By ZoࢠOksanen

Just what is it with those Finns? They live tucked away near the Arctic in a small country most Europeans can’t place on the map, have no real mountains, only come out to ride after dark, and then just turn up and stomp all over the global world of snowboarding.
Eero Ettala, the latest Finn in a long line of snowboarders who have impressed us all, has spent the last few years steadily and unassumingly honing his skills-whether it be in the park, in contests, or on 43-stair rails-to a point of near technical perfection that is forcing us all to stand up and pay the man some serious attention. He is a fast-talking, fast-thinking Duracell of a being-just add some Finlandia vodka and watch the show.
After a textbook winter of contest wins and the closing part in the new Mack Dawg movie, Follow Me Around, he’s fast becoming the latest reason people are overheard saying: “Dammit, those Finns are good.”
If there’s one snowboarder you know you can get out of bed at seven a.m. during the summer to do an interview, it’s Eero. He is “trying to get up early every day,” anyway. Eero starts each day with a purpose. Whether it’s to spend all day skating or plan how to get his film company to build him a jump that will allow him to pull off a double backside 1080 rodeo, he has a plan. Little is left to chance in Eero’s world, which perhaps explains why he has managed to stomp some of the best tricks the snowboard world has seen without suffering a single injury.
If not chance, then what? Eero says, “If I see someone do a new trick, I instantly start thinking if I could do it or not, or if it is easier for me switch. I usually can do every trick I can see in my head. I might just wake up some morning and be like, ‘Holy shit, this is how you do that trick.’ Planning is half the job, you know. I think it’s all about knowing your limits and knowing what you are able to do on your snowboard … just really thinking about stuff minimizes the risks of getting injured. I don’t go headfirst into things that I’m not sure of. I wanna be 100 percent.”

Eero is all about focus. He is one determined young Finn who knows what he’s got to do to make it happen and ain’t no one gonna stop him: “I just think that it’s nonsense to do something just to be out there. If I do something, I try to do my best and be the best at it. I am sure in the first place my parents had a big role, ’cause they would always be supportive and tell me whatever I did I would make it far if I just put my mind to it.” Judge for yourself, but Eero seems to be doing a pretty good job of that. This season alone, he locked down a 46-wooden-stair nosepress and a gnarly 43-stair backside lipslide, as well as nailing the double backside 1080 rodeo I mentioned earlier. Not bad, right?
You may have noticed Eero’s name creeping its way into your consciousness for a few years now. Or you may even have been confused by the fact that there were two Eeros with strange last names to hit it big at the same time. If you were, you weren’t alone.
“About twenty percent of the photos I had in magazines in the early days would have Eero Niemela’s name on them. People still get pretty confused in the States-some people come up to me and ask if I’m Eero Niemela and if I was in a Mack Dawg movie, so I guess they still have a hard time remembering the last name. I think it might actually help that we are two same-named guys-maybe people notice us a bit more that way, because they really have to think which guy is which.”

Along with the pressure of distinguishing himself from another extremely talented Eero, our man has risen in the shadow of some great Finnish riders, from Joni Makinen and Sebu Kuhlberg to more recent household names such as Joni Malmi and Jussi Oksanen. But this doesn’t seem to bother him, either: “I definitely think that things are easier for a Finnish guy than for a central European guy. It seems that companies really like Scandavian riders. I don’t really get pressure for following the other great Finns-I think every rider is just different and everybody rides differently. I think it’s just easier to do your own thing and not think about others.”
Of course, being one of the few riders who managed to graduate from school at the same time as his career was skyrocketing, Eero knows that Finland isn’t officially a part of Scandinavia: “Ha ha, yeah I know. I was just thinking about that, but I thought nobody knew or cared!”

Finns are a tough breed, and if you had to swap an adolescence of powder weekends in Mammoth for solid ice kickers on 150-foot hills in the dark, you would have a better idea of why.
Eero says, “In my early days, the resorts wouldn’t even have any parks built, we would just build some small kickers on the side of the slope. What sucks about Finland’s riding is that it might be four days cold and then one day warm and then get cold again, so everything can get really icy. And the hills we ride on are very small, like Talma-we’d hit over 50 jumps in Talma in two hours, and in the Alps that might be more like four jumps. That must suck, actually, but they’ve got the pow and we don’t. We get to ride so many runs that we get tired in two hours, and it’s all about night riding, but I love it. Night riding has this feeling to it. I wish I could ride more at night in the States as well. But I guess it motivates you a lot when you’re used to riding shit and then you finally get to ride good stuff-then you ride so much better.”

