Words and Illustrations by Will Smith
Photos by James Griffiths
The crew for the trip was Ollie Dutton, Jamie Durham and James Griffiths and myself. Ollie and I both started filming together with Jamie so it was good to have the old crew back together. It’s nice when you have worked with a filmer a lot as they already know the way you ride and the way they like to film so it makes the whole filming process run like a well-oiled machine. We also had Griff with us who is a really talented skate photographer from Bristol, we worked together on a Monster shoot in the snow dome and I really liked his photography. Then through Tom at Monster we managed to get him on a trip to shoot some street snowboarding for the first time. I don’t think he quite knew what to expect, one quote from him that I won’t forget is from when we’d all just arrived home and the daily routine of getting all your shit off he stops while untying his boots and says something along the lines of “guys if I had to put all this gear on every day to go skateboarding, I don’t think I’d still be doing”. It was really cool to show him the process that we go through of finding a spot, the whole set up of it, clearing stairs and filling up landings and whatever else that needs doing. In the end, you are creating your spot as opposed to his reality of going out in the clothes you wear put on your shoes grab your board and take some wax and skating whatever is front of you. It got me thinking how awesome it is how as snowboarders we get to pretty much visualise something then build it and modify things to make it rideable, but at the end you've created your own spot just how you want it, that's pretty sick.
Ollie and I were already in Helsinki staying at Jamie’s place, Griff flew in and we drove up north Joensuu, we’d booked an Airbnb on the drive up and to save some cash we got a 3-person house instead of 4, little to our knowledge on arrival the guy who’s house it was lived there. So, we had to come up with a story as to why we had an extra person, the guy was super friendly and didn’t mind. We got some sleep and woke up the next day, and as a 2-rider crew we needed natural speed spots, we had a drive around and were quick to find out the place is completely flat except two kinds of famous double kinks by a church with natural speed. Ollie had hit the rail the year before and had been wanting to come back to try cab 2 it. After spending the day scoping we decided it wasn’t going to be worth staying and we booked a hostel in Kuopio for the next night, so we packed our bags ready to put it in the car in the morning. We hit the double kink the next day and Ollie got the cab 2 perfect that he’d been wanting, I think it was in 5 or 6 tries. I hit the rail with him and managed to get a back 1 cab 3 on it, at this point it was still before 12. We packed the car and drove to Kuopio, when we arrived we did some scoping and found a few spots by this time it was getting to around 2 and the light at that time of year it’s dark by 4. As we were heading back to the hostel we found 2 spots just around the corner from each other, there wasn’t enough time to set up the spot Ollie wanted but the spot i wanted to hit wouldn’t take any time to set up. We set it up and I had a few hits on it and a woman came by and started shouting at us in Finish, we told her that we were English and tried to explain to her what we were doing and that we’d clean all the snow after we finished but she wasn’t going to change her mind and just kept saying no. I didn’t think that it was going to take many tries so Ollie tried to talk to the woman as I went back up for another try. She was standing in the landing, he managed to get her to stand to the side of the landing and I had one last hit as she’d called the police. Luckily, I landed it that try, we quickly cleaned up all the snow. In the process, the lady was shouting at me for leaving snowboard tracks in the snow on the hill next to the apartment building. We just ignored her and got out of there. Drove straight to the hostel and checked in.
At this point the snow in Kuopio was getting pretty icy as the temperature had dropped and we needed some snow to be able to build some of the bigger spots we wanted to hit, luckily that night it snowed a little bit. We headed to the spot Ollie wanted to ride, this huge ollie over a fence to drop with kinda natural landing but there was a good amount of snow down there to make a landing with. It was a pretty busty spot because it had a bunch of apartment building looking on to it and we’d been shouted at while just looking at it the day before. We set it up for a while as it was a big build. Ollie did a few speed checks asked me how the speed looked and I thought it was good, so he goes back up and drops in but this time was going way faster, I was filming fish eye at the top and just saw him at the highest point above the landing and thought oh shit. He completely over shot it and compressed to the point that on a frame on the clip only his head is visible, it was insane. I thought he must have blown his knees out but somehow he was fine and got back up and landed it after a few explosions in the landing from the impact.
Ollie and I had both been in Kuopio already earlier in the winter so we kind of knew our way around which made it easier. There is a rail by the bus station that we always used to drive passed with 3 rails, one either side and one down the middle with cheese grater stairs. It was a spot that we’d always look at and mention but never actually did it, I’d never seen it before in a video so I thought it would be sick to do it. To make the spot rideable we had to cut away a load of bushes to be able to build a drop-in ramp up against this fence, there is a it of a mound so it made it easier. In the process of setting it up and building the takeoff 2 people that work for the council or something came over and asked us what we were doing, we explained and tried to get them to agree to letting us ride it, at this point it starts dumping snow and is starting to get pretty windy so to be honest I think they just wanted to get inside but they eventually agreed. We finished setting it up and I started riding, the snow was getting so heavy I was pretty much dropping in with my eyes close till the takeoff or else I couldn’t see on the rail. I don’t do cab 2’s often and when I’d started riding the rail I did a few switch blunts to warm my legs up and noticed the rails were super close together way more than I thought and it freaked me out. I did a few different things trying to get my head into it to try a cab 2. I was going to stop but Ollie kept pushing me to try it, he kept saying “just jump on one and see how it feels, you got it.” So, I went back up to just try one, I was really unsure about if I’d get enough speed, I just concentrated on pumping the drop in as much as I could and if I felt I had the speed, was gonna give it a try it and I did, I landed it to fakie but rode out to the side a bit sketchy. I was just so hyped I’d tried it. Next try I thought I had it and just didn’t have as much speed as the try before and started to slip out and because it’s the middle rail I clipped my tail on the side rail and flipped full 180 to my face at the bottom of the stairs. It hurt but there was a bunch of snow in the landing to help. Ollie just got me hyped up and kept encouraging me that I had it still and that the shot’s always better with a slam anyway. I got it the next try and that shot ended up being the ender to my part, more for the mental battle than the physical one.
