What do you like most about riding with these girls?
T: Skating with the finnish girls is ALL about FUN ! I love the fact that we are all on quite different levels when it comes to our skills on the board but that doesn’t mean we can’t skate together, learn from each other and have a good time. It’s a very supportive group of ladies.
B: Teesu took the words out of my mouth, I agree with everything she said. It is all about doing it together and having fun!
F: Together we motivate each other to gain self-confidence to be a part of the skateboarding culture and spread the value of cooperation. We also try to rise the number of girl-skaters in the skate culture and balance the gender distribution that we have today. There is a lot of sharing and inspiration.
What can be done to get more girls into skateboarding?
What we do for instance. Workshops, camps, schools, spread the girl skate scene in different media, show that it’s equal for everybody. That will give the participants support, encouragement to practice and develop the interest of skateboarding. In general supporting, sharing and caring for fellow sisters.
Do you have any advice for other girls who want to start skateboarding or to overcome the fear of skateboarding?
Do it together, do it for the right reason! It’s not anything serious; it is about having fun on the board and with your friends. Doesn’t matter your age, sex, skate level, it’s personal freedom for everybody.
Injuries are a really unpleasant part of skateboarding. Bea and Teesu, you’ve been suffering from knee injuries but you are both good examples of “never give up spirit”. Where do you get your motivation?
T: My motivation is to get back on the board as soon and as strong as possible. That’s all I’m thinking of. All I care about. Also I really believe that shit happens for a reason and that when it does you are supposed to learn something from it so right now I’m just learning! Most importantly I try not to think about how long it will be until I get to skate again because that’s just depressing, instead I try to take one day at a time and one breath at a time.
B: Injuries are a part of skateboarding. Sometimes you just need to rest it for couple days/weeks and sometimes you have to go to surgery. I take it as it is and my goal is to get back on the board as soon as possible.
What other stuff do you do along skateboarding?
T: I’m working as a nurse at a psychiatric center. Aside from that I’m very interested in natural healing and alternative medicine. Spending time in the wild is also important and now, since I can’t skate, I started learning about filming and editing.
B: Well, I’ve been a waitress for 5 years. Now that I can’t skate, I’ve been drawing a lot and doing all kind of creative stuff. Food is also my passion and my medicine.
F: Making jewelry for sale, and the profit goes to concrete to build a skate ramp in Sri Lanka.
L: I study hard, and work some. Spend time with friends, spend some time in the nature and I like to go crazy dancing!!
Who or what inspires you?
T: People that live life passionately and do stuff from their heart inspire me.
B: People, streets, the city, simple living and recognizing the extra ordinary in the ordinary life.
F: Arsi, he is the funniest to skate with and he supports skateboarding in the world in many different ways.
L: All people in my life inspire me in one way or the other. I mean, just open your eyes and see all the amazingly talented people that this world beholds!
In June there will be girls’ sesh for beginners that you organize together with TRL (Tyttörullalautailijat ry). What kind of event it will be?
It will be skate-sessions were we together with TRL guide girls to the basics in skateboarding. These sessions are especially for beginners but also other eager ones and more advanced shredders are welcome to join in! No previous skills required. We start from the very beginning, from how to get on the board and pushing yourself forward. At the first session there is going to be boards and helmets available for borrowing. The ones getting hooked can pick up their own complete from the skate shop My Favorite Things at fredrikinkatu with a -10% discount. At every session there is going to be instruction and guidance and we can assure you that it is going to be heaps of fun! No serious business, we just want girls to come together and have a good time skating and challenging themselves. This is not a course; it is more like free of charge open sessions with instruction and guidance where needed. You come and go as suits your timetable.
Check out the link to Facebook event here
Wow, almost 400 girls says that they are attending, wtf! That's awesome!
What kind of plans are you having for the future?
What we want to do in the future is the same that we are doing now, spreading good vibes and fun times through the skateboarding culture wherever we are. We will keep doing the girls beginner workshops and sessions in Finland this summer and we are planning to organize some kind of one day jam in Suvilahti DIY with BBQ and hopefully some bands playing too. Also some skate trips to Copenhagen this summer and a trip to Spain with a girl crew are in mind. Fia is going to follow her love to Sri Lanka and has big plans for the kids over there.
F: I am planning on having a continuous skate school in Sri Lanka for the local street kids. The Arugambay village has a really simple way of life; people have what they need to live, but nothing extra. The idea is to build a miniramp and supply the kids with boards so that they can come and skate after school and get teaching, support and stoke from us.
The rest of us (Bea, Teesu and Lilja) will help out with whatever we can from this side of the world and hopefully we can fly over there and participate in the project more actively at some point.
What is your vision and aim for KRM?
The vision is to create strong means for an activity that encourages and supports the people around skateboarding. And also to give the relevant people the visibility they are worth. We want to show people, especially girls, the fun and togetherness one can find in the skateboarding culture.
What are your best memories related to skateboarding?
F: Traveling with Hanna to Darjeeling and skated the mountain road down more than 10km, with most beautiful view around in the crazy India.
B: I’ve been skating a long time so there’s so many. But I never really had a crew to do it with. 2 years ago I met some rad skaters and when I noticed the passion that they have for skateboarding, I fell in love with it even more. It’s a lot more fun to do it with friends.
L: Freshest in mind and oddest is the Holy Detour fo sho! It was a skate tour in India in january organized by Arniz INC and Holystoked Collective. The trip was legendary, I met so many good people and we did so many crazy things!
T: There’s so many! All the time spent in Kronomagasinet with the best of people. Picking up skateboarding myself with all that it involved; learning to push, doing the first Ollie, looking ridiculous cruising through the city but not giving a shit about that. Skating in Australia. Meeting all the awesome skaters in Helsinki and spending the Finnish summers fooling around with them. Learning new tricks and noticing how the balance and board control just develops all the time. Skating Southbank and supporting their campaign Long Live Southbank. Bay sixty6 girl-sessions and getting to know the girls in UK. Rad group of females! Organizing the beginner skate session in Helsinki and workshop in Ekenäs last spring and summer, so nice to see that so many girls are interested. The Shanti skate school project for kids and the Holy de-tour in India last winter was an experience I will never forget. Skating with Lessie and Ecke in Spain… Really, all my memories related to skateboarding are the best memories.
What has skateboarding taught you?
B: Patience is the key.
F: Better life.
L: That the limits you create for yourself are only in your head, break them and fly free.
T: Expect nothing, be ready for anything.
And lastly, greetings to everybody?
L: Lots of love to all!
F: I want to give big thanks and hug to all of you who have been supporting us in any way. And if you are interested in skating, we are here for you.
B: Keep doing what you love!
T: Remember in this crazy world of ours that “it is nice to be important but it is more important to be nice”.
Big up KRM! Keep on pushing and spreading the love! Thanks for the interview! NAMASTE!
