HÄN talks to Helsinki and London-based skaters Santtu Nikander and Laura Tuppurianen, to find out their opinion on the skating scene in two capitals.
Skating is officially a major trend. Skaters’ ‘anti-fashion’ wardrobe of oversized T-shirts, skinny jeans, and comfortable slip ons are back in favours among the designers, especially Vetements, with their humorous yet commercially savvy approach to our Instagram-obsessed society. The reigning of the 90s on the catwalks only intensifies the interest in the street skateboarding culture. In February, the queues for the skaters’ brand Supreme SS16 launch was full of people who has never even held a skateboard in their hands, not to mention performed any tricks. In Finland, the situation is no different: there are over 21 skate parks in the Helsinki area alone and the number is constantly growing. With all these smoke and mirrors suddenly surrounding the skating scene, it is easy to forget that there is more to it than some fancy clothes.
Santtu Nikander has been into skateboarding for most of his life. Originally from Kouvula, 27 years old skater first got on the board 15 years ago. “Friend had a board and we tried to master it with the knowledge from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. Later that summer my dad bought me a board and it has been downhill since that”, says Santtu, jokingly. Santtu credits freedom that skating gives for his love of the sport. “No coach is telling you what to do”, says he. “Some days you might push yourself to learn a new trick, the other you can just go cruise around the city. It’s spontaneous”.
Right now Sanntu is heavily involved in the construction of skate parks in the country. (Watch his compilation from the skatepark he built in Kouvola here). Thanks to the support from the local authorities who employ skaters to build and manage the skate parks. Right now, nearly every big town and village in the country has at least one skate park. Most of them are constructed from wood to sustain the low winter temperature and some of them are also indoors. Moreover, Finland’s long summer days make is an ideal destination for wild skating. which allows skating in Finland all year round. “The number of boarders is increasing and better parks are being built”, says Santtu. “When thinking the conditions, long winters and shitty flatground for example, it is surprisingly good”.
Helsinki-bornLaura Tuppurianen, who has moved to London last April, experienced skating in both cities. Like Santtu, she also got into the sport through friends. Hesitant to try it out at first, 27 years old Laura was hooked when she finally gave it a go last year. “Everything felt really scary at first and it took a while to start feeling comfortable on the board, but starting out was the best decision I ever made!”, confesses she. Despite the unisex clothing, Laura believes that girl skating is “a subculture of its own”, with Girl Skate UK and skaters like Lucy Adams and Josie Millard leading the way. Laura attends monthly girls’ sessions organized by Bay Sixty6, Better Extreme and House of Vans, and recently became part of the all-girl skate group Nefarious Crew. “A lot of people in the London skate scene work in creative industries”, says Laura. “There are so many companies that are interested in doing things with skaters that there are always opportunities arising for collaborations and creative projects”.
Laura believes that the skating scenes in London and Finland are different mainly in terms of size. “In Finland girl skating is still a bit more laidback and underground”, says she. “But underneath,… I don’t think the scenes are very different – skateboarding is so universal and skaters around the world are all part of the same ‘tribe’!”. She praises Instagram for allowing girl skaters to connect across the globe. “A lot of girl skaters from back home in Finland are also following @girlskateuk and @nefariouscrew on Instagram”, says Laura. “On the other hand, all my London mates are super stoked on coming to Finland and getting to know the local scene – and we want to build a mini ramp in the middle of the forest at our ”mökki” (cabin) on Lake Saimaa!”
She credits TRL (Tyttorullalautailijat ry), the local girl skate society and their weekly girls-only session in Kontula indoor skatepark, for the growing popularity of skating among Finnish girls. “I think it’s really special that girls have a session… where they don’t have to feel intimidated even if it’s their first time on a board”, says Laura. She believes that it will only bring the skaters community closer together. “There is a lot to learn and gain from skating with other girls, a general sense of community and support from other women”, says Laura. “Although it’s cool to skate with boys too!”.
Ultimately, for both Laura and Santtu, the appeal of skating hides in its care-free vibe. “It’s just fun and you forget everything else besides skating”, says Laura. “Keeps you young as well! It’s perfectly cool to dress and act like a teenage boy in your 20s and 30s”. And since fashion is all about fun and masquerade, current skater chic only makes sense.
Words by Kira Kolosova.