Hexagon Project - Chatting with Toni Kerkelä


Interview & Photo: Theo Acworth


© Theo Acworth


So a few years ago, you had a knee injury which took you out of the game for a bit. What exactly happened? 

I tore my ACL in 2019. It was the year after Focus, and I had an invite for Real Snow. I think I did it on the first trip for that. I didn't slam badly, but my knee just felt weird, and it swelled up. The doctor told me the ACL was gone, but nothing else. I decided not to do the surgery and see if I could ride without it. I built up muscle again and it was feeling good at the end of the season. Then in the first year filming for Hexagon, I was doing a BS 50-50 BS360 switch up on a kink rail. I think I got the clip, but I wanted to get it better, classic. I landed with my full weight on the right knee and I still had the twist going on from the spin. The meniscus tore, and it was fucked. The doctors said it would be better to do both surgeries at the same time. I can still feel it, and it's stiffer than it used to be. But when I play tennis or skate, I don't even think about it. 


How were you feeling coming off the injury and into the winter?

It took time, and it was the biggest problem for the last season. Even in December, I wasn't sure what would happen. I didn't really feel good about filming. Also, knowing that the whole crew had been filming already created some pressure. It put me in a position where I had to think about what I was able to do. I didn't want to take any stupid risks. 


© Theo Acworth


Before the injury, you'd been filming consistently fucked up parts and hitting some of the gnarliest spots out there. Your Transworld part still blows my mind. How did the injury change your approach to riding? 

Me and Kas were talking about it because we kind of want to go big or do something crazy to get that adrenaline feeling. When you get onto a crazier level, you need to keep doing that stuff in order to get something out of this snowboarding thing, you know? At least I like to get that feeling. I like to scare myself. But for this season, I needed to get out of that. I had to stay safe. So I went for more style first and tried to figure out some new ideas. Like the wallride through those two pipes. It's not that big, but after quite a few years of filming, you kind of know what's going to look sick, even if it's a small, safe spot. I think it worked really nice. Before, I was trying to get the crazy adrenaline spots, but now it's more about having the feeling of snowboarding again, and getting clips that looked nice so I could just be in the video. I got that feeling just landing a trick with style. 


So just a slightly different approach to finding that same stoked feeling. 

Yeah. And I had time to think about it all summer before the season started, so it wasn't a total surprise. I knew I had cool-looking spots and ideas, like the double handplant line. I knew these things would look good, so I had the motivation to go for those spots. I wasn't going super easy, and I didn't think that they would look too small or anything. You can make everything look good if you want to.


Absolutely. So you said in December, you said you weren't feeling 100% ready to film. Did something change, or did you just push through it?

To be honest, it all kinda clicked a week before we did the first trip to Helsinki. I was riding Sveitsi, my local resort, with Hena Ikola and Roope Rautiainen. They were pushing me and telling me I could do things like frontboards through kinks and stuff like that, which I really wasn't sure about. I was just doing 50-50s and boardslides in early December, just trying to get the feeling back. Then these things started to work really nicely, also doing switch nose presses and stuff on the long rails. So I knew I could at least film something. Hexagon was a big crew with five riders, two filmers and you. I knew I wouldn't be riding every day and could take a few days off if I needed to. In the end, if you build your spots nicely with a lot of snow around them, you might have less impact on your knees and body than riding a resort. Hood got so bumpy this summer and I was so sore after every day. I think every rider was complaining about their knees *laughs*.



“In the end, it just felt natural to come back. The crew and the support around me made it happen.”


Polejam to lipslide


*laughs* The streets being safer seems like a strange idea, but when you say it, it makes total sense. 

So in December, I was on this program, trying to ride every three days, and I was still doing the gym. Then I think Dom told me that I should stop going to the gym and just snowboard because that's what I was going to be doing. In the end, it just felt natural to come back. The crew and the support around me made it happen.


I was stoked to see the TK steeze on all your spots. I think the wallride between the pipes was my favourite spot from the whole video. I know you've also been trying to get into a regular IG schedule where you do one little edit a week. How have you found integrating that into your regular filming routine? 

It's fun. I like to do those posts. But in January and February, there isn't really time to film for anything like that. Every day you're so tired from riding or shovelling for your friends. The last few years, I wanted to save my energy for when I was actually shooting. But I want to do more of those small clips. I tried it last spring, and I think it worked super nice.


© Theo Acworth


What do you think the role of the professional snowboarder is these days? Social media has definitely changed it a lot. 

It's been a big question for next season. At one point, I was thinking about only doing Instagram stuff. But for me, it would make sense if we got another good season here with snow because it's easy to film stuff for the gram if you live in a city with snow like Helsinki. It doesn't need to be the craziest stuff, just something that shows that you're snowboarding. Even just riding your local resort. You can just do an ollie over a stairset, and it looks cool, so why not do it if you can do it easily?


© Theo Acworth


I can understand wanting to keep your energy up and only focusing on stacking heavy clips, but just going out and fucking around with a phone can stop you from getting stuck in the usual routine and also gets your fans stoked with easy content.

