A NEW WAVE INVASION IS UNDERWAY
By Jennifer Sherowski
Dawn breaks on the banks of Southeastern Finland, lighting up the icy jumps of Talma; a tiny resort outside the capital Helsinki where nearly every Finnish pro snowboarder has cut their teeth. In an hour or two the hill will be crawling with a mass of unknown kids who ride there religiously-their bible being the open-ended book of tricks one human can possibly do in a snowpark. Most of them rip-much like members of the comparable talent pool found at Hemsedal, Norway. How could they not after clocking in as much time on jumps and rails as your average factory worker spends on the line?
A few of these riders will be singled out by local reps, given travel budgets, and encouraged to venture on to central Europe and eventually North America. Big-name brands will snatch them up as teamriders-they’ll relocate to Whistler or Mammoth, where they’ll learn about powder and Taco Bell. Their names will be butchered by contest announcers, and their weird sense of humor will often get lost in the translation. And yet, left behind in the home country are hundreds of these kids, killing their local mountain in continuing innocence of how ripping they are-they just don’t know any better.
What is it about the scene in Talma-or the similar ones found slightly east in Norway or just north of that in the mountains of Sweden-that makes Scandinavia breed such good snowboarders? Is it the healthy, whale-meat-strengthened blood pumping through these kids’ veins? Or is it the tireless hours spent riding under lights in the long, dark winter or beneath May’s midnight sun?
The best answer is-a little bit of both. Following in the boot tracks of Haakonsen and Franck, Kuhlberg and Vanninen, let us introduce a whole new fleet of Nordic rippers going big and talking with actions.
From Trondheim, Norway, we have twenty-year-old Kjersti Buaas-who did an air-to-fakie seen around the world at the 2002 Winter Olympics women’s halfpipe event. She has added power and an element of real danger to the definition of “good female rider.” Bjorn Mortensen, virtually unknown to North American audiences before last season, earned the cover of the TransWorld’s March 2002 issue for his stylish, manly roof drop in Val Senales, Italy. “Big Nads” Mads Jonsson annihilates kickers alongside his friend J.P. Solberg and spent the year traveling and living up to his nickname. Both Mads and Bjorn have been touring extensively with Burton and filming with European production-company Methodmag.
The really big news floating around Europe right now, though, is the siege of mini-Vikings Mikkel Bang and Freddie Austbà®. “These two kids are the next thing to hit the market,” says Mads Jonsson. “They’re getting so much better every day-it’s really cool to watch.” Mikkel-on the cover of this season’s Buyer’s Guide-is all of twelve years old and Transworld’s youngest cover holder ever. Freddie is thirteen and already a master at the art of snowboard trickery. According to Jonsson, Austboe f-ks it up on a skateboard, too.
Most of these young riders spend time killing Hemsedal, Norway and nearby resorts like Trysil. “Riskgransen” (Sweden) is definately not the hot spot that it used to be,” photographer Jeff Curtes says of the once overblown media scene that served as the breeding grounds for earlier waves of Scanners. “Riskgransen now seems to be more a refuge for the Swedish pros to gather, chill, ride among friends, and wind down the year.”
These days the famous late season scene in Scandinavia goes down at Hemsedal, where the celebrated natural quarterpipe and a dedicated park crew makes for what Curtes calls “the best location on Earth for springtime kicker sessions.” And although the international pro community has converged on Hemsedal (from time to time), outsiders only provide fuel for the hometown fire-as Curtes says, “The local scene of Norwegian rippers is still totally happenning and going off!”
The Finnish Mafia perpetrating earlier Scanner activity has been succeeded by the Trulli Clan, a tight-knit group of Talma locals who travel and ride together. Heikki Sorsa, Iikka B ckstrà®m, Lauri Heiskari, Eero Niemel , and a few other young Finns in their late teens comprise a touring cast of stuntmen throwing down in parks and pipes under the Trulli banner. The home page of the Clan’s Web site reads, “As you can see new dopeness you all have been waiting for is here.” It makes you wonder, are these kids serious? But you know, when it comes to their riding, the statement seems oddly, beautifully true.
More killers coming out of the country natives call “Suomi” are Markku Koski-who you may or may not know executed the first-ever 1440 in halfpipe competition history at the 2002 U.S. Open; Jaakko Sepp l , another Finnish rookie whose tricky moves will hit the masses in this season’s Afterbang; and Eero Ettala, whose been shredding around Tahoe and Whistler, as well as shooting in Europe with Straight Jacket films.
So here it is-the newest invasion of Scanners chewing up jumps and buying electronics in resort towns near you. Just don’t forget about all the little Norsemen whose names we’ll never know because they stayed behind in places like Narvik, Norway and Ruka, Finland. There just isn’t enough room in the boat for everyone-yet knowing that for every Mads and Iikka there’re twenty kids tearing it up on their local man-made, it somehow backs up the currency of this movement like gold bullion in Fort Knox. So pay attention, and let it be known that Scandinavia’s influence on snowboarding remains just as powerful-and important-as it ever was.