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Perspectives : The Halldór Helgason Interview

Interview: Joel Muzzey

Captain Harold and his filthy mustache have been on the couch, the gimp scooter, and the stationary bike all summer. But soon he'll be back on his feet, his new video Dayumm with Sage Kotsenburg will drop, and life will be back to normal. Whatever normal means for a longhaired Icelandic metalhead pervert who claims, "I had no idea what the hell I was doing," when he broke his ankle trying a triple cork backside 16 on a 100-foot jump.

So how's the ankle doing?

I actually just did an X-ray, and it looks like the bone is healing up nicely. One more month, and I get an MRI to make sure everything is good with it. I broke the Talus bone—the reason why that sucks is because it's a bone in the center of the ankle and it gets very little blood flow. Most bones take a month or so to heal; this one takes like three months. So, I'm not allowed to stand on it until after three months.

Is there hardware in there?

Yeah, usually with this break you need a surgery, so I have two screws in there. It was so random—usually I tear ligaments or get knocked out. I've tweaked my ankle like 3 times skating and snowboarding and messed up the ligaments; that takes forever to heal. I was actually hoping that I just broke my ankle this time, so recovery would be quicker. But of course I have to break the most annoying small bone.

He's not scared of a gaping crevice but a crevasse, that's different. Planting in Saas Fe. Photo: Sani Alibabic
He's not scared of a gaping crevice but a crevasse, that's different. Planting in Saas Fe. Photo: Sani Alibabic

From the video stuff I've seen, it looks like you had a great winter other than the ankle.

For sure, but it was kind of a weird winter with the snow coming so late. There was pretty much no snow in Europe until the beginning of January. So like, at the resorts in the Alps and in Iceland, there was nothing. Usually we start filming street in Iceland in November, but our first trip of the year was to Japan in January. With a start that late it makes you kind of stressed because usually you have a bunch of rail stuff already done by Christmas.

The Japan trip was for rails not powder?

Yeah, and people think we're stupid for that, but it was sick actually. Three weeks in Japan—it was so fun. That trip was me, Sage, Max Warbington, and Teddy Koo. Teddy is the man. Japan is usually tough for street rails because if the people see something they don't understand, they just X-up their arms, like No. Don't do it. They are super nice people and friendly, but they follow the rules. Luckily we had Teddy there—he speaks Japanese so he could actually talk to people and help us get the spots. But still, we got kicked out of so many places.

I heard you say you rode the first pillows of your life this year? Really?

 Yeah, that's true. Usually I've only ridden pow for like a week or ten days a year, which means that we just go up, build a jump, send it off the jump and hopefully—hopefully—land something. Then we just do that for the entire week. So, I've never gotten to enjoy pow for myself really. This year we did like three weeks of pow riding, so we actually got to ride a lot more and cruise—not just jump. It was so much mellower with the setups—just look for natural hits, pat-it-down, hit it and keep going.

Sage K. and Haldeez. One of many shut-downs on the streets of Japan. Photo: Joe Carlino
Sage K. and Haldeez. One of many shut-downs on the streets of Japan. Photo: Joe Carlino

Do you see yourself going more in this direction?

To be honest, I think so. I mean, I am always most stoked on street riding and that's my main thing, but I can see myself for sure getting more into pow from now on. It's all new, so there's so much to learn, you know.

Do you feel like it's getting harder to come up with street stuff that stands out, or is it just getting harder in general?

 For sure it's getting more and more difficult to stand out—in any kind of riding. Everything has progressed so fast, and it's pretty crazy now, but I think it just comes back to creativity. There's always going to be ways to ride things differently or look at spots differently to come up with something fresh; it doesn't always have to be crazy.

Everyone remembers that roof-gap you backflipped at the end of the Nike movie—it's massive. Are you still up for doing stuff that sketchy and that size? 

For sure, man. I'm still trying to go up; I'm not chilling. Like, I'm not easily satisfied with my riding. If I do something it either has to be different, new, or bigger than I've done before. Like if I do a frontside board pretzel on a double-kink and I've already done it on a triple-kink, it's not really gonna mean anything to me, honestly. For me to get pumped, it usually has to be something new or different. It's getting a little bit harder for sure.

