Helsinki, Finland – written by Guido Gazzi
Here’s the brief:
The flight was late, i jumped on a bus from the airport and everyone is very friendly. Helsinki looks like a beautiful city and weather is good.
I was straight in at the deep end – hooked up with event organiser Mikko and some of the other guys and headed out onto the streets to the Opera House for a little street comp on some weird angled wall ride, then onto the Museum of Modern Art for more.
I shared an apartment with Paul Shier, Ollie Todd, Pat Duffy, Justin Strubin, new Death rider Patrick Melcher and Brian Ueda (Thrasher photographer) – and generally it was all good.
The following mini interview is conducted with Mikko who organised the event which should give you some background on what Helsinki is becoming famous for in World Skateboarding.
So, when did the pro-skate actually start?
Mikko: The first pro-skate was in 1999 in a small warehouse in Helsinki, but we are now at the ice stadium and the first one was held here in 2000, so we’ve been here 6 times. The whole thing started in 1992/93 and we had Finnish championships in the Autumn. More and more people started to know skaters from around the world so we started to invite skaters from outside of Finland. We sent out pro-skate invitations and now 40% are foreign skaters and the rest are Finnish who are semi-pro/amateur or sponsored. So that’s the main idea.
Skating has been quite big in Finland. There are 5 million people here and most of them are old, so there are maybe 1 million who can be in the target group so it’s a big thing, that’s why we have this event. If you compare Pro Skate with a lot of other places they don’t have this kind of ice-rink, and may use skate-parks or something like that but here, the scene is so big which attracts people from other countries to.
And why have you adopted an indoor venue rather than build something outside, is it just a precaution for the weather?
Yes it is just because of the weather. It is really expensive to do it like this. We would have much better prize money if it was outside. It usually rains in the Spring time, not in the Summer but if you do it any earlier it’s colder.
The first championship arena was too small – there was only 2,000 people who could see at the same time which was really crowded and half of the people didn’t see anything anyway. So the ice-rink is good for that, that’s why we have kept it here because it’s more comfortable, everybody sees everything. It’s maybe a little bit big but they can all see what’s going on. If you’ve paid for a ticket you have the view, you can see all the tricks.
So you have put this event together from the beginning?
Yeah, I run it, I’m like the founder of it. I’ve been doing this with 2 guys. The first time we did it, in 1998, we tried to do it without any sponsors, the next year I did it with one other guy without sponsors and after that we started using sponsors.
What are your feelings about this year so far, maybe in comparison to other years – has the level of skating increased?
Yeah, now, the international level is quite good because now about 10 out of 30 people are invited by us, usually it’s not so many but it’s mainly because who we invite usually are good guys. But it’s a good level, many of the guys have been here before.
Last year we had Mark Appleyard who was skater of the year in Thrasher magazine a couple of years before. Maybe we have like one main star for example – 3 or 4 years ago we had Bastien visit us, it was his first big tour coming here and he won. Then we had Spanky, so they were like new names for us here and in a couple of years they have got bigger with Mike V,Rick Mcrank and Ed Templeton.
It’s great skating and a good gang of people – basically a good vibe where everybody gets on together quite well. It’s fantastic to have a great atmosphere so that the competition is not the main thing. The main thing is people coming to a new place, many haven’t been to Finland before, so we welcome them to check out new spots and a new kind of lifestyle, that’s the main idea. With the addition of sponsors we can also offer a little bit of prize money too so a few thousand dollars are up for grabs for the winners which is a cool gesture…enjoy!
So the Helsinki pro event turned out to be laid back but well organised and was in effect, excellent.
With the class of skateboarding equalling the expectations of previous years Mikko has brought his experience of running events across the board and applying it to what he loves best – skateboarding. Enjoy the footage on this page.
This years results:
1. Eero Anttila – Finland
2. Eniz Fazliov – Finland
3. Jani Laitiala – Finland
4. Chami Laprebendere – Argentina
5. Clint Peterson – USA
6. Justin Strubing – USA
7. Chris Åström – Sweden
8. Jyri Pitkänen – Finland
9. Pat Duffy – USA
10. Patrick Melcher – USA
11. Sami Miettinen – Finland
12. Miikka Virtanen – Finland
Go to www.proskate.com for more.