Terje Häkonsen

By Jon Foster

Terje looks good. His lifestyle of late shows¿lots of exercise, healthy eating, lots of stretching, new responsibilities, less parties. He has arranged his schedule to deal with some new priorities. One being a son, who Terje is fully committed to being around and being a positive influence on. He is focused on being a good father. Terje doesn’t seem to understand why people want to know about his personal life. “Where have I gone? Nowhere. I’m doing things every day.” And he doesn’t seem to accept a difference between doing things in the limelight and doing things that the media doesn’t see. He refuses to agree that fame or people constantly looking to him for innovation is any great pressure for him. “That’s their own problem.” Whatever pressures he has on his own performance comes from within.

No matter how much Terje doesn’t like to address his fame and influence in snowboarding, it is a fact that no one has made more of an impact on the sport of snowboarding in the last eight years. He took the marker and raised it a dozen notches. Here was a sixteen year old knocking off the best U.S. freestyle pipe riders. This was the early 90s when thought all Euros were hard-boot carvers, and wasn’t Scandinavia that place where it stayed dark all the time? He then went on to blow doors with his powerful, fluid, and technical all-mountain riding. How many great riders have been heavily influenced by Terje? I don’t know the exact number but it’s a lot. Many don’t know of his sense of humor. He can be quick and sarcastic or mellow, friendly, sincere, and free with his thoughts. Or he can mumble almost incoherently, or not say much at all, grunting a possible answer, or giving a blank stare.

On a Friday in November we sat on a hammock near the ocean. It was raining and slightly cool. Terje was speaking clearly.

What have you been doing lately? What’s been going on?

What do you mean, lately?

The last year, season.

Well, I’ve been snowboarding, taking care of my kid, been reading, cooking, cleaning, making lots of phone calls¿normal life¿playing soccer. I would say a lot of things. I’ve been changing diapers, surfing, stretching; I’ve been traveling.

People ask because they haven’t seen you snowboarding as much lately. Have your priorities changed?

Last year I was really busy doing other things, I bruised my heel, I had some inflammation problems in my calves, but it’s starting to go away now. This year, I won’t be riding too much because it’s really important for me to be with my kid.

Fatherhood has changed you in a way; it’s the most important thing to you right now.

Yeah. Fatherhood is a change for anyone, so of course it would change me, too.

How do you feel about that being more important, and snowboarding being less of a focus?

My kid is more important than snowboarding. You can always go back to snowboarding, but my son will never be two years old again. It’s good to get a break and do all the other stuff.

You have other interests you want to follow?

Yeah, I want to be a better cook. I want to help out coaching kids playing soccer.

Would you ever consider coaching kids in snowboarding?

If it happens it happens. It’s something I know I can do. Not really coaching, more like just guiding.

How do you deal with the pressures of being a high-profile snowboarder, traveling all the time, and raising a child?

I’ve had good guidance, growing up in a pretty tight family, and I have a lot of friends who help me out. And KeKane’s son mother is always there.

Getting back to a simpler way of living helps put those pressures in perspective?

Yeah, I think you lose a lot of stress when you don’t have to travel too much, when you can really be in one place for more than three or four wes. That helps me out a lot. I don’t really feel pressure from anyone.

What is the longest time you’ve been in one spot in the last five years?

I think I was in Norway for a couple of months¿two months in Norway.

How long are you in one place usually?

I always try to go no less than one week, but sometimes it’s four or five days. Sometimes a couple of days.

Where do you consider your home?

If I’m going home I’m going to my parents house in Norway. That’s home. But usually I’ll say I’m going to Oslo, or California.

Oslo itself doesn’t feel like home, except for where your parents are.

Yeah. Home is where my parents are. Where my living home is just where I live, I guess.

How does it affect you when people dress like you and pay attention to everything you do?

It doesn’t affect me at all. I don’t think about it. There are other snowboarders who people look up to or dress like also. I’m just one of them. I don’t think one special person has all that pressure. Some people look at this guy, some at that guy. If you call that pressure or stress, it’s not really a factor, you shouldn’t really consider it yourself.

You sound casual about the fame thing, but it is a big deal to make it through that and still have your sense about you.

But it’s not, though. People make a big deal about it. If you take any person who is well known and hang with them for a day, you probably just want to do some normal things.

You either seem humble or like you don’t care, but the fact is you’ve influenced a generation of riders.

I don’t know. I’m glad they liked it. When people come up to me and say they really like my riding, I appreciate it. If I have people follow my riding, I really appreciate that. But I don’t feel like I’ve inspired a lot of people. If I do, I hope that it’s my style of riding¿big transitions, sweeter form of riding, power riding.

What are you asked most often?

The thing people ask me most often is if I’m going to compete anymore. Even if I do five competitions, two competitions, I’ll still compete. I stopped counting points. Do I want to snowboard or do I want to count points? Do the tour? I think ’94 was the last year I counted points. I’ll pick out a few events, which works really good for me.

Just go to the ones that have the 100,000-dollar prizes?

That’s definitely an attraction. Laughs

Do you have any plans for the contests this year? Boardercross, for example?