HANNA YLÄTALO INTERVIEW
CTRL GIRL POWER interview series continues and the next one in line is Hanna Ylätalo. We got a little chat with Hanna about skateboarding, travelling and seeing differences in skate scenes in Finland and in other countries. She also talks about the awkward stage in the beginning when you start skateboarding and when even going to the park feels way too intimidating and how to overcome those fears. This 27-year-old girl is studying cognition science in the university and on her free time you can spot her on her deck. This girl doesn’t make too much noise about her self. However she is surprising us all with her skills even though she has skated relatively short time. She started skating in her twenties and she’s a good example of the can-do-spirit. It's been inspiring for the very beginners but also for longtime skaters to see her progress and development on the board. She doesn’t let anything to limit her to try out new tricks fearlessly. Hanna has travelled also to parts of Europe and other places skating with her friends. Let’s see what she got to say.
When did you start skateboarding and how did it happen?
I started about four years ago. Don't really know how, or even more why, that actually happened. That was quite creative and bohemian period in my life in many ways, and just one day the idea about skateboarding came to my mind. I texted my brother if he wanted to start skateboarding with me. He was immediately in and already the next day we went to Lamina to buy completes for ourselves.
That summer we were cruising around Helsinki every now and then. However going to any skatepark wasn’t first in mind and anyway skating wasn’t that active at that time. Once we went to Kontula indoor skatepark but we turned around almost immediately at the entrance door cos the thing there seemed a bit too hectic for the inexperienced beginners. We were maybe just practicing ollie at some corner for a while and got out off there.
As far as I recollect the next autumn I spotted TRL (Tyttörullalautailijat ry, an association for girl skaters Finland) in facebook. They organize private shifts for girls in Kontula. I started going there early in the next year. During the first year I didn’t go anywhere else than sessions organized by TRL. At the skateparks I felt pretty damn shy at first. However at some sesh I met another girl, Säde, to whom it was totally normal to go in and skate along with guys and from that I got some courage when I started to skate with her.
Do you have any advice for other girls or beginners how to overcome that fear of skateboarding in front of other people?
It’s easy to say that all that strain and hassle is totally unnecessary, and that you just have to go in even though you feel scared or intimidated. But for real, you just have to go there and go in even though you feel embarrassed if you ever want to learn to skate. Sooner or later you will notice that you have stepped out from your comfort zone and took it over.
Where do you like to skate? Do you rather skate flat, street, parks, curves or bowls? What is your favorite spot and why?
I mostly skate street. I’ve been living in Helsinki for all that time that I’ve been skating so there hasn’t been any need to looking for spots. Here in Helsinki we have pretty much good parks and all the time there is coming more and more. This spring I’ve started to like skating curves and concrete parks as well. I don’t have any favorite spot. The best thing is when you can skate many different spots during the same day. It is the coolest thing when someone got a car on a sunny summer day and you can go around to different spots.
In the end you have skated relatively quite short time and there has been huge progress happening during the past year and I heard some rumors that you got a nickname Hammer Hanna. What is the latest trick you’ve learned?
Well, I don’t I think that the progress has been that fast. Maybe concerning the fact that I started skateboarding when I was 23, I have learned something but actually I feel that I learn pretty slowly. Mostly it’s all about that you need to have guts to do things. I’ve always been a bit venturesome, or at least my mom has told me that when I was a kid she always worried about how she can take care of me and manage to keep me alive cos I was always climbing in some trees or hanging upside down and things like that. So probably still nowadays when I’m adult I still take some stupid risks easily. Hammer Hanna, hahaha! The latest trick I’ve learned, well, I’ve managed to do 50-50 to some rails.
What is your favorite trick?
At the moment my favorite trick is maybe a board slide.
What is the best thing in skateboarding?
It’s simply just fun, and feels good! Skating gives you a feeling of freedom and I think that's the best feeling that exists.
What is the hardest thing in skateboarding and where do you get your motivation?
Injuries! They are the shittiest thing that can happen in skateboarding. It sucks when you wanna skate so bad but you can't because of some damn twisted ankle. Especially now when there are sunny days and I hurt my ankle. But it is what it is. Injuries are part of skateboarding and all the cool things do require that you have to handle with that shit sometimes too.
The best motivation in skateboarding comes from good sessions. Sometimes you get some good skate vibes from some random skate clips and especially when seeing other girls doing sick stuff. Then you wanna go to some skatepark nearby to try some new stuff as well or otherwise you won’t get a sleep in the night when you are just thinking about it.
What skateboarding means to you? And what skateboarding has given to you?
I feel like I’m not that much inside within a certain “skate scene” but still I think that skateboarding is affecting to all areas in my life somehow. It is also partly some kind of question of identity, I think. Skateboarding as a hobby is taking so much time that it inevitably becomes quite a big part of your life. Especially during the past year I noticed that more and more the people with whom I hang out are skating as well. It is also influenced by the fact that in Helsinki there has been developing pretty good girls’ scene in skateboarding during the past couple of years.
Do you have some idols or who is your favorite skateboarder?
I’m not sure if I've had any idols after Spice Girls and Jesus. I don’t know what idol actually means. Of course I have hyped some skaters like Marisa Dal Santo, Sarah Meurle and of course Elissa Steamer. But the coolest thing is to see and follow your local skaters when they are doing their thing.
You are travelling quite much and lately you were on a skateboarding trip in India. How was it?
Yeah, at least concerning the level of my incomes I have travelled quite much. In January we were in India on a skateboarding tour with few other Finnish girl skaters. Last year I was on the same tour that was the first ever organized skateboarding tour in India in the country's history. It was sponsored by Red Bull and there were quite lots of kids participating as well. It was a really good experience, I would say. This year the tour was quite different and the whole thing was much smaller and more unofficial and there weren’t any sponsors this year. Actually, the whole thing wasn’t that organized at all this year compared to last year. It was more like a get-together of some smaller crew, people a bit from everywhere, mostly from Europe and there were also few guys from US and Nepal as well. And of course from India. A couple of Finnish girls were also living in there so we were all together seven girls from Finland and had a pretty good representation of Finnish female skaters over there!
We were driving from spot to spot by bus. There are very few spots in India and the distance between the spots might be hundreds of kilometers. Most of the places in India are DIY spots built by volunteers. However the DIY culture is really strong over there at the moment and there will be more and more spots coming all the time. In the end skateboarding is really new thing in India. Skate scene over there is relatively small and there is quite gutsy and authentic old school attitude. Anyway, the tour was such a cool experience, great people and amazing landscapes. I’ve been missing India a lot.
You've been skating in different places around the world. What is the weirdest or the most special place where you’ve been skateboarding? Why? And what is your favorite spot abroad?
Last August during Malmö’s Ultrabowl contest we were in Christiania in Copenhagen running away from the rain. It was the fist day of our Swedish-German-Finnish crew’s road trip. The games in Malmö were cancelled because of the rain so everybody gathered to the pool in Christiania. There were lots of people who were supposed to compete in Malmö and they were ripping the bowl. I wasn’t skating there but the spot and the sesh over there were quite impressive. It was hardcore skating and sometimes some dealers came hiding because of some cop raids outside Christiania. It was kinda misty youth cave. At one point there developed pretty good girls’ sesh as well, it was really cool. There we were just hanging and chilling and watching skating.
