Lauri Heiskari. Photo: Colin Adair.
Finnish ex-patriot, street rail ripper, tech park enthusiast, flamboyant hat wearer, DC teamrider, Melrose Place fan—Lauri Heiskari is many things. Always down for the adventure and ever turning out the jaw-dropping video part, Heiskari's latest celluloid magic involves a little more powder than years past. Yep, he's honing his backcountry talent with the true master—DC teammate Devun Walsh.
We met up with Heiskari on the steeps and deeps of Chile's Al Colorado and Valle Nevado. That's right, pow in August—there's just no rest for the wicked.—Jennifer Sherowski
So you were heli-boarding down there. What's your take on heli-ing? Is it really worth all the money and effort?
I've done it twice now, and it's amazing! I feel very fortunate for getting to do it since it's so freakin' expensive. I'm terrified of it, too, though. I'm a bit scared of the turbulence—that little hotbox is a lot shakier than an airplane! I just pump up the music and stare at the ceiling [laughs].
Helis are a great way to check out different terrain quickly and access peaks that are impossible to reach by hiking or using sleds. One bad thing is that it's really time consuming, especially if you're trying to hit a jump, and with a crew trying to film from the heli, too … it's quite a hassle.
Photographer Colin Adair said that you didn't get to see any of the lines on recon—that Devun and Iikka did all the scoping. How did it feel getting dumped out of the heli and having to approach terrain blindly?
Well, you kinda see it on the way in there, and those guys were there last year, so they already had an idea about where to go, so it was all good. I have a lot of faith in Devun's knowledge of where to go and what to do, so if he tells me to jump into a ditch blindfolded, I will.
You obviously didn't ride any backcountry growing up in Finland, right? So how'd you finally get over the lack of experience and start feeling comfortable in the backcountry?
Well, I do feel a lot more comfortable compared to when I first started filming, and every year I've learned tons and gained more confidence. Thanks, Dev! But it was really hard for me at first, because Finland is almost totally flat, and so big terrain and deep snow made me really feel out of place for a while. I just wanted to go back to the park … what was I thinking?
Seriously! Tell me about the snow on this trip—was it all time?
It snowed a ton while we were there, and it was amazing—so much fun. It sure does feel good to go straight to three feet of uncrowded pow in the middle of summertime instead of a packed, weird salt/snow summer-camp situation. Actually, that doesn't sound too bad, either—never mind.
What's Chile like?
People from Chile are really nice and polite—some of 'em are pretty hippied out and stony, but still really nice. But you probably want to make sure that the heli driver didn't have a "long dinner" the night before he's supposed to fly with you. Just a little sniff of his breath, and if you don't catch a buzz off it, then you should be good.
The trip was really good in general, besides the fact that every morning something new appeared on my board—either a kook-tag or a weird penis—so by the end of the trip everybody's boards were pretty R-rated and definitely not recommended for resale.
I heard some people recognized you on the streets of Santiago and wanted a photo with you. What's it like to be that famous?
I actually just paid them to do it, and then to ask, "Who's that?" while pointing at Iikka—just to piss him off. Nobody knows me.
Describe your most rewarding moment of the entire three days.
Every trick you land in pow keeps replaying in your mind for days. It's just awesome. Otherwise, maybe the freeride runs with the heli!
What song was listened to most often on your iPod?
Main Flow and 7L, "Forever."
Do you still have a house in Finland? Where do you officially live right now?
San Clemente [California], baby! Yeah, I love being close to everything and being able to live a beach life for a couple of months before going back to the winter wonderland life. Back when I used to live in Finland, the "beach life" was "surrounded by alcoholics in the pouring rain" life.
Haha! What's something you really miss about Finland?
If I had to name one thing, it'd be the culture. It's just different there—homey. That's where I'm from, so I know how things work. Here, everything works a little differently, and the people are different. I'm figuring everything out by myself and using my second language on all these weird forms and papers—and I just can't make that call to dad and have him to do it [laughs]. I do think there's a lot more dishonesty with people here.
What's making you happy these days?
Just life in general. I love what I do. I'm living in this great place, and I have people I've been tight with for so long around me. It's great to pick a location in the world and just move there and still have your best friends with you. I'm trying to enjoy everything. I want to learn how to cook, ride more pow, surf my ass off, take some great photos, and chill with my girl and Iikka and Eero and enjoy this crazy world.
What are some of your other recent obsessions besides snowboarding?
Surfing, working out, fish-eye-lens pictures, looking for furniture for my first house, and drawing graphics—which end up looking pretty horrible. It's a work in process. I consider myself like Picasso—like, it might take a couple lifetimes for my art to get truly appreciated … maybe more.
What's the most important lesson you've learned in life so far?
Don't be a jealous of anybody. People are always gonna have something you don't, and you'll always have something they don't. Jealousy starts everything bad, and it can ruin great friendships. People need to appreciate you because of who you are, not what you have or don't have.