Ylfa makes you want to go shredding. Her enthusiasm, drive and dedication to snowboarding are contagious. With some heavy video parts in both Uninvited movies, followed by industry accolades and a recent sponsorship change to the big B, Ylfa is certainly paving her way forward in the snowboarding scene. Working together last season I saw first-hand the different sides to her snowboarding. from spring park laps in Kläppen, hitting street spots in Kiruna, natural quarterpipe sessions in her old stomping grounds of Riksgränsen, to her exceptional work with the Swedish ProgSessions as a coach and mentor for other female riders of all ages. Ylfa seamlessly blends the fun and serious sides of snowboarding while always being inclusive and helping to keep everyone’s stoke levels high. Make sure you look out for her new videopart and she’s always down for a chat, so say hi if you see her on the hill or in the streets (she’s the one with the sick style).
Intro & Photo. Alex Roberts
Interview. Theo Acworth
Hey Ylfa, how’s it going?
Good thanks. I’m outside on my balcony. Can you hear me?
Yep, all good. How was your camping weekend?
Amazing. It was Midsummer in Sweden, so we were celebrating the longest day of the year. Everyone gathers with friends and has a party. We were at a friend’s parent’s place in the countryside, there was a kind of abandoned factory that we made into a party hall.
That sounds rad. So you’re in Sweden right now, but you’re originally from Iceland. How come you ended up living there?
I started snowboarding when I was a teenager, and I was skateboarding a bit before that. Right after I got into snowboarding, I met Halldor and Eiki at a Lobster camp in Iceland. Those guys went to the snowboarding high school in Sweden, and Eiki basically said if I want to keep snowboarding that I should move to Sweden. There just wasn’t that much on offer in Iceland. Maybe one or two parks, but the weather is so crazy, and you can’t really count on winter there, so Sweden felt like a good idea. I was kind of in that snowboarding psychosis. I just wanted to snowboard. I’m still kind of in that, I guess.
So you went to the same school as those guys?
No, I didn’t. I applied for it, but I didn’t get in. But there’s kind of a funny twist. When I was applying for it, you had to do it through the Swedish Ski Association website, and you couldn’t submit your application unless you’d made a second choice. So the school I ended up going to was one that I just randomly put as my second choice. I didn’t even know what or where it was. When I found out I didn’t get into my first choice, I’d planned to just keep living in Iceland. So I wasn’t too sad about it, it was kind of a random thing to apply for it in the first place. Then I got an email from a coach at the other school, snowboarding was petty much brand new there, and he just wanted more snowboarders to join the program, and he told me that I should really apply for it because he really wanted me to come.
It’s nice when things work out like that!
So I applied, and then three weeks later, I moved to Sweden. I was way, way up north, in Kiruna. I think it’s the most northern city in Europe. Or one of them, at least.
How old were you when you moved there?
I think I was 15, turning 16.
Wow, ok, really young. How was that experience for you? Completely leaving family and jumping to another country?
You know, I didn’t even think about it at the time. I was just like, let’s go. And now when I see someone that’s 15 or 16, that’s pretty young! I just didn’t think it was a big deal at all at the time.
That’s pretty cool to have had that freedom and confidence. Maybe knowing Halldor and Eiki had done it made it seem a bit less intimidating?
Yeah, and my mum had actually done something pretty similar herself. She moved from Iceland to Norway when she was 16 to work on a horse ranch. So that’s why she was super chill about it. She knew that it was a cool experience.
"At one point, I realised why a lot of girls quit snowboarding. It feels like you almost get included all the time, but you never really get into the crew, you know? And snowboarding is fun because it’s inclusive. We do it with our friends, and we do it together."
I guess the school provided accommodation for you?
For the first year, yes. There were a few houses close by and we all had our own rooms and shared spaces. Dorms, is that the right word?
Yeah, that’s right.
And then, for the second year, we looked for places ourselves.
It sounds kind of like a university for kids.
That was a really cool experience, and it’s the kind of thing that makes you want to stay. If I lived somewhere super far away from school or wasn’t living with the people I was at school with, I don’t know if I would have lasted. When you’re so new somewhere, and you’re kind of in the middle of nowhere, your friends become your family. You’re just with them 24/7.
Are there similarities between the Icelandic language and Swedish?
Yeah, for sure, there’s a lot of words that you can figure out if you listen carefully. Swedes don’t really understand Icelandic people, but Icelandic people learn Danish in school, which is similar to Swedish. So I think that’s why it was easier for me to learn Swedish. The Danish King kind of owned Iceland for a long time, so we learn Danish in school. Iceland didn’t become independent until 1944.
