By Matt Barr
There are two defining impressions of Heikki Sorsa that capture what his riding is all about. The first was made last year at the Arctic Challenge quarterpipe session in Oslo, where the sleepy-looking Finn broke the record for the world’s largest air. He sailed nine-and-a-half meters above the lip and into history. Ingemar Backman’s previous record aerial had stood since ’96-when he turned the snowboard world upside down. Since then, a few have come close, but no one had really challenged the mark until Heikki came along. As an image and a feat, you can’t really ask for a more literal changing of the guard than that.
The second reckoning came at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Sorsa represented Finland in the halfpipe, sporting a smile on his face and a Mohawk on his head. With fierce runs highlighted by more of his lazy yet controlled style, the performance was a further indication that there’s more to his riding. More than a tidy backside air, and a style that reminds many of legendary skater Tom Penny.
Heikki Sorsa-in a similar vein to his fine Norse heritage-is keen to take snowboarding by the scruff of the neck and drag it kicking and screaming into the future. Even with the grueling contest schedule on his way to the Olympics, Heikki was able to clock footage in Notice To Appear. As Standard Films’ next Scanner, he follows a line that made Johan Olofsson, Jussi Oksanen, and many other prodigious Scandinavians household names. And what an incredible bloodline that is to have behind you.
Where are you from, and what’s your home mountain?
Helsinki, Finland-I was born here and have been living here my whole life. Talma is my home mountain-I still ride there. It’s only like 50 meters high, but it’s the best hill near Helsinki. It’s got a halfpipe, some good kickers, and some rails-so it’s super fun.
Do you think the backside air at Arctic Challenge set you up, made people know who you are?
Yeah … I think so, but I hope they don’t remember me only because of that. No one comes up to me to tell me about the highest air or whatever. Normally, here in Finland, when people see me they say, “Oh, it’s that guy with the Mohawk from the Olympics.” It’s funny but it’s also super-weird. I’m scared-I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want everyone to know who I am. It’s cool if people who snowboard know me-I like that.
How did that highest air feel?
I can’t remember anything about that jump-I don’t know why. But the feeling after was great. I landed the trick, and everyone was clapping their hands-I was like, “What?” Romain De Marchi came up to me and said, “That was so high!” I wasn’t thinking I could go that high. I just put my board on and was like, “F-k it, I’ll go from up here.”
Tell me about the Trulli Clan?
It started with Iikka Baeckstroem, Lauri Heiskari, and some others. I could tell you who they are, but they’re all Finnish names, so you probably can’t say them! I know our names are so hard, because people call me “Hikey,” and my name’s pronounced “Haykee.” In the Trulli Clan there’re eight people on the team. We were riding when we were young and are still together now, so it’s cool. We make some T-shirts-that kind of thing-but it’s just for fun. Check out the Web site at www.trulliclan.com
Who are your favorite riders?
Jussi Oksanen, Kevin Jones, and Terje. I like Jussi and Kevin because they can do it all-powder, pipe, rails-they’re super-good on everything. And Terje because, well you know, he’s Terje.
How is it now that you know Haakonsen?
First I was like, “Wow!” He’s a cool guy, he’s nice to ride with, and it’s funny to follow him and do some fun stuff. And you know, you have to respect him because he’s always trying to go bigger and do new tricks. He told me a couple of times when I was doing something good-it’s a great feeling to hear that from him.
Are you getting into filming?
Yes. I was in Norway this spring aand had an opportunity to film with Terje and Fredi Kalbermatten for Standard. It’s my first major video part, but it’s just park-I was only filming for one month. This year I’m gonna film a lot, so I’ve got to learn to land the tricks in powder (laughs). I’m gonna spend this season in Tahoe-kind of like what Gigi Ruef did. It’s not so cool that I’ve got a girlfriend in Finland-but she’s moving to Chamonix, so I guess I’m gonna be there sometimes, too!
My ideal movie section will be a load of powder, a couple of park jumps, some lines, some rails, and two or three halfpipe tricks-no more than that in the pipe. Everyone thinks I can only do halfpipe because I was riding in comps a lot last season-I just wanted to get to the Olympics.
Did your mom come and see you at Salt Lake City?
No. She wanted to stay home. I didn’t want my mother there, because it would be too much stress, you know? It was cool.
Did she think that you should’ve earned a higher place?
I think seventh place is better than the top three, because what the media did to me was already too much, and I only got seventh-even that and I was on the front page of the newspapers and just being famous, which was so weird and too much. I was speaking to my mom after I finished in the pipe saying I was really happy. She said, “I don’t know anything about snowboarding, but you should have scored higher.” I think it was all right. I can’t imagine what it was like for Ross Powers.
Why is your English so good?
I don’t think it’s that good. I mean, at school I got the worst grade. But, I guess I’ve just been traveling, and you learn so much when you do that. I watch all the movies in English with subtitles in Finnish. I don’t like it the other way around.
How did you do with the rest of school?
I passed all of it, so now I don’t have school anymore-wahoo! I celebrated leaving school and went to Hawai’i for two weeks. That was a long way from Finland! I won the trip from Oakley for the jump in the Arctic Challenge and went there with my girlfriend-so thanks, Oakley.
Now you have to join the army in Finland?
Yes-I was supposed to go there this summer, but they said I could come later, and I’m very happy. Actually, I had to say, “Sorry, I can’t come now because my career is at this point. All my sponsors want me to do this, so I have to do it now.” And they were like, “Errr … okay … well, you’ve got one and a half years, then you have to come.” So I have to go in at the end of next year. I get to go to the military-sports place, so it’s not too bad.