Contests are a big part of snowboarding. They aren’t all of it, thank god. I like competing in the fun competitions. I like playing Ping-Pong, or playing PlayStation head to head is like a little competition. I like those kinds of games.

But, it’s really hard to find a good competition that is presented in a fun way. There are tons of different organizations and it really sucks to show up at a contest that makes you get injured. Like too small of a transition, or a boardercross course that is too easy, which anybody can go straight through without braking, or the first guy out of the gate is the guy who’s going to take it, nowhere to pass or something.

I like boardercross and I like pipe, those are probably the competitions I’m going to do in the future. Slopestyle, if it gets a little smoother with the jumps, I might be in to that, too. I hope for a really big change in the sport on how the contests are put on, presented, organized.

What would you change about contests?

Snowboarders are really spread all over the world: Europe, the States, the Southern Hemisphere. Daniel Franck and I are putting on a contest this year, and we are going to talk to riders and make the rule book ourselves, the dimensions of the pipe. We did a little test last year, and already this year I know people who want to make a bigger pipe.

I go to the U.S. Open and tell Burton to make a big pipe and they can’t. They’ve done the contest for seventeen years and they still can’t make a decent halfpipe. It would be big enough for Rollerblading, but for snowboarding you’re not even able to perform to your fullest potential¿so much more explosive and more spectacular¿for the spectators and for yourself to ride.

Is it because the abilities of riders have expanded that the pipe needs to be bigger?

No, a bigger pipe with a bigger transition would give less injuries, smoother riding style, and you’d be able to ride way better. It’s actually easy to ride a bigger transition pipe than a small one.

What do you think about the X-Games, Gravity Games, and TV coverage?

I went to the X-Games last year. It’s good to get all these “X” sports together for the TV coverage, but they promoters have no clue. They don’t put any effort into hiring the right people to make everything right. It bummed me out. I went through the boardercross course and landed flat, bruising my heel. There was a blizzard outside and they still kept the competition going because they wanted to make a TV program. For me that doesn’t make any sense. If you’re really into the sports then you would want to present them in a good way.

Can you think of the last contest you went to where it was presented in a good way?

Sweden in Äre, 1997. It was an invitational that G-Spot skate and snow shop put on. There were also open trials. I thought it worked out pretty well. It was a jam format in the pipe. Good dimension on the pipe, and the guy who organized it really talked to the riders and asked their opinions, which helps out a lot.

A lot of people, when they have injuries, may think that they won’t be able to get back to their full potential. Is that a worry of yours?

The only thing that bums me out about my injuries is that I can’t ride that much, and I should have been more cautious about stretching when I was younger. I should have started going in when the oil lamp came on. Laughs

Do you have anything that you are most proud of in your career?

There are different things I’m proud of. There’s not really just one thing. I was really happy when I won my first World Cup at seventeen, Ischgl, Austria in 1992. Brushie and Palmer got second and third, I think. I remember I was really stoked, really happy. I was so happy I can’t remember the tram ride down. I’d won contests before and did well and stuff, but no one had ever beat the American freestylers, too. I was the youngest guy, two or three years younger than the rest of the guys.

Was there a next point where you felt a big accomplishment?

In snowboarding? When we finished Subjekt that was pretty nice. There was a lot traveling that year.

Anything in life?

What do you want to hear? Laughter

Your look?

More laughter. I don’t know. I’m probably most proud of my mom. She had a tough life.

She had a tough life because of you?

No, all of us. All of us kids. It was a lot of work for her. She was a good mom. You could ask her anything. Things I could never ask my dad.

What is your idea of a perfect woman?

Hmmm. It would be nice if she qualified for the mag, “Perfect 10.” But, I think that the most important thing is that she shines from the inside. She must be able to say and do what she wants without making a big conflict about it. I like females when they’re not smoking cigarettes, eating junk food, being jealous, and using makeup every day, because that’s like putting on an illusion. Active is good, happy is good, healthy cooking is good, can hang with the boys if she has to is good.

If you could be a superhero, who would you be?

I liked Superman, but I wasno make a bigger pipe.

I go to the U.S. Open and tell Burton to make a big pipe and they can’t. They’ve done the contest for seventeen years and they still can’t make a decent halfpipe. It would be big enough for Rollerblading, but for snowboarding you’re not even able to perform to your fullest potential¿so much more explosive and more spectacular¿for the spectators and for yourself to ride.

Is it because the abilities of riders have expanded that the pipe needs to be bigger?

No, a bigger pipe with a bigger transition would give less injuries, smoother riding style, and you’d be able to ride way better. It’s actually easy to ride a bigger transition pipe than a small one.

What do you think about the X-Games, Gravity Games, and TV coverage?

I went to the X-Games last year. It’s good to get all these “X” sports together for the TV coverage, but they promoters have no clue. They don’t put any effort into hiring the right people to make everything right. It bummed me out. I went through the boardercross course and landed flat, bruising my heel. There was a blizzard outside and they still kept the competition going because they wanted to make a TV program. For me that doesn’t make any sense. If you’re really into the sports then you would want to present them in a good way.

Can you think of the last contest you went to where it was presented in a good way?