One thing that definitely isn’t “shit” about Finland is the rails. With Helsinki establishing itself as something of a rail mecca for riders from around the globe, you’ll find Eero hitting every rideable piece of metal and concrete in town-in subzero temperatures-as soon as the first snow falls. You may not have considered Eero a “rail guy” before, but that’s what is so refreshing about him. Eero kicks ass on rails and could kick the ass of many a rail thug whose image speaks more than their talent.
“Rail riding is just a fun and a good way to start my season,” he says. “Finland is known for its good rails, and it’s easy for me to film here ’cause I know where a lot of spots are. I think it sucks when a rider’s image goes before the riding, but that’s just the way it is. I can’t change it. Again, everybody does it their own way. I don’t wanna tell people how things should be done.”

After last season’s full-on rail action, it’s hard to imagine how Eero’s going to step it up, but he’s already hatching a plan: “Next season will be a tough one. But maybe getting a bit more technical on decent-sized rails would be the right direction. It’s getting hard to find bigger rails that are better than the ones I did this past year. Maybe I can upgrade some tricks on those same rails as well.”

If you’ve seen Eero in action, you’ll already know that he can lay it down smooth in the park as well. The double backside rodeo 1080 he pulled off on a step-up park jump at Mt. Hood this year is just one in a deep bag of tricks he owns. He dials in switch double backflips when he wants a contest win, such as last year’s Toyota Big Air in Japan and TTR’s Brazil Big Air, and it’s now becoming his signature trick. He can do almost every variation of every trick, and he can do them well enough to line him up with the coveted last part in Mack Dawg’s Follow Me Around this year.
“It feels unreal,” says Eero. “I didn’t believe it until I was holding the DVD in my hand. I’ve never had a last part before, so that means a lot to me. It is sick, for sure, to have footage in a major movie like Mack Dawg’s; so many people will see it, and they definitely have some of the best riders out there. It’s funny to say this, but I don’t even think about the past season too much anymore. I have my eyes on the upcoming season already.”
The man is focused.
Eero’s break into the filming world came with Standard Films in 2003, and he made the switch to the mighty Mack just two seasons back. His parts in White Balance and Lost In Transition were already a testament to the rising talent of the rider, but the move has worked out well for him: “It was really hard. Both companies had good things: Standard had always been loyal to me and they were the first big movie production to film me. Mack Dawg had more of my type of riding in the movies, and I had more friends in the crew. But in the end, the decision wasn’t really mine. Sponsors have a big role in these kinds of decisions. I am really happy with the way things went. Mack Dawg has been a great opportunity for me to show what I can do on my snowboard.”

A perfectionist in his work, Eero is just starting to realize that his parts don’t have to nail every move known to man to be good-(although he’d prefer they did). He says, “One of the bad things about filming 16mm is that you don’t get to see the shots until a couple of months after doing the trick. If you realize that the trick you thought was supposed to be good isn’t good enough, there’s no way you can go and do the same thing again. But I realized this year that it doesn’t take every trick in the book to make a good video part. You just to have something new to stoke people out.”
Coupled with this progressive thinking has come a notable progression in Eero’s style over the last couple of years. Again, not a conscious decision, but another thing that’s helping to create an all-round rider who’s challenging the best of them: “I think that the better you can do the tricks, the easier it is to style ‘em. Just learning to snowboard better helps your style.”

But does learning to snowboard better include expanding beyond the realms of park, rails, and contests? Are we going to see video parts in the future with Eero hitting big cliffs and taking over the backcountry?
Eero says, “Cliff drops seem really fun to me. I just hit my first real cliff last year at Tahoe, and it’s fun times. But all in all, I am pretty scared of the backcountry because of avalanches. Crashing on a rail is different than getting caught in an avalanche. I feel so much better knowing that if I get hurt, it was my fault and not an avalanche that happened for no reason.”

So if not digging pits in Alaska, what about more contests in North America such as the X Games or the U.S. Open?
Eero says, “The U.S. Open is on pretty bad dates for filming, but the X Games is something I really wanna do one of these years. That’s something I would watch when I was kid-that’s the biggest reason why I wanna go.”
Despite the fact that he could podium at a lot of the major slopestyles, filming remains the key focus for Eero for the upcoming season: “I think I will have the same routine as I have the past four years: do some contest stuff in the fall before the filming season starts, and then also do a couple of really important contests when we are already filming. But I try to separate these two things. As soon as the filming is on, I compete as little as possible. Filming is my number-one priority.”