So over the next few years of school, were you thinking that snowboarding was something that you wanted to chase professionally?
Yeah, for a while. I think it was more during the first year of that school that I was thinking that, because I was still quite new to snowboarding. I’d only just found it, so I still had that special thing when you fall in love with something new. It’s like your thing, you know? But then you get a little bit older, and all sorts of other aspects of life come into play, and I maybe didn’t want to become a snowboarder so much. I even actively tried to not make it a big deal for a while. I think I was insecure and scared to take that step. I saw some people turn out to not be the best versions of themselves when they got that attention. I don’t know. I guess I both wanted it and didn’t want it. I never really let it go and stopped snowboarding, but I was maybe not answering emails if people were asking me about sponsorship. I was just a bit scared of it, I think.
I guess everyone deals with pressure and expectations in different ways, but usually people grab these opportunities and figure things out afterwards, rather than turning them down in the first place!
Eventually, I realised that I actually kind of did want it. It was when Jess [Kimura] reached out to me about the first Uninvited movie. Before that, there was a lot of talk in snowboarding and people promising things to me, but then things not happening. And that resulted in me not answering emails or just ignoring stuff or whatever. Just a lot of loose promises.
So you kind of felt let down and didn’t want to chase other opportunities because of those bad experiences?
Yeah, it kind of took the charm out of becoming a snowboarder. Of course, I always identified as a snowboarder, but not as a profession or anything like that. It felt halfway inclusive. Sometimes you were included when it suited everyone else in the industry, but when you wanted to be included, you weren’t. That’s how that felt, for a while anyway.
I think that’s a pretty fair observation. I’ve heard a lot of people say similar things. It’s nice to get boards and stuff, but as soon as you actually want to do something more, team managers don’t answer emails, or you don’t get invited on trips.
This was more about just getting stuff rather than anything else. Just getting a board in my size or boots in my size. Anything you know? It was not even about projects or anything.
Oh right, you meant literally just getting the gear you wanted was a struggle?
Yeah. So I guess I grew into a bit of an ignorant state of thinking that I didn’t care about any of that. Obviously I cared, but I chose to have that attitude towards it. I was just riding boards that were way too big or sample bindings that I had to fix with duct tape. And that’s cool, most people buy gear, so at the time, I was hyped about it.
Maybe the silver lining to the situation is that your snowboarding could develop in its own space in a totally genuine way without any external pressure or worries about sponsors. Just riding because you love it. I think you can really see that in your riding, that you’re just having fun out there bombing around.
Yeah, for sure. I’ve always had such good times with snowboarding in my life. The best times. It’s been such a fun journey, all of it. But I think at one point, I realised why a lot of girls quit snowboarding. It feels like you almost get included all the time, but you never really get into the crew, you know? And snowboarding is fun because it’s inclusive. We do it with our friends, and we do it together. Snowboarding, for me, is not going and riding alone. You go snowboarding with your friends because it’s fun. I’ve seen so many insanely good girls disappear. They were my idols and role models, and maybe they never snowboard again. Or they stop until they’re way older and realise, oh shit, I gave it up, why? Because they just didn’t feel like a part of it and didn’t get invited to anything.
"Right now I work in a hotel as a receptionist. I usually work my ass off for half the year to save money for snowboarding. Last year was the first time I’d had any budget, which was really sick. That made me think that maybe I can work a bit less and actually have a bit of a pre-season instead of jumping into the season in January."
I can definitely see that. There seems to be a lot more visibility for women at the moment, though, and progression is going through the roof.
I don’t even mean it about progression, just inclusion. Whatever level you’re at in snowboarding, it’s not fun if you’re not included.
Anyone reading this, take note and make sure everyone has space at the table, even if it’s just joining the session! Speaking of which, you’ve just joined the Burton roster. How did that come about, and how’s it been going so far?
It’s been really cool. Burton actually just opened a store in Sweden, so that’s how I came into the picture. Lina Adams is the Scandinavian manager, she contacted me, and we just started talking. It wasn’t a super easy choice to make at all because I knew everyone at Nitro and had a good relationship there. It wasn’t like I just jumped onto Burton without really thinking about it. But I think it’s given me a really good platform. The sad thing is that we’re still dealing with COVID, so I haven’t really met anyone, but we’ve had some really good zoom calls with the whole team and also anti-racism workshops and stuff. So that’s been really cool, but I’m definitely looking forward to meeting people in person, just hanging out and going riding. I think it’s also the first time that I’ve always had gear, which is awesome. That makes it a lot easier to snowboard, and it’s really good gear too.
Well we’re also stoked to see you still repping the Method beanies now and then!