I know people find it super hard to do the Instagram stuff. I feel the same. I hate the actual moment of doing the post. Just don't think about the likes or views or anything. It's just nice to show you're doing something, and it's for sure a part of this ‘profession’ now.


It's always sick when you only see a few shots of someone a year, like Kas, but when you're a fan of their riding, you're hyped to see almost anything.

I think it would be sick to see shots of Kas just riding the domes, even if they're just little phone clips. I think people would love to see footage of him. I think you can give so much more happiness to people if you do something like that than if you don't. You know what I mean?


Yeah, for sure. 

I mean, you always want to be putting out nice stuff. But even if it's not perfect, hopefully, people still enjoy it, and maybe they go snowboard because they see it. Even if only one person goes, that's pretty cool. And it's so easy.



“Just put it out, don't over-think it. No one fucking cares about the caption. It's nice if you can make it cool, but just put it out.”




Does Kas actually snowboard in the summer? 

He says no, but I think he still goes *laughs*. You can print that. He tells us he hasn't, then he comes on a trip and just lands whatever he wants! 


*laughs* He's too good. 

But even Sebi said he finds the Instagram stuff hard, just knowing what to post and what to write. Just put it out, don't over-think it. No one fucking cares about the caption. It's nice if you can make it cool, but just put it out. 


And it's gone in a few hours anyway. 

That's the thing. To be honest, I was thinking about doing a full season for the gram, but the only thing that sucks is that things disappear so fast. But maybe you could do a full part after the season with all the footage. Maybe that sounds stupid, but just something more for myself. We should go on a trip and just do Instagram stuff and post it all straight away. It could be sick. No one has done that yet, at least not properly. 


Let's do it next winter. It would be a nice change of approach. 

Even just five days in Oslo or somewhere. If your mindset is right, it can work. Just put out whatever you get. It doesn't need to be crazy. If something looks cool, just do it. And don't spend all your time driving around looking for perfect rails. 


50 50 to frontboard


If your choice is either to ride your snowboard or not ride your snowboard, I think that's an easy one to make. Dom has to come and we have to make him snowboard on mini spots. 

I think he would be so down. When he knows this is what we're doing, and the mindset is right, instead of searching for certain spots for certain tricks, he would be able to stack. It would be fun to see. 



You just need to go all in and do your best. That's it.”



So you've been in the game for quite a while now.  What are you stoked on at the moment? Any trends you're noticing coming back around?

Now you can kind of do what you want with your snowboard. You don't only have to find a handrail and do your best trick. But I think tricks are coming back a bit, and people aren't only focussing on 50-50s and boardslides like it's been for the last few years. I just like to see people how people use their snowboards and how they approach the spot. How they ride in, how they ride out, doing an ollie or something over a bench into a line, that's one of my favourite parts of clips. Even if it's not perfect, it's always sick to see how people ride out of a sketchy landing or something. Just small things like that. At one point, everything needed to be mid-board, perfect 270 out. If it's perfect, then it's perfect, but sometimes when it's a bit off, it can make it look even harder.


So one of my last questions for you is about the rules of street snowboarding, because I know you're pretty strict on them. What's the most illegal thing you've seen recently in the streets? 

Maybe when I knocked the security camera off the wall for my double handplant line, I hit it with my tail, and it flew off the wall. *laughs*. But to get more serious, people should still know what's been done at certain spots. If you go to Helsinki and you see a perfect kink rail, and you don't know the roots of what's been done there, it can kinda suck. If someone did a frontboard there ten years ago and it was in a big movie, you or one of your crew members should know about it. Maybe you should do a frontboard to fakie, so it's a bit different. Then it's ok. It just sucks when it takes so much effort to get that one clip, and you know it's been done, especially when it's filmed from a similar angle. 


© Theo Acworth


So you need to be a student of the game.

Yeah, for sure. I know that some people are so young that they won't have even seen some of those older movies. But some spots are so obvious, especially in Helsinki, that you should generally know that you need to go pretty heavy there to get something new that people will like. And that way, at least the footage will have more impact. 


Does it trip you out that there are kids filming now who've never seen or heard of the videos that you grew up on?

Kind of, yeah. But some of these riders might not know anything besides Instagram. The feed might be the only place where they see snowboarding, so I totally get it. When I post clips from old parts, I can tell there are so many people who've never seen them before. That actually makes me post more. So at least some people who haven't seen the movies can check the clips on the gram. It's so different now. The movies were so big back then and are still big in my mind. That's a whole other topic. I still go back and watch Child Support, and now everything is on TikTok or Instagram. It's gonna be hard for those people. Think about it, if you film a really cool part now with new spots and you put it out on YouTube or whatever, if you don't get views, it just gets lost. The movie has to be good if people will watch it again. 



I got so lucky with the Transworld movie. I filmed a lot of parts, but people really got hyped when they saw that. You just need to go all in and do your best. That's it. 


That's a perfect way to end. Thanks Toni. 

Thank you, stoked to see this in the mag.