Skaters & Surfers: Don’t make the mistakes we did

Aug 05, 2016 by antti autti Category: Anttisworld 8 comments

So there we go: skateboarding and surfing are in the Olympics – for at least in Tokyo 2020. It got me wondering how snowboarding got in and then what happened.

My relationship with Olympics is contradictory. Although I haven’t won any medals, still Olympics have given me so many opportunities, such as new sponsorships and other possibilities that still benefits me. So I know that for many young riders succeeding there can make a huge difference for their careers. However I do have my concerns.

As snowboarding was selected in to the Olympics I just thought it was cool. All of a sudden you saw more snowboarding on TV (that time it was really rare!) and by watching it I learned more how to ride halfpipe. The first halfpipe competition in Olympics was in 1998 and I was 13 years old, so I really didn’t care if Terje was boycotting or not. All I wanted to do was to see halfpipe riding as much as possible – and that was all that counted. Even by the time I was an Olympian in Torino I hadn’t thought about how Olympics would effect snowboarding. But that was the first time I saw some things that were against my mentality – against the reason why I started snowboarding in the first place.

In all boardsports, no matter what competition is, there are no pattern how some things should be done. Or at least that’s how it used to be. For snowboarding, Olympics totally changed it. Maybe the biggest loss considering our sport is that due the Olympics it became more boring to watch. Nowadays you have standardized parks and halfpipes, and although there are some minor differences here and there, the reality is that pipes and slopestyle courses are based on a same pattern.

Personally I couldn’t understand why I was forced to put on clothes that didn’t represent me, and that my sponsors who were supporting me weren’t allowed to be seen. In a way everything about my lifestyle was taken away for two weeks and all that was left was riding itself. That was the only visible part of me there – and I’m glad it was the biggest part.

Everybody knows Shaun White and in Finland everybody know our silver medals, but I think that the best statement considering Olympics is Heikki Sorsa and his mohawk. As I now think of it, on that hairstyle crystallizes everything of what got me into snowboarding. It’s the freedom to do whatever you want; it’s the counterforce against all conservative sports. As skateboarding and surfing are going to Tokyo, we will see how personalities will become favorites of the core audience, and not necessarily the ones who take home the victories.

As for new Olympic sports, they should take a close look to what snowboarding has gone through after becoming part of the Olympics. For me, boardsports will always represent living in the limits only our minds can make. Unfortunately, International Olympic Committee reduces that and causes especially in skateboarding that people will scatter even more to different categories. In snowboarding that has happened a long time ago, and that’s a shame.

What do you think will happen to skateboarding and surfing now that the sports are in olympics?

  1. Tom CollinsAugust 05, 2016   

    Right On

  2. Toni LahtiAugust 05, 2016   

    Moi, ihan mielenkiintoinen kirjoitus. Itse olisin hehkuttanut enemmän kuinka kovia Jussi Oksanen ja Heikki Sorsa olivat oikeasti olympialaisissa. Ylivoimaisesti korkeimmat ilmat meni näille ukoille. Sorsan laskun muistan paremmin ja vaikka siellä pientä haparointia olikin, niin se oli jotain ennennäkemätöntä siinä vaiheessa (eikä vain irokeesin voimin), ja voiton vei just ja just kaaren yläpuolelle päässyt tyyppi.

    Oksasesta muistan myös yhden vhs:lle nauhotetun x-gamesin, jossa selostaja sanoo, että ei tosta ois saanut mennä, ja tekiköhän Jussi siitä jonku Switch-bäkkiseiskan. Good times.

    Skeittauksessa en ikinä halua nähdä mitään maajoukkuetta. Ei skeittausta harjoitella, sitä tehdään.

  3. DonaldAugust 05, 2016   

    It’s still the same critical point we’ve been discussing since Nagano – was the soul of the sport killed by the patterns of comp? I don’t see it that way. The true/free spirit of snowboarding & Olympic snowboarding can co-exist. It’s similar like in the music business, e.g. Herbie Hancock who spends most of his musical energy with spaced out crazy jazz music for the core, but releases a funky & commercially successful album once in a while that the mainstream masses also dig & may make it into the charts. And pays his bills. I can’t see why so many riders still have their concerns about the Olympics – why not just go there, kick ass, get paid well & be a cool representative for what’s the coolest sport anyway, with or without the Olympics. Your credibility does not depend on that.

