words: Pat Bridges
Within the canon of snowboarding few protagonists have been as prolific, inspiring, and influential as Terje Haakonsen. Both on the snow and off, Haakon has strived to manifest change through action. Whether conjuring new dimensions of board control in the middle of a backcountry line or steering the collective conversation towards riders having more control of our sport, Terje leads by example. Building larger halfpipes, creating the World Snowboard Tour, bending the back elbow on banked turns, boosting thirty-feet above the deck of a quarterpipe, chucking backside rodeo 720′s, putting a drawing of Jeff Brushie’s dog peeing himself on a pro model topsheet, calling the President of the IOC a Nazi sympathizing fascist, these are just some of the things Terje did first and did better than anyone else. SNOWBOARDER was graced with a rare chance to catch up with ”The Sprocking Cat” while he was on a mid-winter respite in Hawaii to discuss Subjekt: Haakonsen, the revamped Arctic Challenge, the IOC, and other topics.
For those who don’t remember or weren’t even riding yet, what were your goals for the event when you created The Arctic Challenge a decade and a half ago?
There were a few. I wanted to have the pipes bigger. I thought it was safer and smoother with bigger transitions. In small pipes I would have too much speed for the walls and I would fly out of the pipe or pop into the flats. I wanted to present snowboarding on TV how we the riders wanted it to look and show what we actually could do. I also wanted to have other things to do when we were not riding the pipe, like good freeriding. We built a skateboard ramp, and there was fishing and surfing to be done—basically, having and showing a good experience on and off of the snow. Also the food we eat is important to the quality. We had jam sessions at the first ones, a format most guys like except for live TV. So we have been compromising. It seems like snowboarders always have to compromise for something. The lifestyle stuff you need a good location for, so we haven’t done the fishing and surfing since we are no longer holding The Arctic Challenge in Northern Norway.
What have been some of the highlights of The Arctic Challenge over the years?
I guess there has been some highlights if we not only talk about riding. The years we were up north had all kinds of “highlights.” The boat rides in storms, some good rock concerts, midnight sun, surfing, and the seal lasagna. Riding wise, I think our first halfpipe and quarterpipe were stand outs with Stamsund/Lofoten as a location. With sun the whole week, we had some great sessions just experimenting really. In 2001, we made out first quarterpipe in the ski-jumping stadium at Homekollen. The riding on that one was almost just as good as we see now. Heiki had the highest air: 9.3 meters. Gian Simmen did a backside five, six-seven meters out. Fourteen-year-old Shaun White was going bigger than most. He also won his first pro event ever in the pipe there, in front of me and Danny Kass. Did I mention the whale burgers? In 2004 in Tromsø, Travis Rice and Andy Finch had a quarterpipe battle that upped the anti on the tricks and height. Travis had so many variations and Andy sent it high during that jam session. We had some scary moments too, though. In 2006, the quarter was so icy and the tranny was too tight, so we had cracked helmets and sent more than a few to the hospital. Only highlight that year was the urban city comp we put on because Oslo was full of snow. In 2007 and 2008 we had good quarters and good riding. Sunny Midtstuen and Holmekollen arena was good years. In the 2008 quarterpipe we had an eight-man final where only one guy didn’t do tricks over six meters high. I think it’s good when the whole pack have the chance to make top three. Kevin Pearce won his second Arctic quarterpipe back-to-back. Some years the weather just made it so difficult to organize and to ride at the level we wanted to. I think our second slopestyle was a good one. We had girls again and there was some drama about the course, but I think they were all proud when it was done because they rode good in a course that was not just a walk in the park. We have, of course, failed on more than one thing, but I think our experiment has brought new ides for shaping, judging, and how you can hold an event.
Describe how the latest incarnation of The Arctic Challenge will be different than past events?
Well, this one will be more like our pilot year in 1999. No formal competition, but different sessions where we will have winners. I hope when the riders are there we can discus and talk about the future of transition competitions. I always try to make the riders have a say in the competition, for their own safety and for the outlook on TV. They are the ones that are on TV and it is their sport that gets presented. This year, like a few others years, we didn’t have the sponsors to have slopestyle and quarterpipe. So, we are doing the pipe and we think the pipe needs new life. It has been the golden run format for so many years and that’s why we just see back-to-back flipping and not a freestyle session with creativity and with variations. Also, when all the pipes are always the same, it is just tailored for those few guys to practice their golden run. They usually know what place they could get with their run before even showing up! So, we want to get the guys together and discuss what could be done better. We will work together with SPT make a pipe with hip entries and a few more elements than a stock pipe. It will be similar to the Danny Davis Peace Pipe project. There are actually more than a few guys out there that think things can be different. Just look at skating, it’s always changing. We don’t have a solution for what is best and we don’t think there is one perfect format. But, we believe this could get more guys back to the pipe and we would see more creative riding and different winners. We will see more variation on tricks and get the sessions to be more impulsive.
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What are the dates and location? Can you tell us what the venue and setup will be like?
We are going to have it during the Oslo Winter Festival, which has lot of different things happening on snow, like the Snowsk8 Boardercross World Championships, because we can. There will be a big air event hosted by the Norwegian Federation. It’s going be from the 13th to the 15th of March. We will session everyday and have a few competitions on the 16th. Oslo Winter Park has a great pipe set up with a lift and it’s tucked away from wind. It is maybe a little short, but SPT has been making a really good pipe there the two last years and the riders have been coming back and staying longer to ride the beast.