Finns like to be around other Finns. Eero is no exception and is rarely seen without sidekick Heikki Sorsa throughout the winter. They own a truck together, film together, share hotel rooms, and most likely spend hours naked in the sauna together-the number-one pastime of all Finnish folk, for those of you who haven’t shared in the delight.
Eero says, “We really have fun riding together ’cause we both progress a lot on those days. And traveling with Heikki is so easygoing, he’s a great guy. It is so cool to have someone sitting next to you when there’s a fifteen-hour drive ahead.”
Finnish boys can sometimes freak out their U.S. counterparts with their “friendly” behavior. I’m curious, is it the result of spending half their lives buck-naked in the hot house together?
“I think so! I think Finnish guys are more open to each ot Films in 2003, and he made the switch to the mighty Mack just two seasons back. His parts in White Balance and Lost In Transition were already a testament to the rising talent of the rider, but the move has worked out well for him: “It was really hard. Both companies had good things: Standard had always been loyal to me and they were the first big movie production to film me. Mack Dawg had more of my type of riding in the movies, and I had more friends in the crew. But in the end, the decision wasn’t really mine. Sponsors have a big role in these kinds of decisions. I am really happy with the way things went. Mack Dawg has been a great opportunity for me to show what I can do on my snowboard.”

A perfectionist in his work, Eero is just starting to realize that his parts don’t have to nail every move known to man to be good-(although he’d prefer they did). He says, “One of the bad things about filming 16mm is that you don’t get to see the shots until a couple of months after doing the trick. If you realize that the trick you thought was supposed to be good isn’t good enough, there’s no way you can go and do the same thing again. But I realized this year that it doesn’t take every trick in the book to make a good video part. You just to have something new to stoke people out.”
Coupled with this progressive thinking has come a notable progression in Eero’s style over the last couple of years. Again, not a conscious decision, but another thing that’s helping to create an all-round rider who’s challenging the best of them: “I think that the better you can do the tricks, the easier it is to style ‘em. Just learning to snowboard better helps your style.”

But does learning to snowboard better include expanding beyond the realms of park, rails, and contests? Are we going to see video parts in the future with Eero hitting big cliffs and taking over the backcountry?
Eero says, “Cliff drops seem really fun to me. I just hit my first real cliff last year at Tahoe, and it’s fun times. But all in all, I am pretty scared of the backcountry because of avalanches. Crashing on a rail is different than getting caught in an avalanche. I feel so much better knowing that if I get hurt, it was my fault and not an avalanche that happened for no reason.”

So if not digging pits in Alaska, what about more contests in North America such as the X Games or the U.S. Open?
Eero says, “The U.S. Open is on pretty bad dates for filming, but the X Games is something I really wanna do one of these years. That’s something I would watch when I was kid-that’s the biggest reason why I wanna go.”
Despite the fact that he could podium at a lot of the major slopestyles, filming remains the key focus for Eero for the upcoming season: “I think I will have the same routine as I have the past four years: do some contest stuff in the fall before the filming season starts, and then also do a couple of really important contests when we are already filming. But I try to separate these two things. As soon as the filming is on, I compete as little as possible. Filming is my number-one priority.”