Sweden in Äre, 1997. It was an invitational that G-Spot skate and snow shop put on. There were also open trials. I thought it worked out pretty well. It was a jam format in the pipe. Good dimension on the pipe, and the guy who organized it really talked to the riders and asked their opinions, which helps out a lot.

A lot of people, when they have injuries, may think that they won’t be able to get back to their full potential. Is that a worry of yours?

The only thing that bums me out about my injuries is that I can’t ride that much, and I should have been more cautious about stretching when I was younger. I should have started going in when the oil lamp came on. Laughs

Do you have anything that you are most proud of in your career?

There are different things I’m proud of. There’s not really just one thing. I was really happy when I won my first World Cup at seventeen, Ischgl, Austria in 1992. Brushie and Palmer got second and third, I think. I remember I was really stoked, really happy. I was so happy I can’t remember the tram ride down. I’d won contests before and did well and stuff, but no one had ever beat the American freestylers, too. I was the youngest guy, two or three years younger than the rest of the guys.

Was there a next point where you felt a big accomplishment?

In snowboarding? When we finished Subjekt that was pretty nice. There was a lot traveling that year.

Anything in life?

What do you want to hear? Laughter

Your look?

More laughter. I don’t know. I’m probably most proud of my mom. She had a tough life.

She had a tough life because of you?

No, all of us. All of us kids. It was a lot of work for her. She was a good mom. You could ask her anything. Things I could never ask my dad.

What is your idea of a perfect woman?

Hmmm. It would be nice if she qualified for the mag, “Perfect 10.” But, I think that the most important thing is that she shines from the inside. She must be able to say and do what she wants without making a big conflict about it. I like females when they’re not smoking cigarettes, eating junk food, being jealous, and using makeup every day, because that’s like putting on an illusion. Active is good, happy is good, healthy cooking is good, can hang with the boys if she has to is good.

If you could be a superhero, who would you be?

I liked Superman, but I wasn’t into Clark Kent. My older brother bought all the Marvel mags. We were both into Peter Parker Spiderman; have you seen his wife? Man!

If you could speak with anyone in the history of the world for an hour, to whom would it be?

I’ve heard about a young man named Jesus. I think it would be nice to chat with him.

Who do you like to ride with?

I haven’t really ridden with too many people lately. Laughs So it’s kind of hard to say.

Is there anyone out there right now who really inspires you?

Everybody who is older than me and more fit than I am. They inspire me. Laughs There are a lot of them.

What does the world look like through your eyes?

The snowboarding world looks like chaos everywhere. Everyone seems to follow a stream and nobody knows really where to go. They’re just letting things happen.

What do you think is going to happen?

I haven’t thought about it much. I think it is going to get really polluted if somebody doesn’t do something dramatic. When you travel you see consumers from everywhere. I’m a traveler, too, so I can see it more than anyone. I’m really good at consuming actually, though I’m trying not to; it’s hard.

Cutting down on consumerism would cut down on pollution?

It would help out a lot¿have a cleaner way of living. I look at the ocean as the lungs of the Earth¿like breathing. And it the ocean is dying, the fish are getting shitty, the water’s getting dirty. It’s like the Earth is smoking a big fat cigar, partying.

Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions, anything you haven’t done that you really want to do?

Yeah, there was a point where I wanted to get into this and that, this trick, but I think those ambitions washed away. Laughter It’s just how your body feels. If I can’t do it the way I picture it in my head then it washes away. Maybe when I feel that strong again, I’ll get back to that form again. There are a few tricks here and there, I don’t really know of any contests I’d like to win.

Is it better to regret something you did, or something you didn’t do?

No regrets.

Surfing?

I don’t want to talk about surfing, Jon. No snowboarder should go surfing. You’re going to hurt your legs. If you go surfing too much, you’re legs get weak and you get big muscles up stairs, and you’ll become too heavy.

What about soccer? You’ve been playing often.

Yeah, I got to cut down on the soccer.

What is your biggest fear?

Probably to get so crisp that I can’t do active sports.

Crisp as in over it in your mind, or in your body?

No, no, no. My body more¿if I can’t go play soccer anymore, or snowboard, or skate¿get to the point where I can’t play. When I do sports is when I meditate, when I block out everything and do what I do.

What you haven’t done up to now is limited by your physical abilities, and when you have them back, you’ll do the things you want to do?

Yeah, like lines in the pipe I want to put together. I have to have the right conditions and be ready for it. I don’t like hiking a jump over and over again. I’m more of a top-to-bottom rider. I think surfing got me into playing with anything that comes up. Even if the pipe is small, I can go in it and have fun. But I won’t do the tricks that you can really do in a big pipe. I will do lip tricks and handplants and slides. It will still be fun, but different.

Basically, that is why you are spending this time to heal yourself, so you can push yourself farther.

Yeah, I’ve got to heal so I can play.

How do your sponsors feel about this?

They’re all cool about it. I’ll probably have to tell one of my sponsors that I won’t be able to produce what they want. It’s more up to them if they want to keep going. Burton’s always been cool about it. It’s not like I want to get the same support as I do