Am Scramble 2018: Jaakko Ojanen Interview

Jaakko Photo1 750pxJaakko with an unorthodox sideways tail stall even farther from the North Pole than Finland

Where are you right now?
I’m in Finland. Tampere, that’s the city where I live. That’s where I’m from. I was born here; I’m still here. It’s always nice to come back.

Is it a large city? Where is it?
It’s the second largest city in Finland. It’s two hours from Helsinki, the capitol, so it’s pretty mellow. I can go there whenever I want. It’s not too far.

Are you almost at the North Pole? How far north are you?
It’s pretty far from here.

Jaakko Photo2 750px
What time does it get dark right now?
Right now is the darkest time of the year so around three pm.

And when does the sun come up?
Like, eight or nine. I’m not awake at that time. I have pretty short days right now ’cause I wake up pretty late usually.

What’s your life like when you’re at home?
It’s pretty mellow. Maybe too mellow but I do what I like, how I feel. I don’t usually have anything planned so I just do whatever—go take some photos, skate with friends. Just basic stuff, I guess.

How old are you?
I’m 24

Do you still live at home with your parents?
Yeah, right now I live with my dad. Because I’ve been traveling so much it’s kind of like paying rent for nothing. Kinda stupid. So I’ve been saving some money.

What was your path to getting on Element and DC and all of this stuff? Did you get discovered on the phone? Were you sponsored from Instagram?
No, not at all. I got on DC Finland when I was ten at the Finnish skate championships. I was skating there.

When you were ten?
Yeah, I was ten. So I started getting shoes from DC when I was ten. Then I ride for them for quite a while but maybe from there I got on some trips with DC Europe and met some people. I was still riding for a really small company from my hometown and they offered me to ride for Element Finland. But I kind of said no ’cause I wanted to ride for the small company still. So I kept riding for them for one more year or something and then the Element Europe guys hit me up and I was down and switched it up.

Jaakko Photo6 750pxRegs or switch, Jaakko has no problem dipping his Smiths. This one’s switch, btw

Yeah, so far so good. Some of these questions I’m asking everybody—what was the biggest challenge to getting to where you are now?
I mean, I was never trying to get to this position or anything. I never really was thinking about it. It just somehow happened. I was just skating and people saw me skating and they were stoked and I don’t know. I never took it that way.

Has it changed dramatically in the last year or so? Has your life changed?
Not too much. I mean, there’s a lot of trips every year. These last two or three years have been really hectic. So many trips every year. It hasn’t changed too much, at least not when I think about it like that. I just want to film and skate. But maybe it’s gonna change in a few years or something, but hopefully not.

Is it still as fun as it ever was?
Yeah, I think it’s more fun now. I’m able to do more with my board; it’s even more fun.

Jaakko Quote1 750px
Have you ever come close to wanting to quit skating?
Yeah, when I broke my back three times in a row I had to recover from it each time one year. So it was like I broke my back, recovered for one year, skated, like, two months, broke it again, took a break for another year, skate and the same thing happened back to back so it was super hard. At that time I was thinking, I don’t think I can do this. It was heavy. Hard times for me, for sure.

What ages did that happen?
I was 18-19.

How’d you break your back so many times?
I don’t know. I mean, I didn’t fall or anything. It was just kind of too much skating. My dad had issues with his back, the same thing.

Jaakko PhotoSeqence 750pxPrecise carve control, avoiding the mud on a switch front three

So are there styles of tricks that you avoid because of your back problems?
Yeah. My skating changed a lot after that, I feel. I used to jump down stuff and impact things but after that I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t feel like jumping anymore because I was afraid with my back. So I guess I tried to skate more technical. I guess I just didn’t like impact anymore as much.

What got you started skating very, very small manual pads?
What do you mean?

Jaakko Quote2 750px
You’re the guy who skates the world’s shortest manual pads.
I don’t know about that. There’s a different spot actually in Barcelona next to that spot and I was just looking at with the blocks. I tried a couple times and didn’t think it could really be done but I just kept trying and trying ’til I got close and figured it out that maybe it’s possible and it was. It’s not always the most fun to skate that stuff but it’s cool. I like fast things.

I was thinking, What would be a perfect spot for Jaakko? It would be like if we found three tree stumps in a row in the forest.
Sounds pretty good!

So did you know many of the guys on this trip?
None of them, actually. I met you guys really quick in New York with Element but I really didn’t talk to anyone.

Did any of the guys surprise you with their skating?
Yeah, for sure. They’re all good. Everybody has their own crazy stuff they do.

Jaakko Photo7 750pxThe switch flip over the rail is pretty beast but the switch acid drop at the bottom is just as gnarly

Did you know that Kader could get so fired up?
I knew that he could get fired up but not that fired up. He was fuckin’ fired up! It was pretty crazy.

What are some of the tricks and things that happened on that trip that stick with you that you were really tripping out on?
The first day at the hip spot, Pedro did the grab over Kader. That was pretty crazy. All of the big rails, too, cause in Finland there’s not rails like that at all. I’ve never skated that kind of rails that much. So it was pretty crazy to see the rail skating where they’re just going for it.