Finns like to be around other Finns. Eero is no exception and is rarely seen without sidekick Heikki Sorsa throughout the winter. They own a truck together, film together, share hotel rooms, and most likely spend hours naked in the sauna together-the number-one pastime of all Finnish folk, for those of you who haven’t shared in the delight.
Eero says, “We really have fun riding together ’cause we both progress a lot on those days. And traveling with Heikki is so easygoing, he’s a great guy. It is so cool to have someone sitting next to you when there’s a fifteen-hour drive ahead.”
Finnish boys can sometimes freak out their U.S. counterparts with their “friendly” behavior. I’m curious, is it the result of spending half their lives buck-naked in the hot house together?
“I think so! I think Finnish guys are more open to each other than Americans are to each other!” says Eero.
But no need to worry about Eero-he’s a one-woman man, and girlfriend Lilli is one of the many reasons he’s not likely to move permanently Stateside like many other Finnish riders. But working and traveling in the States for several months of the year isn’t easy for European riders, and it means having to live out of a truck/bag while not seeing friends, family, and their ladies back home.
He says, “It is definitely hard for both of us, and especially for her, ’cause I know just being at home waiting for someone isn’t the easiest thing. I travel and see new stuff; my time actually goes pretty fast. But she totally understands what it takes to do my job and is okay with all my traveling. She knows this is what I wanna do. We just talk on the phone and e-mail while I am gone.”
And that’s not all that sucks, he says, “It sucks to have a car and sleds in the States knowing that you only get to use ‘em about three months a year. And storing it for nine months isn’t the cheapest thing, either!”
The upside to the nomadic lifestyle of European pros is that there’s no distraction from getting the job done. Eero says, “When I come over to the States, I know my time is limited. I know I have three months, and I’ll try to make the best out of it. It makes me want to work harder. If I’d film the whole season in Finland-if that were even possible because there’s no pow-I’d get less done than by traveling around.”
Things are really looking up for Eero lately, and one major confirmation of his status among the big boys is his pro-model lineup. Not only has Nitro offered him a pro-model board in several lengths, but also his own boot and binding, too. And it’s great, because it’s allowed him to feature one of his biggest loves on the graphic-burgers.
Eero explains, “I love burgers. Junk food is just so fast and easy. I’m the worst guy at making my own food. I always feel like I’m in a hurry, so I just eat something fast, and burgers taste good! My pro-model board comes in four lengths, and one of them has Coke, one has a burger, one has fries, and one has a bigger burger for feeding the big ones! Together, it’s a whole meal.”

It doesn’t take a lot to make Eero smile, and he already has more than he ever dreamed of: “Everything from this point is just a bonus. I’m not really into fancy things. I’d rather live cheaply and enjoy watching the other guys spend! It’s great to see how older guys really got something out of snowboarding. I’d hate myself if I didn’t have anything left after snowboarding.”

The way things are going, it doesn’t seem Eero will have to worry about that for a long time. Truth is, you can no longer overlook the talented Finnish motormouth, so we’ll give him one last word: “I have so much to say, 24 hours a day isn’t enough!”




h other than Americans are to each other!” says Eero.
But no need to worry about Eero-he’s a one-woman man, and girlfriend Lilli is one of the many reasons he’s not likely to move permanently Stateside like many other Finnish riders. But working and traveling in the States for several months of the year isn’t easy for European riders, and it means having to live out of a truck/bag while not seeing friends, family, and their ladies back home.
He says, “It is definitely hard for both of us, and especially for her, ’cause I know just being at home waiting for someone isn’t the easiest thing. I travel and see new stuff; my time actually goes pretty fast. But she totally understands what it takes to do my job and is okay with all my traveling. She knows this is what I wanna do. We just talk on the phone and e-mail while I am gone.”
And that’s not all that sucks, he says, “It sucks to have a car and sleds in the States knowing that you only get to use ‘em about three months a year. And storing it for nine months isn’t the cheapest thing, either!”
The upside to the nomadic lifestyle of Euuropean pros is that there’s no distraction from getting the job done. Eero says, “When I come over to the States, I know my time is limited. I know I have three months, and I’ll try to make the best out of it. It makes me want to work harder. If I’d film the whole season in Finland-if that were even possible because there’s no pow-I’d get less done than by traveling around.”
Things are really looking up for Eero lately, and one major confirmation of his status among the big boys is his pro-model lineup. Not only has Nitro offered him a pro-model board in several lengths, but also his own boot and binding, too. And it’s great, because it’s allowed him to feature one of his biggest loves on the graphic-burgers.
Eero explains, “I love burgers. Junk food is just so fast and easy. I’m the worst guy at making my own food. I always feel like I’m in a hurry, so I just eat something fast, and burgers taste good! My pro-model board comes in four lengths, and one of them has Coke, one has a burger, one has fries, and one has a bigger burger for feeding the big ones! Together, it’s a whole meal.”

It doesn’t take a lot to make Eero smile, and he already has more than he ever dreamed of: “Everything from this point is just a bonus. I’m not really into fancy things. I’d rather live cheaply and enjoy watching the other guys spend! It’s great to see how older guys really got something out of snowboarding. I’d hate myself if I didn’t have anything left after snowboarding.”

The way things are going, it doesn’t seem Eero will have to worry about that for a long time. Truth is, you can no longer overlook the talented Finnish motormouth, so we’ll give him one last word: “I have so much to say, 24 hours a day isn’t enough!”