Helsinki

Finland is home to some of the world’s best snowboarders. I’m not sure how it happens, but each generation of riders coming out of this country continues to show the world how much farther snowboarding can go. That, my friends, is the reason I went there: to shoot some Finnish talent in their element-riding rails in Helsinki.

Originally, the plan was to catch Eero Ettala and Heikki Sorsa before they took off traveling for the winter and document them starting their season in Finland. Accompanying me on the trip were moviemakers Brad Kremer and Mike McEntire of Mack Dawg Productions. We also brought along American riders Aaron Biittner, Seth Huot, and Scotty Arnold, and JP Walker joined us a few days later. However, as our group was literally in transit to Finland to meet up with Eero and Heikki, Eero fell riding a rail, which caused a nasty blood clot in his leg. Just like that, he went from being our main film focus for the trip to our tour guide.

Yankees

This was Biittner’s first time overseas-add to that the fact that he’d never met any of us until we were sitting in the San Francisco airport. He’s a mellow cat, though, and seemed to keep his cool on all levels of the trip.

Scotty has been plenty of places, but he is still excited all of the time about everything-the buildings, girls, some spot he wishes he could come back to and skate, girls, and more girls. The kid can get amped up about anything.

Seth doesn’t tend to leave Utah a lot during the winter. He can get everything done at home, so why leave? He said Finland was a “goldmine” and will probably return if the conditions are right.

JP is like a ninja. He kind of came in late, killed a few spots, and then got worked. He got bucked to his hip and ended up hanging for a few days before he rode anything else.

Places

Eero and Heikki drove us to all of the potential spots in Helsinki, and there seemed to be ten rails in between each of the ones they considered good enough to shoot. The second part of our trip took us to Jyvaskyla, a city to the north of Helsinki. We were without guides here and still managed to find a ton of spots. On top of that, people generally didn’t care or weren’t interested in what we were doing. When we did end up getting busted a few times, it was much mellower than your average get-yelled-at, “I’m calling the cops!” type bust.

The Bust

The bust factor is low to nonexistent in Finland. It’s almost like we were invisible half the time. We sessioned one rail for a couple hours while people in the apartment building behind it watched. One man was on the telephone and smoking the entire time. Another window had a couple just looking in on the action every now and then.

At a different spot, Brad was shooting from the back of the van, when a woman told him that he was parked illegally. He explained that he was American. She replied, “In Finland, it’s illegal to park like this, but since you’re filming, you can stay right here.”

One time, we had a security guard start lecturing us in Finnish. Heikki started talking and smoothed things over with him. When he explained the story to us, it went like this:

Guard: “Do you have permission to do this?”

Heikki: “No, I didn’t think we needed any.”

Guard: “That’s okay, but I’ll need to write down your name in case anything is ruined.”

Heikki: “Heikki Sorsa.”

Guard: “Oh, you’re the snowboard guy. Go ahead and keep riding.”

Again we were told to leave while sessioning a rail. “There are cars driving here,” the man told us. When we promised him we would clean everything up, he said, “Okay, you can stay.”

Finally, we were told to “go home” by an old man at one spot. We returned later and a woman gave us permission to stay based on the fact that we were making a movie. Eventually, the cops came because the same old man had called them. Even though they made us leave, one of the policemen said to me, “I wish I could tell you about some different spots, but I don”t know any.”

Food

I’ve got one word for you: “Hesburger.” Hesburger is like McDonald’s-only it’s Finnish and tastier. Generally, I like to look for local cuisine whenever I’m traveling, and this trip was no exception. But I grew to love the “Hes” out of peer pressure. I’d estimate that we ate there for around 80 percent of our meals.