Cranking some Japanese speed metal. Photo: Cyril Mueller
Cranking some Japanese speed metal. Photo: Cyril Mueller

Yeah, now you have to front-board pretzel a four kink.

Yeah, exactly. But there's always a way to find something new—it could be in a line or weirder or something, you know?

How did the Dayumm movie come together?

Sage and I have been talking about it for like three years—just wanting to make something happen, and we finally ended up getting it through. It was really fun getting to spend the whole winter riding with Sage—he's the man. I kind of felt like I needed a change, too. I was getting kind of stuck doing the same stuff with the same people and I just wanted to get a new inspiration and ride with new people. It worked; I got so pumped on changing it up. I think it's important for me too. I don't want to get too comfortable. Otherwise I just get lazy and think I can do whatever, whenever. With this project there was a bit more pressure—good pressure—and it was super fun.

And you rode with some younger kids this year, too.

 Yeah, Max Warbington, Nils Mindnich was with us riding pow in Austria. Benny Milam, this youngster from Minnesota, I think he's like 18 and he's so insanely good. Minnesota was a really cool trip as well.

You always get knocked out. How many times this season and do you ever think you'll end up with CTE?

Actually, I finally went a whole season without getting knocked out. So pumped. Since I started snowboarding when I was nine years old, I've had like ten concussions. They were all kind of mellow—well, no concussion is mellow, but the only really crazy one I had is when I got knocked out at X Games that year.

Are you mellowing out now that you've reached the ripe old age of 25?

I don't think I've mellowed out too much, but I try to listen to my body a bit more, and maybe I'm a little smarter with stuff—knowing when partying is a good idea and when it's not. I got this Golden Rule from Iikka Backstrom when I was riding for DC. He told me, "Never put partying before snowboarding, and you'll be all good." I've always followed that rule; it super easy and it makes a lot of sense. So thanks for that, Iikka.

How is the Helgason business empire doing?

It's going good. We started Lobster in 2011, and it's still going so we're really pumped on that, Switchback, too. We started that one in 2012, then we had Hoppipolla Headwear, but we stopped doing that. The name wasn't really killing it, and we had it based in Norway which is the most expensive place to have anything. So, that wasn't really working out, and we were just over it to be honest. Then we have 7/9/13 belts, and now I just started Atrip.

Clothing and outerwear.

Yeah. Atrip actually came about because my brother signed with Horsefeathers, which is a clothing company here in Europe. Once he was on there, we started talking, and they were open to starting up a new thing as well. So yeah, I got this crazy opportunity to start a new brand with those guys, and they know what they're doing; they've been in this business for over ten years. When the opportunity came up I knew I had to do it. They were like, "Let's come up with a name and a theme and the kind of clothes we want to make"—I pretty much got to do all that stuff. It's cool; I look for inspiration and stuff I like, then I work with the designers on making something of our own.

It seems like kind of a rough time start something new.

Yeah, in snowboarding everybody is always talking about rough years, and it was definitely a tough year to launch a new brand, but I also thought it was a good thing. Everybody is complaining and blah, blah, blah negative about everything. To me, it's the perfect time for something new and fresh.

That's no mustache, that's a flavor saver. Photo: Cyril Mueller
That's no mustache, that’s a flavor saver. Photo: Cyril Mueller

But as a company owner you must feel the squeeze.

 Yeah, it's a really hard business to be in. Like, if you want to be a millionaire, snowboarding is the wrong business. For us, it's not about that at all. We just slowly want to grow the stuff and see what happens. We just have this thing where like, as long as we don't go below zero, we're good. The whole thing about being your own boss and making your own stuff—it's cool and it's totally different than just being a small part of a massive company, like Nike for example. It's like all the hard work you put into it, you're gonna get it back.

And so what else are you up to until the season starts?

Just rehabbing my ankle, really. I just started today actually, and it feels so good just to be able to move again. But my leg is like a toothpick. It's so weird. In one month, it's completely gone, no muscles left.

Are you gonna be training to try for Big Air in the 2018 Olympics?

Hell no. I thought I wanted to go last time, and I tried, but it was honestly the worst time in my snowboard career. I remember doing those FIS contests and trying to qualify. I always felt like I was betraying myself somehow. I wasn't pumped at all.

Check out more about Halldor here.