It was really cool to skate in Darjeeling in India where I was with a friend. The whole village is in the mountains and during that time of the year there were something like a couple of degrees warm only. Nobody over there has ever heard anything about skateboarding. We were skating at some railway station somewhere over there and kids were gathering around us to marvel at what’s going on. And everybody wanted to try, of course. Then we left from that sport, cruising down something like four kilometers of downhill among the cars and all the traffic. It was such a great feeling just to roll down in the middle of that landscape and everybody were just marveling at us and smiling. It might have been a bit dangerous though.
Can you tell some differences in skateboarding scenes abroad compared to Finland?
Well, at least in India there are differences and I mentioned something about it already before. I’ve seen some skate scenes pretty superficially but in my opinion the vibes in the scene in Sweden are quite different. Especially when it comes to girls cos there is way more girls skating over there than in Finland. It seemed that they are pretty inside within that scene, and I feel that here in Finland as a woman you feel a bit outsider. In Bali the skate scene was also different, local skateboarders were hanging at some local tattoo shops and they all had lots of ink and they hyped some hardcore music.
Can you see lots of girl skaters abroad where you’ve been skating?
Well, where I’ve been skating in Europe the skate scene is always man dominated of course but there is still more girls than compared to Finland. In Asia you don’t see that much girls skating.
What do you think of women’s skateboarding in Finland at the moment and how do you see the future of women’s skateboarding in general?
I think it’s great that during the past couple of years there have become more and more new girl skaters in Helsinki. About the rest of the Finland and the situation abroad I can’t say much anything. Sometimes it’s easy to fret that I didn’t start skateboarding as a kid when it’s easier and faster to learn new movements and trajectories. If skateboarding would not be perceived as some boys’ thing, and if there would be more girls at the parks skating for real, the threshold to start would be much lower for many girls. Certainly in Finland as well the popularity of skateboarding among girls continues to grow in the future. I see that there is lots of potential here in Finland as well.
Do you have a motto or some special philosophy in skateboarding or in life in general?
I found my life philosophy on forum of vauva.fi. Life is short and I am slow, so how to get all important things done in less than a hundred years?
Greetings to other skaters/everybody?
Stay high, stay motivated, stay hustly hahhah! I don’t know, see you at summer seshs!
And lastly, about whom girl skater would you like to read the next interview?
It would be interesting to read the interview about India’s first female skateboarder, Atita. It would be also interesting to read about Tiina from Tampere.
We’ll see what we can do about it. Thanks Hanna for the interview! Meanwhile…Ride on!
CTRL team celebrating the Finnish independence day in Jyväskylä.
Hakki, Panu, Fabio, Vege, Jaakko, Valtteri rolling in no specific order.
SANDRA "SANKU" VUORI'S INTERVIEW ABOUT GIRL'S POINT OF VIEW IN SKATEBOARDING
You’ve maybe seen this girl earlier in our instagram and facebook posts. Who is this 26- year-old woman who look like a small 15-year-old boy? Friends know her as Sanku and she is a female skateboarder, one of a kind. She is also part of CTRL's skateboarding team. CTRL wants to support women's skateboarding and Sanku got into the crew lately because of her great attitude and obvious love to this art-form that we do not call sport. Sanku has been one of the special cases in man-dominated field of skateboarding in Finland. This girl got into skateboarding already in her childhood, a handful of years ago, and was the only girl in her hometown, ripping the streets of a small village with a group of boys. She has seen different phases of skateboarding, including women’s skateboarding and we got to talk with her about what she is thinking about the future of women’s skateboarding and what she is thinking about skateboarding in general as a girl.
Do you have a motto?
Just do your thing.
Greetings to other skateboarders/girlskaters/everybody?
Remember to appreciate one another, in the end we all are doing the same thing.
And lastly, about whom (girl skater) you would like to read the interview next?
Sarah Meurle from Sweden of Hanna Hyvätalo from Finland.
We’ll see what we can do about it…!
For how long have you been skateboarding?
I started skateboarding in the summer of 1998 so it’s about 15 years ago, isn’t it? I haven’t counted really precisely.
How did you get into skateboarding?
There was a summer holiday from the school. I didn’t get along well with the girls, they were talking stupid stuff and they had really competitive hobbies. You always needed to be better than the others. I had some disagreements with one friend who was a girl about some baseball game or something... Then I decided that I don’t want to play anymore anything or win anything or be better than anybody. Anyhow, some lack of activity bothered me during the summer heat wave.
We were living right next to the Russia border (Virojoki) and there were lots of some “cash and carry” kind of supermarkets where you got all kind of stuff real cheap. There we found a “skateboard” with my friend Mikko that we absolutely had to have. That summer went working out and falling down with that “great” toymachine.
However, that skateboarding thing did not end there, as many thought. The following summer we were a bit more informed and we bought our first real completes from Board Stock in Kotka. In the end, there were around ten “skaters” in our small town, boys and me, and no one really liked us. Since that, skateboarding has continued until this day. Fortunately, there is no need to be afraid of getting beaten up by white thrashes anymore, as it used to be in our small hometown.
What is the greatest thing in skateboarding?
Freedom and infinity, that everyone can do what ever he or she wants and this is the fact that no one should forget. There is space for all kind of opinions but opinions never should limit anybody.
What is your best memory related to skateboarding?
There are plenty of good memories and it’s hard to name only one. However, still the most unforgettable was the first stairs I was ollieing down. It was five stairs at some local supermarket in Virojoki. I had tried the whole summer to ollie those stairs down but I didn’t have enough guts to do that. I was always too pussy and kicking the board away. Boys were already going down the stairs with flips and everything… One evening one of the guys pushed me by saying “Now you just push it down Sandra, speed will fix your failures!” Then I pushed real hard and in the end I was landing down straight to the bullets. In this memory the main point wasn’t that I was ollieing down the stairs but that thing how glad and happy everyone was for me. It was maybe the greatest feeling in my life when those 10 guys were really truly happy for me, you know.
What is the hardest thing in skateboarding?
In the end nothing in skateboarding itself. Sometimes some of the external things piss me off, like prejudices and narrow-mindness.
What is your skateboarding philosophy?
Peeps are skateboarding for different things, some are skating for fun, through the joy, some are easing the aggressions and rage and rolling down the pressures or escaping the reality by skateboarding. By myself I always go skateboarding with the mentality that it can be the last sesh ever, you never know. I’ve started this thing with joy and I hope that if it ends some day, it will end the same way.
Do you like to skate flat, curbs or bowl(curves)? Why?
Flat and curbs absolutely. Curves and bowls have never interested me that much.
Where do you prefer to skate usually and what are you favorite spots?
I like to skate street, skating in the park I do not enjoy that much. As far as there is some flat I’m really happy. When I started, we were skating the first five to six years only streets and basically everything we managed to find in a small town. The nearest skatepark was ten kilometers away, in another city. I’ve never learned to skate parks with full heart within it. One of my favorite spots is New Music House in Helsinki at the moment.
What is your special trick?
Coz I’m a bit “retarted” (or you can call it “special”(laughing)) I’m doing skateboearding as goofy and snowboarding as regular so skateboarding has been a bit problematic sometimes. I like to do many tricks as fakie, it feels the most natural.
Do you have some idols or who is your favorite skateboarder?