That night we decided that we were going to go and try get a shot for Ollie on this down rail in a school, because it’d been snowing we thought we would be able to build a drop in for it, we built this construction of mini tables and a few tires but the wind had moved the snow from where we needed it. We ended up with this make shift drop in ramp. Ollie gave it a few tries and the speed was super slow but he still came out with a switch frontside nose press switch back 1 out on it. Because it was really cold that night more so than the rest of the trip, it was Griffs first glimpse of how cold you and your hands get if you are a snowboard photographer or filmer and don’t have the right gear, I think to be honest he was freezing the whole trip.
The next day we headed to a mine that Jamie had been to a few years before, because it doesn’t get many people there the snow stays really good, we went to check it out and the place was sick, I’d seen this bridge that’s there before in a few photos Jamie showed us and because of the snow there was a lot of fresh, we pushed a pretty big landing down this bank and I did a board slide pop out off the bridge. We had a look around the mine once more but couldn’t find much else around so we headed home. There was one spot left that I’d been wanting to do in Kuopio and then we were out of spots, it had started to snow in Helsinki and with the way it’s been in previous years if it snows you need to go there and then because it won’t stick around long. We checked out of the hostel the next morning with all our kit in the car and went to this kind of creeper ledge spot that had a tree to dodge and one to pop out before, we moved a few bikes and chopped away some big pile of ice that’d been pushed there from the road. I had my first hit and went a bit too fast and couldn’t pop out quick enough, I got close lined by the tree and landed on my hip on a boulder of ice that was way past the landing. I hit it for a bit and then got one that I was stoked on, it’d started snowing pretty hard again while I was riding which meant that it was a pretty soggy drive to Helsinki.
We arrived back at Jamie’s place in Helsinki, Cees was arriving back there the next day. There wasn’t quite enough snow on the ground yet when we arrived, but it kept snowing all the next day. It was a bit of a blessing really as we were all sore and my hip was really painful from the slam and long car journey straight after. Cees had left his van with the winch in Helsinki so he picked it up and came and crashed with us. That night we came up with a plan of spots that we knew that we thought would be possible with the amount of snow there was, we had a select few we wanted to do and knew we’d most likely only get a couple of days looking at the weather forecast. We went to this famous A frame spot that people put snow up the stairs and build a takeoff and gap to the down on it, Cees wanted to go up but instead of building a takeoff fire cracker up the stairs and gap to the down rail. There was only a dusting of snow as it was close to the road, luckily because he didn’t need a takeoff it worked out perfect. We made the best we could, set up the winch and Cees did a few firecrackers landing in the stairs to test how it worked, he went for it and it took him no time at all to get it. We knew a spot we wanted to hit the next day so we got an early night as we knew we wanted to hit this jump spot at a church me and Ollie found the year before and had been dreaming about and because Cees had the winch it was gonna be possible.
We went there and thankfully there was a bit more snow at this spot and it was going to be possible, Ollie and I both rode the spot together, Ollie was trying a front 3 and I was doing a back 3 but I took a sketchy slam. It had a big block 2-set off the end of where we were landing and I’d front flipped of it on impact, then the next try Ollie hits it and does a front 3 but landed a bit shorter than his try before and bounced off his toes on his shoulder on the blocks, it was so gnarly. I didn’t know if we needed to leave to get him checked out, he was in pain but he told me to keep trying and that it was all good, I landed it the next try and we watched the shots and got out of there.
The next day we drove around to a few spots we had in mind but they weren’t going to be possible so we had a scope for some other spots to hit, we drove to an area we hadn’t been before and came across this down rail with a wall at the end so you have to pop out earlier and that leads into an arch way with a 5-set. Cees and I decided to hit it and he tried a front lip but didn’t pop out in time and bruised his heel by slamming in to the wall. I was trying front blunt same way, I took a few back and body slams in to the wall by not popping out. I got the shot after a while of trying it. That day it started to rain a bit and then all through the night, all the snow just disappeared. The trip was coming to an end and Griff had to fly back to the UK so we decided to go spend a day at Talma getting a couple of photos and just cruising.
To finish the trip off we went to the bar that Jamie was working at that night, which resulted in some of us having pole dancing battles with random people in the bar. It was a hilarious night to end a sick trip.