  4. SamiAugust 06, 2016   

    Thanks for the good article. What makes it even better is the fact that it’s coming from an athlete who has gone through the early days of olympic snowboarding.

    If I may comment here from the couch, some things have changed in 18 years though. In the mid/late 90’s the snowboarding was all about riding your local resort, watching the big boys do their thing in the magazines or VHS tapes, and maybe going on a season ender trip to north to meet other fellow snowboarders. Fair to say, in general snowboarding was not very extensively covered in the media. Like you wrote, seeing olympic snowboarding live on TV was huge. All of a sudden you could see your idols pulling tricks in the pipe while wearing silly looking team uniforms. The same thing went on after the olympics, because now anyone who wanted to make it to the next olympics would need to go to FIS competitions. So that new professionalism became the norm in competition snowboarding. The public media started covering snowboard competitions, and soon we – the hobby snowboarders on the couch – started to think snowboarding is all about competitions.

    Que forward to present time. Again fair to say, snowboarding has finally overcome the olympic hangover. First the healing started with some riders deciding to do just video parts. Then freeriding picked up again. Now it’s cool to do banked slalom and ride the kiddie park. Yeah, competitions are still fun to watch, but the media coverage from that is just a small fraction compared to all other snowboarding related stuff the social media is feeding you. The image of snowboarding has returned to it’s roots. And I think this has brought the fun back to snowboarding!

    Don’t know about skateboarding, but surfing has already split in to several sub categories: the competition surfers, the video surfers, the soul surfers (that’s those dirty hippies in VW Kleinbusses)… Social media and magazines already cover surfing in a broad way. So adding surfing to olympics would in my view not raise competition surfing above everything else like happened with snowboarding. And that’s a good thing to us hobby surfers on the couch. I am sure surfing and skateboarding are going to change because of the olympics, there’s going to be overreactions, good things and bad things will happen, but eventually both sports will find their new forms.

  5. PascalAugust 06, 2016   

    Hey Antti, whatsup. Pascal here. Had the pleasure to ride with you for a couple of days in Revelstoke, some years ago. As a skate/snowboarder I also have mixed feelings when it comes to bringing these activities to the Olympics. You see I use the word ‘activities’ here? That embodies the whole discussion whether these are sports, hobby’s or just our plain lifestyle. Including our friends, party’s, frustrations and the stupid things we do along the way. I once had an interview with Olympic snowboard medalist Gian Simmen (1998). He participated in the year where ‘athletes’ were caught for smoking weed (doping, they concluded) and where boarders just rode with headsets ons, blasting Iron Maiden during their Olympic run. These things were al new to the bigger audience, but that was the exact reason why snowboarding was introduced. In order to attract new viewers the Games had to reinvent itself, and for that same reason skateboarding will be on the list for 2020. Still I have mixed feelings about this, and the main reason behind this feeling is the implementation of freedom. Freedom is the most important lesson I learned from boarding, no matter if this was in snow- or skateboarding. Being able to do whatever I liked, no rules and nobody telling me what to do or how to do it. As Nicolas Müller puts it delicately in ‘For Right Or Wrong’: there is no wrong. On the other hand, I think putting skateboarding at the Olympics will put the ‘sport’ in a better spotlight. As in positive. Perhaps kids like I was don’t get kicked away from a spot they want to skate. More oppurtunities like local skateparks will be developed, something that could boost the level of talent. In the meantime I hope skaters attending the Olympics will just be who they are. If your a Josh Rowley raw type, or a polite kid like Nyah Houston. I think the Olympics, that has an outfashioned image anyways, could use some pepper in its ass. Don’t you think?
    Yours truly, P.

  6. Mekon HarrisonAugust 07, 2016   

    the olympics is based on huge corporate company advertising – nothing else – it sets the format, rules, riders can be a banned from other competitions, fined, and judging – al will be based on viewer numbers, nothing else. It will get more boring by the year. I don’t actually watch it this year, too muach adverts and it is on pay tv only in my country (nz

  7. Ryan MurphyAugust 19, 2019   

    Thank you for sharing this article, Antti. “Maybe the biggest loss considering our sport is that due to the Olympics it became more boring to watch.” I have thought a lot about this, and I couldn’t agree more to your points.

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