I’ve had lots of favorite skateboarders over the years. Probably every girl who has skated even a little longer have to say Elissa Steamer. Of course she has been very significant figure for me as well, because she was the first woman who became a pro skater. I also remember being a fan of Mäksy when I was younger and I have to say Mark Gonzales as well, they have one of the coolest styles when it comes to skateboarding. Others whom I would like to mention is Swedish Sarah Meurle and Igor from Tikari Skateboards, really cool and nice looking styles and ripping. Also some favorite skateboarders are Lacey Baker and Wilson Mäkelä.
Where do you get your motivation in skateboarding?
From the friends.
Have you experienced or do you face some prejudices as a girl skateboarder? What kind of?
Yeah, of course I’ve met few butt-heads and small-minded critics. At one point, there was a taboo about the girls who skate, that they only carry the decks with them and are hitting on the guys. I’ve pretty much laughed at them in the face.
What pisses me off the most is to deal with the staff at some skate shops where they don’t know me or I don’t know them. For example, I’ve been offered some Hello Kitty sneakers or something really awkward when I've tried to buy me new skateshoes.
You’ve been skating very long and seen different phases in skateboarding. What do you think of women’s skateboarding and how do you see the future of women’s skateboarding?
Well, over these years I have seen many ups and downs of women’s skateboarding in Finland. When I’ve been skateboarding a lot with guys, some issues related to being a girl has certainly pissed me off, and back in the days I have rebelled against the “girl” issue. I guess I was 11 years old when I pretended to be a boy and dressed as a boy when we went to another town to skate in the park. It just pissed me off that much that they called me “chick” and were spitting on me. I just wanted to skate as everybody else. Fortunately, things have changed, thanks to the media for once.
In The States there is a quite of a buzz related to women’s skateboarding going on at the moment, big sponsor agreements, contests and so on… And for example vert skateboarding is on the rise. And some girls looks pretty much like guys when skateboarding, I mean they have real good style when they skate. So the attitudes has changed a lot about women’s skateboarding and there is a real new scene in women’s skateboarding over there.
Girls’ scene in Finland is still very young. Of course, there has been “can-do spirit” all the time more and more over the past ten years. There has been lots of progress since 2004 when there were the first “Finnish Championships” in skateboarding in women’s series.
Right now if you look at things with honesty, you have to say that we have pretty beautifully thriving girl skateboarding scene as well here in Finland and that is a good thing. No longer there is no need to draw a beard and dress up as a guy if you want skateboard without anybody bothering you.
MARKO "HAKKI" HARMAALA'S INTERVIEW ABOUT ALCOHOLISM AND SKATEBOARDING
Thinking about Hakki and his past makes me inevitably think about the movie “Rocky IV” and the scene in which Ivan Drago beats the hell out of Rocky round after round. The massacre goes on for so long, it is absolutely clear that no one could possibly survive from it. Rocky is totally defenseless and the pain and suffering just keeps getting worse – punch after punch.
But the story has a happy ending as Rocky gets his miraculous one last boost and smashes down the Russian opponent. Of course, this is just a perfect example of what Hollywood is all about, but still it feels like a good comparison to what Hakki has gone through. Even though Marko Harmaala has fought against a totally different kind of beast. It is far from Ivan Drago or physical violence. It is much more clever and devilish, and it will never let go.
Hakki’s fight has been against alcohol. The booze. It is what has made this legendary Finnish skateboarding champion struggle for almost all his life. He was sober until the age of seventeen, but after that, he started to drink as if it was something fun even though he says it was already a symptom of other problems from the very first time. Drinking was a huge problem to him, but it easily took fifteen years of heavy drinking and self-destruction before he finally understood the power of his competitor and the fact that there were only two options left: He would drink himself to death at the age of 32 unless he didn’t stop for good. The mental asylums, medicines, detoxifications and support groups were all tested.
“Nothing worked until the will for change came from myself and I admitted the facts. Alcohol is like a gentleman in a ring; it leaves you alone as soon as you give up. But that means you have to make a full inventory of your life without any compromises or explanations – being totally honest. You have to re-build your life, piece by piece, and never stop taking care of it again. Being an alcoholic is something you are for the rest of your life. You can’t beat it alone. This is the lesson that saved my life.”
Now he has been sober for six years. Despite all the blank points, there are also good memories and happy times in his past. The great career in skateboarding was too short because of his sickness – but that doesn’t seem to bother him. Nowadays, he skates more and better than ever. He is as excited as a little kid and he keeps asking a lot from himself as he has always done.
Lucky for us, CTRL is still the place for this kind of talent and style as Hakki is willing to come back to our team now that he is on a skateboard again. He is, after all, one of the first team members from that legendary Control skateboards. And it looks like he still has a lot to give: I keep getting e-mails every other day where he suggests some ideas of what we should do next or what he should do next. He’s always been hard on himself when it comes to things he is involved in. And being sober is definitely the best thing that has happen to him. Now he is working at a local indoor skate park and going to school to get a degree so that he can start working as a youth leader. A perfect job for him with that kind of background.
Last night we went skating together. It was just like old times – except there was less anger or stress involved. Now this calm man is sitting at the kitchen table with a smile on his face and a deep look in his eyes. The kids are out in the yard with their mother and we are supposed to talk about the life of Marko Harmaala. I’ve told him I’m gonna be straight and ask about the hard times, but it looks like he is making this very easy for me. He’s already talking:
"The strongest visions I have from the past are those from the time I was 7-years old. My mother used to have this amazing ability to find only more and more lunatic men to bring to our house and to be my stepfather. This one was one of those wife-beater types… I remember waking up at nights to see my mom being beaten up so badly I thought she would die, and I couldn’t do anything but stay still and wait… or waking up with a shotgun pointing straight to my face so that I had to run in to the dark and cold winter night alone… I would say these kinds of experiences made me feel very unsafe.
After we got out of this hell, and we moved to Kiuruvesi. That started the second period of my life when my mother started to drink very heavily… she would disappear for days and I didn’t know if she would ever come back. When I was 12, she drank so desperately that she finally tried to kill herself. I still remember telling her that if she would have managed to do so, I would have done the same thing to myself immediately. I also remember one time when I went out at night to wait outside of this restaurant to see if I could get her to come home. When she came out, she just walked away and left me alone there.
I often had to stay at my aunt’s place to get my schoolwork done, and she became a kind of second mother to me. Unfortunately, things went so that my aunt committed suicide when I was 15… These are just some examples to get you to understand my background and the reasons behind my drinking problem. It was all about not feeling safe and the fear of being left alone.
At this point, I want to say that I do not have any anger or hard feelings against my mother. She must have tried her best, but the alcoholism made it impossible for her to do any better at that point – and it affected me also later on.
With my dad, it was the same thing except he did all this even more intensely. But what is the best thing is that all three of us are now sober, living our own separate lives and having good relationships with each other. We all know what this disease is about and what it needs to keep this good life going on.”
Hakki in the Kuopio indoor park.
"I have found my path – but if I ever think about staying alone with this problem, the bad things and the real evil character of this disease will appear very quickly, and the harmful thoughts and bad things start to happen."