Besides Danny Davis and Arthur Longo who are some other riders people can expect to see at the 2014 Arctic Challenge?
From what I know today, Ben Ferguson, Markus Keller, and Iouri Podladtchikov are confirmed. The Nippon crew with Kazuhiro Kokubo, Ayumu Hirano, and Taku Hiraoka got invites. Really hope Ayumu doesn’t have to go back to school that week. We are going to call Scotty Lago today. I’m actually writing Shaun White again today. He has been invited to every Arctic Challenge and it would be great to have a guy that rides pipe that well there. That guy has got some incredible board skills and it sucks to see him not embrace the stuff that got him to where he is today. A lot of people would be stoked to see him back in the mix. I am hoping to get a few guys that don’t really focus on pipe that much, but they love riding and riding anything. Riders like Mark McMorris and Staale Sandbech are two really good snowboarders, not just slopestylers. I think Sage is on the list too. I’m out travelling so I’m not 100% updated on the list. I will be tomorrow though.
When was the last time you watched Subjekt: Haakonsen? What did you think of it?
I’m not sure. It has been a while. I still think the music is good and Dave and Wooly did an amazing job. Most of the kickers and airs are pretty small, but the freeriding is free. I think there is only one park jump in it and by that I mean no park jumps in the backcountry either.
Do you ever wish you hadn’t doubled up the switch frontside inverts in your full handplant halfpipe run?
I guess for perfect hand plant run I should have done a phillip 66 and McEgg at the end. I did two runs, I think. The first one I made it to the third hit and second one I guess I failed when I did the switch invert on the wall and not the coping, so then I had to do the switch invert again. It was a small pipe with fast snow. It’s not easy to keep up the speed when it’s back-to-back plants. I love handplants though. Do you?
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Subjekt set the archetype for future biopics like Jake Blauvelt’s Naturally, Horgasm and The White Album yet is still regarded as the best one ever. Why do you think it holds up so strong and is still inspiring and entertaining eighteen years later?
Not sure. You should ask someone else. If I have to guess I think its the freeriding and slashing and hitting everything even if it’s not the perfect jump. And like I said, Wooly and Seoane put some good tunes and a good feel to it.
Can you recall how many days you actually spent with the camera out filming with Dave Seoane for Subjekt?
I’m sure we could get close to a right number if we go through the trips. We did quite few trips and just like today, you score or you don’t get shit. And back then 16mm or super 8 films would turn to shit or get lost (laughs). But that didn’t matter Wooly said, because only we would know.
So is there a lot of unseen footage that is buried in a box somewhere?
There are a lot of DV tapes for sure, everything but riding on those. It’s going to be a good laugh to go through them one day. Riding shots, there are a few, but very little. Nothing incredible, that’s for sure.
How much easier is it to film today now that everything is digital as opposed to film?
I think it’s harder and it takes a lot more work. Digital is good, because you can see what you got right away and perfect it. But now the guys have all kinds of rigs that come with the camera. And of course the riding level is up. We are also so exposed to action sports now, that it takes a lot more to get people exited or stoked.
Have you ever thought about collaborating with Dave Seoane on a follow up to Subjekt Haakonsen and Haakon Faktor?
It has been in our conversations, but nothing is planned. I was not too stoked on Faktor, so it would be cool to make the third one.
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What is your opinion of how snowboarding was organized, portrayed and publicized at the Sochi Olympics?
I didn’t see the slopestyle, but I heard the guys showed a good picture of competition snowboarding. It was good to see that not every national team had their same skiing suit on. Everybody can do an event. You can hire folks that know a lot about snowboarding. But when they don’t include the athletes there will be more things done wrong. And the pipe, the filming was actually better this time. But having no spectators on the sidelines really takes the atmosphere out of the pipe event. Judging is hard, but I think there were obvious mistakes in both events from what I heard.
How do you feel when your personal Olympic stance is brought up in relation to how today’s riders react to similar challenges so many years later?
Sixteen years later I get the same questions. Nothing has changed for the better and everybody knows more about what is going on. So it’s funny to see all these riders, coaches, managers, companies and core media still bend over like this is the biggest thing that they don’t want to miss. It is a contest that actually messed up their own bread and butter. It’s not hard to understand that they are the cream of the cake, if you don’t have the cream you don’t have the event. I hoped the top cream would start telling them who it should be and not let guys that don’t do our sport or do skiing tell them how to do snowboarding. The Olympics is a good window for any sport, no question about it, but it’s OK to have some values. Without the riders there is no Olympics. The riders have the power Everybody knows that IOC takes profit before values.
Tell us about setting the fastest time at this years Mt. Baker Banked Slalom switch and why didn’t you win the main event with that time?
I think they messed up my qualification time with my fakie run time at the prize giving and winning qualifications doesn’t mean anything. I fell both of my runs on the final day and you don’t win then.
The post Interview: Terje Haakonsen talks The Arctic Challenge 2014, the Olympics, and Riding Switch at the Mt. Baker Banked Slalom appeared first on Snowboarder Magazine.