Oh yeah, of course.
"There are only ever a few girls on the hill, and maybe because you’re one of the older ones or the only one that’s riding the bigger jumps, you automatically become that role model, whether you like it or not. You just have to take that role, and sometimes it’s really hard because it takes a lot of energy, and maybe you just want to snowboard, but it’s always worth it to give other people your time."
We spoke earlier about role models and how you used to look up to certain riders. Do you ever think about the fact that you’re already a potential role model for younger riders, especially now you’re riding for a brand the size of Burton?
I feel like I actually took on that role way before getting on Burton. There are only ever a few girls on the hill, and maybe because you’re one of the older ones or the only one that’s riding the bigger jumps, you automatically become that role model, whether you like it or not. You just have to take that role, and sometimes it’s really hard because it takes a lot of energy, and maybe you just want to snowboard, but it’s always worth it to give other people your time. Just talk to other riders, give them the feeling that they’re included, you know? Because you get included when you take that space. Nobody gets that served to them. But if you don’t know anyone, then you might never know that. A lot of girls are scared of taking space, both in snowboarding and other parts of life. You get a lot of criticism if you’re ‚the loud girl in class’. Sadly, that is so imprinted in we how we behave as humans. Women are supposed to be sweeter and quieter. And that’s cool to be like that, but the flip side is that people might think we’re not attractive if we don’t behave like that. So many girls have a hard time inviting themselves into the group in the first place. They might get trash talked for that, and that sucks. So I always try and talk to everyone, all the girls who are at the park. It’s so important, and I’ve done that for a long time, especially here in Sweden.
That’s really cool to hear. Like you said, just that one conversation might change someone’s entire experience of being on the hill or in the park. Just knowing that there’s one person who will say hi to them the next time they come or would be down to have a session together.
Even if you have nothing to say to someone, you can still take the lift with them. We need to do that in snowboarding. We can’t just play the cool guy. I hate when people do that. That doesn’t make snowboarding grow, that’s why snowboarding could fade out. It stays strong when we talk and we’re nice to each other.
For sure. The best thing is always just riding with people. I sometimes wonder if social media has an influence on the ‚cool guy’ thing because it makes us so focused on ourselves.
I like to think that I’ll always try and talk to anyone or hang with anyone or ride with anyone, but for sure there are days where I just want to be by myself, put on music and snowboard. But there’s still a way to smile at people when you do that and not freeze them out.
Do people ever recognise you from your parts and come up and talk to you on the hill?
No, I don’t think so. I think most people just think I’m a little boy, to be honest *laughs*. But in Sweden, we’re such a small scene and you kind of know everyone, or mostly everyone.
Is snowboarding something that pays the bills for you, or are you also working at the same time?
Right now I work in a hotel as a receptionist. I usually work my ass off for half the year to save money for snowboarding. Last year was the first time I’d had any budget, which was really sick. That made me think that maybe I can work a bit less and actually have a bit of a pre-season instead of jumping into the season in January. So I’m hoping that now I can stop working in November.
It’s always rad when you have the chance to start shooting earlier. You might already have a few cool shots before Christmas, which can take the pressure off a bit for the rest of the winter. What is it that you’ve been filming for?
I’ve been filming for the new Uninvited movie.
Oh nice, I heard that’s been in the works. Last winter was a weird one for everyone. How did filming go for you?
To be honest, after all this COVID stuff, I’ve been super low on energy at times. I think a lot of people are going through the same thing. You’re just so tired from doing nothing. You’re not used to meeting people or doing anything, so you get exhausted when you actually do. My body was just really weak this winter. After some intensive days of filming, I’d need to rest for a long time, way longer than I usually do. And I think that goes hand in hand with mental health too. My body definitely had a way harder time recovering because my mind wasn’t totally clear. Filming is just very physically and mentally intense.
I guess jumping straight into it after a lot of downtime is like going from 0 to 100mph.
I think that a lot of people have been going through injuries and stuff this winter because of that, because your mind is not in the right place. I’ve had a bunch of injuries. Most of them were minor, but definitely a lot more than usual. And that gets into your head, and then it becomes even harder. So I’m really happy that I had the chance to film for an established project. I don’t know if I’d have the energy to fully make my own thing. Not ‚my own’ thing, but you know what I mean?
Yeah. Who were you shooting with? I saw you were with Hena Ikola for a bit?
Yeah, I went to Finland and met up with Hena and Roope Rautiainen. We were filming there together.
"Filming with a good crew makes it for me. I don’t think filming is only worth it to get clips. Filming is worth it if the journey is great as well."
Those two rip.