What does it need to be sober then?
For me, those support groups have been the best thing. I don’t want to talk about the details of those here, but if anyone really wants to know more I’m very happy to tell.
The first years, I went there 4-5 times a week and now I go there twice a week. Nowadays, I don’t have to struggle anymore with the desire of drinking or the alcohol itself. With the tools and advice I get from those group meetings, I can now live quite normally and enjoy the good things in life. But the important thing is that the alcoholism is a disease that stays with you for the rest of your life because it is a disease of one’s mental and emotional life.
I have found my path – but if I ever think about staying alone with this problem, the bad things and the real evil character of this disease will appear very quickly, and the harmful thoughts and bad things start to happen.
And then it would be easy to start drinking again?
Well, there’s only one sip between my sobriety and the craziness of what it used to be. But now I have so many sober days behind me that the drinking is definitely not the first thing in my mind. I have other opinions and good tools in my hands for situations like this.
But alcoholism is such a self-denying sickness that it is important to heal yourself every day. Otherwise all these basic things in your life starts to become difficult and too much for you because the problem is with your emotional side. If you are not focusing, you start to think too much of yourself and start explaining and talking shit – and then you are already at the point where anything can happen.
And if so, the disappointment would be quite big?
For me, it would be the same as a death sentence. I have seen and experienced the effects of a collapse very closely. For example, when I was in this treatment called Myllyhoito in Kalliola hospital, they asked me the reason why I was there trying to quit drinking. I told it was 80% because of my son and 20% because of me. The leader of that small group told me right away that I wouldn’t be able to make it that time either. Of course, I was defending myself and thinking that I would definitely show that prick what I can do. But he was right, unfortunately. I learned from the practice that the sobriety can be reached only if you are doing it 100% for yourself.
You cannot stay sober because of your work or your family. That collapse was one of the worst things that ever happened to me. It really hurt me badly. I was already living the idea of leaving the drinking behind. I had decided that if I ever had kids, I would not let them live through that same kind of childhood I had experienced. Any normal person could have stopped then. But with this sickness, I just couldn’t and it was a totally hell.
For how long time did you manage to stay sober that time?
Almost five months. Then the drinking started again from the very first moment when the question of whether to drink or not snuck into my mind. And back then, I was not totally doing it for myself (the sobriety) so there was nothing to do for it. It just happened.
And was it like a one-time mistake only or what happened?
No, the drinking started again very badly. Even though I had the will to recover and I was going to those treatments, I just wasn’t ready for it yet. My relationship with Kaisa was in a crisis and she had packed my stuff in plastic bags to wait for me outside the house. This collapse was actually my last real drinking period and I still remember those feelings like it was yesterday. Fear, desperation, depression. It was something much more horrible than the normal lizards you get after your party nights.
That summer (2007), I drank from two days to one week a time and after each of these periods I was shaking for two days in my bed and then I just had to start again from the morning of the third day. And this is when I started to have those same feelings again that I had gone through when I was 25-years old and already knew that if I wasn’t able to stop the drinking, it would mean I was killing myself with it. I felt that the life I was living was not worth living. The drinking wasn’t only a bad thing for me; it was 100% hell. I couldn’t get any relief to my suffering and there hadn’t been any fun in it for years.
That feeling became so strong I couldn’t see any other options anymore. Finally, I was ready to give up and I was really willing to do everything I could to just get rid of that all. Then I realized I couldn’t do it by myself.
A photo from the Edge-magazine (1995)
Let's go back in time a bit. Tell us where you come from and how did you end up living in Helsinki? And was it where your skateboarding started to take a bigger role in your life with movies and sponsors and competitions involved?
Kiuruvesi is the place I call my home because that’s where my relatives were living, and that’s where I spent my childhood as I recall it. But I was born in Södertälje, Sweden. It was that time in the seventies when people moved from Finland to Sweden for work. We lived among Finnish people and I didn’t learn any Swedish, only the sentence “hoolsheften o ta det lungt...” ha-ha, I still don’t know how to write it correctly.
When I was 5-years old we moved from Sweden to Alajärvi and from there to Kiuruvesi and from there to Iisalmi and finally to Vantaa (Helsinki).
What is the first memory you have about skateboarding?
We bought these Turbo-II skateboards with friends from a local Maksi Makasiini shop in Kiuruvesi. We were 12-years old. And that was it.
At this point I must bring out my opinion of the importance of this hobby. I must say it really helped me a lot when I was a kid and things were really messed up at home. Without skateboarding and my addiction to it, some really sad things might have happened to me already then.
So when you moved to Vantaa, you were already skateboarding?
Yes. And there I first met a guy called Leksi with whom we went out skating. After visiting the spots at Tikkurila, I got to know people like Ufo-Toni and other boys from there. Ufo-Toni was the next-level guy at that time. Of course there were many others also but he’s the first one to come in mind. We skated at the spot called ”Terkkari” and started to do things like “Kesäkuvat”-movie and other stuff.
Those guys had already done a film called “Hyvässä seurassa kelpaa huonokin elokuva” (Even a bad movie is ok with a good company) made by Pasi Pauni. So I was looking up to them… Hessu, Karhunen and others were there. I really suggest searching that movie to understand why I’m talking about that Ufo-Toni.
Was skateboarding the thing that filled your life back then? Did you have anything else?
Yeah, it was quite much what I had back then and it gave me things I was missing during my childhood. I tried to go in to the army as it is obligatory in Finland but it didn’t work out. I had my sponsor (Skate Import) already and I was kind of serious with my skateboarding.
"Helsinki-Kuopio All Night Long" (full movie here!) From 1995. Sokeva and Sawo rippers. Vimeocredits: Projekti Päällä.
So what happened with the army thing?
Well they didn’t understand my skateboarding and my needs for holidays because of it. And as it was their opinion, I decided not to cooperate with them either in that case.
Did you quit or how did you managed to get out of it?
I was there for the whole first period and I was actually quite good in there because I wanted to do it properly and I was in a good shape. So I was one of the top guys in my group and that’s why I had to tell them all kinds of stories to make them understand why I was quitting.
**And did you get discharged from there?
I told them I would work the rest of my duty in civilian services, which is the other option to do if you do not want to join the army. But I only needed to see some doctors every once in a while and tell them my situation and that was it. I didn’t have to do anything else.
Have you finished any school? Do you have any education?
I went to comprehensive school first in Kiuruvesi up to 8th class and then finished the last class of the upper level of the comprehensive school in Korso (Ruusuvuoren ylä-aste). It was not easy to change school at that age especially coming from the area where I came and going to Vantaa. I’m not saying there was any bigger problems, just some difficulties with one gypsy guy and with teachers and of course I had problems talking in the way they did in Helsinki. I hardly managed to pass the school. They were about to put me in some extra exams but I told them I wouldn’t be around even for that. So what they did, they finally just let me go without any problems.
Of course, it bothers me nowadays that I had such a bad attitude towards school but once again it was because of the problems I had in my childhood. I had no ability for any constructive thinking; I only saw things either in black or white. When you don’t know who you really are or you don’t have any kind of identity or if the identity you have is really wrong, it makes your life hard and difficult. I couldn’t stand any authorities or people who tried to tell me how to live my life or even those who tried to understand me because I had lived my whole life on my own.