Yeah, dude, when Henry jumped on that noseblunt slide I was like, Fuck.
Oh yeah, that was crazy.

He looked so confident.
Yeah, just going for it.

Jaakko Photo3 750pxAlley-oop 5-0 fakie over the sink at Mosquito Farm. Thanks, boys!

What’s really getting you inspired these days in skateboarding at large? You’ve got so many crazy things happening now—you have all the crazy Instagram skatepark kids, you have that GX1000 video, you have the Supreme video and all the New York stuff. What’s really inspiring to you right now?
Not Instagram, I would say. Like, there’s cool clips every now and then but I never really get hyped to skate when I see a crazy Instagram clip or something. Sometimes, yeah, it’s cool but there’s so much clips coming and they’re all kind of the same sometimes so it’s hard to get hyped on them. But maybe parts that come through Thrasher. I like watching people’s parts and full-length videos, too, if I have time to watch them. After that you really want to go skate, for sure.

Who was your first favorite pro skater when you were a kid?
I always grew up watching with my brother; we had a VHS that Daewon was in and Rodney and a Zero video. I remember the Zero video with Jamie Thomas. I don’t know if that was my favorite but we only had that tape so you had to watch it. We watched it for years.

That’s a good balance: Rodney Mullen vs. Daewon Song and the Zero video.
Yeah.

Was Arto a big deal, being from Finland?
Yeah, but for some reason we didn’t have any of his footage at first. Then of course the Flip videos and stuff like that came later so for sure Arto, too.

Jaakko Quote3 750px
Was it high pressure on this trip? Do you like high pressure with everybody chomping or do you like it more relaxed. What’s your vibe?
I mean, not every trip is like that—skating all day gnarly spots and everybody’s going for it. But I kinda liked it. It gets you to try something that you probably wouldn’t try on a normal trip, I guess.

What was it like to have a girl on the trip?
Fabiana. It was pretty sick. I had never been on a trip with a girl skater and she was really cool. She ripped all the spots. It was cool. Maybe not all girl skaters are like that but she was cool, for sure. She’s a real skater.

Jaakko Photo8 750pxSwitch ollie into the gutter—we’re starting to wonder if Jaakko’s actually regular footed…

Do you ever get as emotional as Gabbers when you try a trick?
Probably if I would try as gnarly of shit as he did. That was pretty heavy to watch. So not too often. I lose my mind sometimes and maybe break my board but I usually give it a quick try and if I eat shit or something…

Except for your Willy grind nollie heel attempts, it seemed like every trick you got in there and got out pretty quick.
Yeah. Sometimes I stick with it but not like Gabbers. He’s a fuckin’ legend.

Yeah, he’s an animal. So last year everybody on the first Am Scramble—everybody’s pro now. Do you think all of these guys are gonna be pro by next year?
I mean, they should ’cause they’re really good and I hope they will. I hope it will happen.

Do you care about being pro? Is that a goal for you?
I wouldn’t say a goal. It would be a crazy thing to happen, for sure, but I don’t really stress about it that much.

What else are you interested in? You have a Skater’s Eye in this magazine. If you had to do a job what kind of job would you wanna do?
I’ve been trying to figure that out, like, what I’m gonna do if I can’t skate, but it’s super hard. I like taking photos, but as a job I don’t know.

Yep. It’s hard. You don’t have to decide right now. Who’s your pick for the 2018 Skater of the Year?
I chose Evan.

Jaakko Photo4 750pxAfter breaking his back three times, Jaakko can’t jump down stuff. Fortunately he can still jump up. Neck-high back Smith in H-Town

Yeah, what’s it like going on trips with him? You’ve gotten to travel with him for Element, right?
I did a couple trips with him. He’s really cool; he’s a nice guy; he has all these crazy things he does so it’s pretty entertaining to be with him. I like him.

Yeah, he’s sick. He puts everything into it.
Yeah. Whatever he does.

Have you ever tried to skate on acid?
No.

I’m scared. I’d be the guy that only tried it once and now he has to live in his parents’ basement. That would be me.
I don’t know if I would do that, but yeah.

What’s the weirdest Finnish thing that you do that would seem weird to us Americans?
Well, I don’t know how weird it is for us, but we go swim in a hole in the ice during winters. So the water is actually freezing but they make a hole in the ice and it goes from there.

How do you not die?
I mean, you don’t stay there for too long but you kinda dip in and dip out. We have saunas so we mix those two and it’s really nice.

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So after a hard day at the skatepark, instead of the ice bath you just go dig a hole in the ice?
Yeah, kind of. But there’s public places you can go to. I never dig my own hole. That would be a cool thing to do.

That’s a good King of the Road Finland challenge.
Definitely.

Jaakko Photo5 750pxWhat a spot?! Up-rail grind, ollie into the bank and Austin’s growing traffic problem
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