Yeah, it was amazing. Not only are they great snowboarders, they’re so fun to hang out with. We were always having a good time. Filming with a good crew makes it for me. I don’t think filming is only worth it to get clips. Filming is worth it if the journey is great as well. That’s my point of view on it. I might not always be smiling at the spot, everyone gets frustrated, but most of the time, it’s something you enjoy. If it ends up becoming more of something that you don’t enjoy, then you’re just doing it for the prize of filming a part to feed the ego instead of doing it because it’s amazing. And it is amazing, what we’re doing is insane! *Laughs*. So I try and go in with that attitude. I don’t think anyone really gets rich from snowboarding anymore. We should do it because it’s fun. It’s not worth it to be freaking out at the spot every other day. If I get to that point, then I hope I don’t keep doing it.
That’s a great attitude to have.
But I think we’re all different as people. Maybe someone wants to see a part that’s just full of gnarly stuff, and someone else wants to see a part that’s just full of happy people having fun. The riding I like doing and watching is always fun. When it’s pure. There’s so much other stuff in life, people bragging about a new car or whatever. It’s so good just to let that go and go snowboarding. It doesn’t need to be the gnarliest shit to make it the most fun. And you start doing more tricks all the time when you’re having fun because you’re like oh, I’m going to try this, or I’m going to ride that. You can tell if someone is hyped just by watching them. When it’s forced, you can see it. That’s all I’m trying to say. It’s just two different approaches, though. Some people like the one and other people like the other.
"You just have to surround yourself with the type of people you want to surround yourself with. Choose your environment. Choose something that gives back."
I think we share quite a similar perspective. I like seeing gnarly stuff, but I’d way rather see a trick that looks fun. That’s what your footage is like, it makes me want to go riding, and that’s awesome. It just looks like you have a really good time, and I think a lot of other people feel the same about your snowboarding.
I think I ride that way because I watched that kind of snowboarding, and that’s what I want to create. I want to create whatever I get inspired from. We’re all just a product of each other’s energy, and I like that kind of energy. That’s what I want to work towards. What I’ve been trying to find in my spots this year has been colours. That’s what spoke to me. Of course, it wasn’t every spot, but when I was checking spots, I was just looking for cool colours. Then you have to make the spot work rather than only choosing perfect spots. But watching that kind of stuff makes me really happy.
That’s cool to hear that you had a bit of a plan with your spots. It’s nice when you have an idea to follow that gives you direction.
Yeah, it sort of gives you a framework to work within. It might not work out perfectly, you might not have the speed, or you might have to change the trick, but those kinds of challenges are really fun. We don’t have so much of a street filming culture in Sweden, at least compared to the US, so I don’t think these kids who only ride park realise how varied people’s approaches to street snowboarding can be. It’s not like just rolling up to a park rail that someone else has shaped for you. There are so many different minds behind street riding, and that’s so cool. That’s what makes your favourite boarder your favourite boarder, you know?
For sure. I remember we met at Rock a Rail a few years ago and I was really hyped to see you ride, but I think you did maybe two runs and then didn’t snowboard at all. I guess the filming environment is maybe a little more natural for you than doing it in front of a giant crowd?
I just like snowboarding in a flow state, and I can easily get to that state with filming. When you’re out filming, you’re pretty much always with people that you’re comfortable around, and they understand what you’re doing. They enjoy whatever you’re doing because they know you enjoy it. Being in front of people or being the centre of attention just stresses me out. I can’t handle pressure. I don’t really know why, because I’m not shy at all. Even when I was a kid doing a school play, I might have arranged the whole thing, but I didn’t want to be on stage. I don’t know if that makes sense, and I also don’t know if it has to. I can probably work on this. Everyone can work on everything. I rode competitions years ago in Sweden. It was just parents watching, not even a crowd, and I still got those nerves and felt that awful feeling. I just feel like that’s not worth it for me. With filming, all the nervousness is good nervousness. You have fun with it. It doesn’t get to the point where I can’t handle it. But there’s a whole different side of it, which is when you’re at the hill and everyone is a part of it. Everyone is snowboarding together. It becomes a safe environment I guess. I’m never in the middle of it. We just do it, and we’re all in it together.
When you know everyone around you is on the same kind of wavelength, that’s really good.
That’s the thing. You just have to surround yourself with the type of people you want to surround yourself with. Choose your environment. Choose something that gives back.
Seems like you’re doing exactly that. Ok Ylfa, I reckon we can leave things there for now. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, we’re stoked to get these words and photos on paper, and stoked to see The Uninvited III when it drops!
Thank you, I’m happy we did this.