So after school it was only skateboarding?
Yeah. With my degrees there was no reason to try to get in to any school and I wouldn’t have been able to study anything anyways.
Kickflip to fakie in Malaga. Photo from the Falshback magazine, 1999
So was skateboarding the thing you wanted to do from the start?
I was interested in other sports also. I played soccer, ice hockey and I ran, but left them all when I started skating and the good things in it started to show up in to my life. I’ve tried to tell people (both parents and decision makers) about the good things in skateboarding. About the integrity, the wholeness it gives to you and how great a thing it can be in a young person’s life when the world around is too busy and demanding. The greatness is in the fact that you can manage yourself in skateboarding. You can define your own rules and schedules and places and everything in it. No one can ask anything from you or your skateboarding. The freedom… it’s something unexplainable and remarkable and it just got me hooked from the start.
And with your background it must have been really special to get friends and to be able to build up your own life around it?
Yeah it really filled the empty spots I had in my life – such as the lack of feeling safe and other things. Also the feeling of “being part of something special”, that was really important.
Do you have any sisters or brothers?
“The anger and fear against that thing was in my mind all the time. I was saying to myself that I’m never gonna touch that shit. I knew too well what kind of things it makes people do...”
How did you end up drinking? Was it something different from what it was with other people of your age and with the people who you were drinking with?
I started quite late; I was 17-years old. The anger and fear against that thing was in my mind all the time. I was saying to myself that I’m never gonna touch that shit. I knew too well what kind of things it makes people do as I had lived through the hell myself, but still I somehow just ignored the whole thing when I did it. I even talked to my mom about it and she tried to remind me what had happened to her and to my father and to my relatives but I just didn’t listen to it at all. I just thought I could handle it myself.
I was a shy and sensitive boy having problems dealing with my own feelings. Alcohol just felt like it would give me everything I would need or what I was missing. I got hooked right away. I was an alcoholic already before I even had taken any drink. It was just waiting there for the right time. And if it wasn’t drinking, something else might have come on my way and I might have done some bad things. My thoughts and emotional life were in very bad shape. Alcohol was like medicine for all that: It cured the bad feelings and gave me an extra boost for good vibes. And in the middle I just drank for whatever reason. But it doesn’t work like that for long. It will inevitably turn against you at some point.
It turned quite soon from 1-day a week to 2-3 times a week habit. When I was 22-years old, I was already drinking weeklong periods and I had to go to the pharmacy to get vitamin-B for the shaking and cramps. I was doing my internship work at the skate shop (Union5) and somehow no one ever said anything to me about it. Maybe it wasn’t that clear yet?
You drank mostly apple cider back then. There was actually a Control skateboard graphics done out from that bottle and with your name on it. I assume you've not been that picky all the time with your drinking?
I’ve tried everything there is available and I really didn’t care what I was taking when things were really bad. But let’s not talk about that.
You were already a father and a family man, but still in that shape that you just drank whatever you could get?
Yep. It took me a year and a half after my first kid was born until I could stop. Of course the same shit had been going on for much longer time and it was Kaisa who had to see all that for so many years. I didn’t understand this until I was proceeding with my sobriety and of course it hit me very badly when I realized how much I must have hurt Kaisa. Today I am so happy that my son was still that small and that my drinking is not gonna affect to his life in any way. One of the biggest prizes of my sobriety is that there is no fighting or stressing at home. No matter what the mood or situation is.
For how long have you been together with Kaisa?
Fifteen years. For better or for worse, literally.
There was a big hype around you and your skateboarding and many things were going on and looking good for you but at the same time you just disappeared suddenly and for good. Just like that. I think you were somehow a special person in that times' skateboarding scene because it was so small and underground thing but you were getting fame from outside the basic scene also. Why did you disappear and where did you go? To Kuopio with Kaisa?
Well things had gone for worse for a long time already then. We were staying in Spain with the Control team (winter 1999) and my drinking was so bad I couldn’t skate enough while Toma and Peke were pushing so much every day. I just had my dilemma between drinking and skating and the alcohol was affecting my skating really badly.
And when we came back from there I made a couple of really bad mistakes at work and other things that have to do with driving a car… but I don’t want to talk about those anymore. Anyhow my life was really messed up at that point and that is when I met Kaisa in Kuopio where I was having some drinking trip with my friends. Meeting her made me think that it was time to move on. I truly thought that moving from one place to another would help me quit drinking but it didn’t. I was just trying to hide from my problems.
You were still skating a lot when you moved?
I tried to, but the next year just turned out to be a terrible one. I had so many problems. For example my dog fell down to an elevator shaft and died. I still don’t understand how it was possible, but I remember it like it was yesterday even it happened 13 years ago. One squeak and that was it. And then some other things happened so that my head was just really messed up.
And then Hessu called me and told me that the deal with Control skateboards was over with me. I wasn’t actually surprised and maybe it was also relieving. Looking back now, I understand that decision very well. It was so clear what was coming… I just couldn’t do it anymore… That’s when I started to be unstable/self-destructive and had some treatments and stuff like that…
How old were you then?
And did you do any skating after this?
Yeah, all the time whenever I could stay a little while not drinking and my body was in shape.
You and your mom both took this medicine (Antabus) at the same time. It was a capsule that was put in to your stomach in a surgery and it was supposed to prevent you using alcohol. How did that work out? Did you stay away from drinking?
Before this, we both had been in a very bad shape for a longer time because of heavy drinking and we both wanted to make it stop.
My mom was sober for two months after the Antabus. We really believed that you just can’t drink with that capsule inside you. But then she just called me one day and she was really drunk. It was really hard for me because we were really close and we had lived such hard times together. After the phone call I started to drink also. I remember just wondering how it was possible. It made me blush and my throat felt strange and some palpitation occurred, but that’s it. I don’t recommend it to anyone. It can make your heart stop beating. Finally some parts of the capsule just popped out from my stomach through the scar and probably it was because of the poisoning reaction. A rejection?
So during you Antabus medication you were able to skate again but then it stopped once again?
Yeah. And when the drinking started again, I just left the whole idea of skateboarding behind me for a while. Maybe it was some summertime? It was a real break. Even though I didn’t want to leave it really. It was just the alcohol that took me so badly. I couldn’t skate. It was impossible.
But still it wasn't any longer than one year or something?
No. My longest break from skateboarding has been the time when my knee was injured and that is when I was sober already. Maybe it was in 2009. It was a really bad injury and it took me a year and a half to get back on a skateboard again. It was a really good practice for my nerves to wait and see if I could do it ever again. I still remember those stair-jumps and leap-practices in the forest I was doing to rehabilitate it. But it was worth it. I’m still able to skate and walk even they hurt every now and then. But this is all something I was told I couldn’t be doing anymore. I am very grateful from that.
The Control movies SISU and TEENS were already out when you moved to Kuopio. You were the Finnish champion and took 5th place in Munster world-championship contest at the same year. They nominated you as a "skater of the year" in Helsinki CITY-magazine (even it wasn't a skateboarding magazine) and many other kinds of things were going on around you? The new movie for Control was supposed to come out next year. You missed that one?
Yes. You can’t mix drinking like that with skateboarding.
How does it feel now?
I don’t want to regret things from my past because it is not changing anything. Of course I’ve thought about it and the fact that I could have had much more to give if things would’ve been different. But my attitude against skateboarding changed at that point. I forgot the reasons why I had started skateboarding and why I loved it. I started to think it from a very different angle.
One example of this is the competition the next year after I had won there. A little kid came to me and asked why I didn’t even try to do my best in my run. It hurt me so bad, the fact that I had disappointed this little kid, not the fact that I didn’t end my competition. I almost cried and I still remember what he looked like. So this is what I mean with these problems in sensitive side, the talk about emotional illness. Soon after that I was drinking my sadness away with the same shit as always.
“I walked back from there and noticed that the competition was still going on. I took away the arm sling and went back skating…”.
So you basically like going to competitions?
Yes. It’s like a love-hate kind of thing with that. And it’s always in your own head with whom you’re competing with. But yes, I like it.
Once you won with a tweaked elbow?
Yes, it tweaked out from its place earlier in the practices. It wasn’t the first time, but now it didn’t go back to its place like it normally did. They took an ambulance and drove me to hospital where I was given some morphine or stuff like that and they wrenched it back. I walked back from there and noticed that the competition was still going on. I took away the arm sling and went back skating and that’s why the elbow stayed loose for good.
And you did that classic fakie kickflip down from some ten stairs with that hand?
Yeah, or maybe it wasn’t stairs but some gap, I’m not sure if I won that year or what year it was. I’ve seen a video clip from the competition and the elbow pops out from its’ place again while I’m landing the trick.
And while we were shooting the Control Teens-movie it tweaked five times in one day. When I got home I couldn’t even lift the cheese slicer on the table.
And those were the times when Control was doing great and people hyped about the next movie and things like that?
Yes, but my own head was going wrong already. I forgot the things why I actually had started the whole thing. Like I told earlier, things just turned so that I started to get pressure on things and being afraid of failing and other bad things went on at the same time…
Do you think that you being drunk became a kind of role in the skateboarding scene? There was these Golden Cap graphics and "drunken master" and "morphine slave" kind of things going on.
Well, the drinking itself wasn’t ever a thing I wanted to show or talk about. For me, it was just an obsession. Maybe it was others who built up that kind of stories around it. But I liked those graphics a lot. Then there were these other things I did while being drunk and they were all just things I did to get attention and acceptance.
Any cases you regret specially? You've done some crazy and destructive things during the years. For example, you hung out from the ferry that goes between Finland and Sweden in the middle of the ocean and did the same thing in an express train in full speed. And there's also some car driving you've done and all these are done while you were very drunk.
Of course they are all things that should not have happened but I can’t change them by hating myself because of them. I was just so sick then. The childhood problems just caused me the reactions I did. Afterwards I can see it very clearly. I was always the clown and the one who did whatever someone else told me to do in the groups and it was all just my way to get attention and acceptance that I didn’t experience at home.
Do you think that it is usually because of other problems that causes the heavy drinking and not the alcohol itself? Now that you are working among young people you must see people coming from very different kind of backgrounds.
I think that alcohol and all kind of intoxicant abuses are always symptoms of something else. With adults and young people as well. And quite often the problems behind there are quite similar. Sometimes I don’t know if should laugh or cry when I see how politics are reacting to this problem. Big words about the educational work ¬– which is of course very important also, but the basis to this whole thing come from people’s homes, from where you live and where you grow up.
_“A young person can be outsider at school, at home and everywhere, but still he comes skateboarding regularly. I claim this is something different from big team sports and that this is not how it goes there. And if this young person has the courage to take contact and trust me and I can somehow help him whatever the problem is, I must say I am really happy.”
But you're not preaching about this thing?
Absolutely not. I’m already privileged with my job because I can use my skateboarding background in it and I hope it will take bigger role in my future works also. Meeting these young people, encouraging them and helping them with their social skills, it is all something that I honestly want to do. And doing it while skateboarding is of course even more inspiring so I’m really motivated to this.
For two years now I’ve seen how first-timers start coming here and how they find their own thing from this and talking with their parents and hearing how important thing skateboarding can be to some people I have understood that this work is something really special. I can’t do anything but hope that I can continue this.
And the important thing is that young people can get a lot out from this. It can prevent loneliness and social exclusion. A young person can be outsider at school, at home and everywhere, but still he comes skateboarding regularly. I claim this is something different from big team sports and that this is not how it goes there. And if this young person has the courage to take contact and trust me and I can somehow help him whatever the problem is, I must say I am really happy
A boat to Sweden 1996
What about your own kids and their future, what kind of expectations do you have?
I will do my best to let them grow up in a good environment. We’ll see what the future will be. I don’t want to build up any extra safety nets or shelters for them even though I know I can’t handle all the things in the most rational way when it comes to bullying and things like that. That’s where my own craziness might show up quite fast. I just can’t accept the idea of not being able to react to those kinds of things where kids are suffering. It can’t be so.
Did you always have that craziness as part of your personality?
Yeah it’s been there all the time, and I know it’s there still. But nowadays I’m as calm as still water. But the fact is that all the negative things like anger, grudge and other shit are like poison to me and I shouldn’t be causing them to myself in any case.
Besides your raging I remember you were really intense with your skateboarding. I remember the kinky ledge in Pasila and you trying to krooked grind it all the way. For how long did it take? All day?
Haha, yeah, that’s a good one, I didn’t remember the whole thing. I’ve always thought I was lazy….
Lazy? You also went skating in the mornings before your work to practise your killer tricks and then you went back after work.
Okay, that’s true. I didn’t remember. Nowadays I’ve just thought that I was lazy because now I’m so eager to learn new tricks and to challenge myself more and more...
And to practise even more?
Yeah, but I mean back then I kind of stuck in to this certain model where I was doing the same things over and over again. It was kind of lame, doing the things I already knew I could do and not challenging myself as much I should have. There was this fear of failing that had sneaked in to my mind already.
But I did have that idea – and I still do – that it’s not enough to land a trick only once. Why not do it thirty times or a hundred times? That’s how to reach the certainty in it.
Did you land that krooked grind down the ledge
Have you ever thought that you should've gone back to do it?
Yeah, at least now that you ask it. I remember the day and how I went to get me new Indy’s from the shop and then straight to the spot and started trying it. It took me so long that the front truck was totally done after that. The axle showing after one session… Of course it would’ve been nice to land it… Maybe I can try it now in 2014… For CTRL and for the old times.
How did you end up skating in the Control team?
I had a deal with this shop called “Skate Import” and a shoe sponsor from Aarni (the guy who imports Etnies to Finland). Hessu just came to me and gave me one of those Control boards to try it and after that I just hopped in to the team. There wasn’t that much hesitating in it. I also skipped the shoe sponsor deal after the head of the shop Union5 and DC-Finland gave me a kind of deal I couldn’t say no to.
Any sponsors before these?
“Skate Import” (the shop) gave me stuff to sell when I moved to Helsinki and from there I could buy with a discount or got some stuff for free for myself. It was because of some contacts with someone from Savo. Maybe Varonen?
What's the difference between skateboarding now at the age of 38 to what it was before?
It’s all done just for me. No stress about anything except my own head. And whenever you can land a new trick at this age it’s just amazing. And it looks like it’s possible every now and then. That keeps me motivated.
What is your best video part or the one that you're most satisfied with?
I don’t think there is any “best” one because the whole term is so repulsive. But the first to come in mind is “Paranormal Activity”. In that I got some tricks I had never done before but I think the whole thing was just too long. Those were the good old days. We were filming with Peke and Toma and it was just before Control was born. Sisu is also good but I haven’t seen it for so long I can’t say what’s in it. The “Back to basics” made by Jape is also a good one even it is only from skate parks and indoor places. That’s from the time when I had been sober for couple of years already and started to get the skateboarding back again. There are some new tricks in it also.
Paranormal Activity (second edition) Videokredits: Projekti Päällä
Let's get back to this drinking problem for a while. Can you describe your drinking behavior and how did it differ from a so called normal drinking? What are the differences?
A healthy person can stop when he wants. Alcoholic can’t. A healthy person can drink 12 beers while an alcoholic starts to worry about where to get more after the sixth one.
These are just some examples from the drinking aspect but the real problem is in the emotional side that is quite hard to explain to anyone who is not an alcoholic. Even the alcoholic can’t understand it while he is drinking.
When I had my first breakdown at the age of 25 including the detoxification, hospital periods, medicals and so on, I had the first possibility to take part to a support group and I remember thinking about that I am so shy and scared that I could never talk about myself like that to others and also I thought that my situation wasn’t even that bad.
So I just lied to myself about the problem. I thought I could survive by myself even though I had just been drinking for a month in a row and been on a medical detoxification so that they could put me in a mental hospital twice because of my self-destructiveness. And after all this I still continued for seven more years running against the wall before I understood my weakness. And I think there’s no need to tell all the shit that happened during those years.
Okay, so tell us some of your favorite skaters?
Well, I like so many different kind of pushers there’s no specific name to say. But I like a lot of the Finnish scene and I’m kind of curious to know all the new things that are going on in here.
But you're not saying any names?
No, otherwise I’m going to call you back tomorrow and change them and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night because I would be thinking about everyone who should be mentioned and worrying about who I have forgot…(laughing)
Not saying anyone?
Well if I think about the whole industry and the teams and all that I must say the Girls’ team and the skaters in it is the first to come in mind. But like I said I like also other kinds of skateboarders, like those who goes fast and jumps off the roofs and stuff like that. Fast and hard…crazy stuff (laughing). There’s so many out there I shouldn’t have said even these.
Yeah, we got some names finally.
Yeah they are there of course. And I respect those older dudes a lot because I understand the work they have to do to get some footage at that age. Being older than me and doing a full part is something I really appreciate.
How about the skateboarding scene nowadays in general, do you like what's going on there?
Yeah, it’s really gone crazy in many ways but I do like it. But what is the most important thing is that you can make your stuff in so many different ways and still make it good so you don’t have to imitate anyone or anything to get a great boost for yourself.
I wouldn’t go there hammering and killing myself cause I know I can break myself with smaller stuff as well…
Well, it was just a week ago when you called me about that double set you were thinking about. Having the tricks already in mind.
Ah, yeah, those doubles at Stockmann…(laughing), I have a couple of things in mind yeah but I’m not gonna force myself to it… I was just thinking it would be nice to see if I can focus on that enough for a couple of tricks… But like I said, it’s not something I have to do, is it?
And you have also set this age limit for yourself, up to 42. What's this about?
Yeah, I don’t know where I had this idea… It’s just the thing that I’m once again in a good shape and being able to skate and being excited about all these things we’ve been talking about with you also and stuff like that… it’s like I’m wondering about what I still have to offer. The biggest goal is to get a good video part done. But it’s so hard to get footage from the spots out there, it’s nothing like skating indoors. I have stuff in mind I would like to film but let’s see if it’s ever going to happen.
So is it gonna be the opening part for the next CTRL movie? Or the last part?
Haha, maybe they’re gonna put me to the ending scene rolling under the texts…
Come on, looking at the material you have from the last couple of years there's nothing to worry about.
Yeah but it’s still so different doing it outdoors than inside. But it would be a big thing for me to get that part done.
Yeah, but if it would be easy it wouldn't be fun anymore?
Great. We're waiting for the next movie.
And here comes the last question.
Do you think that positive thinking can increase positive things in your life?
Yeah, this idea of positive thinking is something I learned during my sobriety. I had some harder times after the first two years of sobriety so I went to a therapy for a year and a half. That’s where I found this big thing. The therapist told me all kinds of positive things that I already had in my life and I was saying to all of them with the same thing: “But still…”.
So I was pulling those positive things in to that negative circle I was used to live in. It was a way I had learned to use, a way to get back to that bullshit again and again. I had my hardships and among those I wanted to get back. Only by learning to understand this reaction I could see things differently. Of course, I have my bad days still, but nowadays I can react to them very quickly and get to the very basics so that I can get rid of them. Jogging, fresh air and other activity, it doesn’t have to be that big thing – just being positive and having fun.
But skateboarding is still the number one thing in your life? How about the other things in your everyday life?
My son Leevi is now at school and my work is mostly in the evening time, so there’s a big hassle to get schedules done so that I can see my kids enough. I take my free days in the middle of the week so that I can stay home with the kids. Otherwise I would be away all the time and that would be a big contradictory to my profession… If I would work there with the kids as an adult who is supposed to show a good example to them and at the same time being away from my own family all the time. In my work, I’ve seen so many cases where the parents are away too much and the kids are missing them so badly. It can be seen from them very clearly. But skating is so important to me right now that it’s almost too much.
And the last thing - to say something positive about drinking, did you have any good times back then? Did alcohol do any good things for you?
Of course there are good memories involved in there also, but it would be wrong to start bringing them up because the hell I had to go through was a way too bad thing to happen to anyone and it took so long. Also the provoking and making drinking look something fancy is a bit too old thing by now I think. But everyone can do exactly how they feel. I understand it very well. I just hope that the younger people who see and read these kinds of things would understand that it is not fun in any case when you start losing yourself to that disease. And I’m not here to teach anything to anyone or preach, because I’m a totally the wrong person to do so. Everyone makes their own decisions if possible.
Ok. Thank you for this. Now you can say whatever you like. To thank someone or not to.
Thank you Valtteri for doing this, it was a great thing.
Thank you Lamina (Pete), Switchstance (Jape), and the biggest thank you to Kaisa for everything.
P.S. Hello kids, kisses.
I have a family, I am sober, I’m going to school and getting me a profession and I can still skate. What more can I ask from my life? I AM VERY GREATFUL. THE END.
HAKKI BACK IN CTRL 2014 - VIDEO
Text and interview + new photos: Valtteri Kivelä.
Thank you Ale for old graphics and stuff.
Check out Projekti Päällä for great videos!
Believe in these youths. More to come soon.