Torture In Suomi

Torture was my goal and mission, and torture was dispensed lavishly upon the tour members destined for Finland. Especially on young Arto Saari in a stunning flip-flop of vengeance and retribution. You see, not long ago, a European boy fresh from Finland dropped from the sky and into my life, causing great disruption. This Finn was soon cemented in shotgun on skate journeys, cramping me into the backseat of Geoff’s dumb truck. This boy also took great pleasure in physically and verbally abusing me, on top of doing every trick I do down bigger obstacles. Well, now the tables had turned, and it was I who was descending on Arto’s little country for a national contest and demo tour. One line repeated over and over in my head, “Now, it’s my turn” (say that in an Arnold Swartznegger accent). The torture began.

Arto had been asking me to come to Finland for quite some time, but I thought he was just spewing hot air out his ass like most seventeen year olds do. Then one day out of the blue, I got a call from Canadian TWS photographer Jody Morris. He said, “Are you going to Finland or not?” I said yes, and the plane ticket arrived a week later. So much for seventeen-year-old ass air. The tour would be Rick McCrank, Jody, Arto, and I.

I was faced with going on tour accompanied by two of the universe’s rising skate stars Boy Wonder Arto and Energizer Bunny McCrank. So I was assured of looking like a dumbass at all the demos. To top it all off, Arto called from Finland a couple of days before I left and told me it was freezing balls there, there were no skate spots, no food for vegetarians, and the contest course would suck.

Finland, or Suomi (sue-oh-me) as the Finns call it, is the smallest country in Scandinavia. It borders Russia to the east, Norway to the north, and Sweden to the northwest. To the west and south, Finland is coasted by the Baltic Sea, the gulf of Bothnia, and the gulf of Finland. The country is absolutely freckled with more than 180,000 lakes, and it’s quite impossible to drive anywhere without a spectacular lake view. The winters are long, bitter, and dark with the sun coming up for one or two hours, if at all. A fleet of ice-breaking ships is needed to keep the ports from freezing over. The summers conversely are short, but the sun stays up until 3:00 a.m. so you can skate all night.

May 13 We were greeted at the airport in Helsinki by Arto and the Sole Technologies distributor Markus Aarni, and whisked away to a restaurant for dinner. The torture started immediately. Somehow Jody by virtue of his Canadian Michael J. Fox good looks was called over to a drunk Finnish girl’s table. She requested that he come back to her house to “have some fun.” Jody politely declined, but she was persistent and visited our table at least three times trying to get Jody to dance with her to the new Cher song. I proceeded to interview her at great length about the exact meaning of “have some fun.” All she would say is “Like Dharma and Greg.” I renamed her “Norm” because she was pretty “normal,” and she agreed by pointing to her breasts and doing an “I’m normal” dance. Meanwhile, Rick had clicked his camera to spy mode and was taping the whole thing. In the name of torture, Jody was berated for not scoring his first hour in Finland what a wuss.

May 14

We were interviewed for a local newspaper and photographed in full lameness “chilling” in front of a skate shop. For the rest of this article our names will be in Finnish: Rick is Reek MacKrank, Jody is Yody Morreez, I’m Ed Tempeltaun, and Arto is Finnish already, dumbass.

After the interview we ate our fill at a great vegetarian restaurant right near the skate shop. Arto took us to a perfect double-kinked ledge going down a four-flat-five at a train station. So far on our first day, we’d eaten good food and skated good spots, which is the opposite of what Arto had predicted.

May 15

I awoke sluggishly from jet lag and lagged all morning. Today s the contest, but Reek, Arto, and I were prequalified into the semifinals which were tomorrow. Rune Glifberg, Dave Mayhew, Gershon Mosely, and Billy Rohan were also here for the contest. Markus was going to take us to eat and then sightseeing, so we didn’t go the contest. Markus seems to be rolling in cash, and took us on a boat ride in his private vessel. He let me drive the boat around the extensive Helsinki waterways, being cautious not to run into the many rocks. There was a scarcity of wildlife, save for birds, as the water was too cold for whales, seals, and dolphins. We were freezing our pipers off in the cold wind, so we retired to the lower deck where ten-year-old Rasmus, Markus’ son, showed us his father’s hidden Playboy magazine the Swedish Bikini Team issue.

I asked Rasmus for a kid’s perspective on how famous Arto Saari was in Finland. I first asked him if Arto was bigger than Jesus. He said no. “Is he bigger than Santa Claus?”

“No.”

“Is he bigger than Madonna?”

“Yes, he is bigger than Madonna,” Rasmus said.

And it was set in stone, Arto was bigger than Madonna. It was my mission to get the word out to the public, which I did with great efficiency. Yody and I walked around a little, but most people were inside watching the Finnish hockey team in the World Cup.

At 2:00 a.m. some dick pulled the hotel’s fire alarm. Yody woke me up and asked if we should go outside in case it was a fire. We went back to sleep listening to the alarm sound.

May 16

From a chair in the corner of the hotel room, I looked out the window. Overlooking the docklands I saw a ship, the Nassau, which was being built beside a massive hangar. Like every other morning, I awoke before Yody and kept the room dark save for a slit in the curtain by my corner chair.

Helsinki is dead. It’s Sunday and the streets are barren. There is no wind and the water is abnormally flat. A pale sun shines dully over the wharf, and I’m sure it’s bitterly cold. An occasional car whizzes by.

Markus assigned Mappe the devil’s brother to drive us around. The reason I know he’s the devil’s brother is because his business card said so. Pronunciation of Mappe goes like this, Maw pay. So Mappe picked us up this fine morning and carted us to the Cable Factory Skatepark, where the contest was being held. We took our semifinal runs, and I might add that three one-minute runs were a bit much.

There are some damn good skaters in Finland it must be something in the water. I drank tons but it didn’t help me, as I took some abominable runs. As you can imagine, Reek, Arto, Gershon, and Dave Mayhew performed some fine runs indeed. Rohan, Rune, and I made the finals, too.

Arto was having a hard time with his friends and their expectations. After becoming an overnight success in the skate world, Arto felt tons of pressure to do well in the contest. And with his return to Finland, the press was having a field day with him being bigger than Madonna didn’t help. His friends made fun of him; they thought Arto had discarded them in favor of his new American friends. Arto was depressed. I told him it’s hard to have many friends in the same place because there’s not enough of you to go around, and that after this contest situation was over things would calm down.

In the contest Mayhew got fifth place with his tech-dog antics doing flatground in his run, along with kickflip nosewheelies across the bank to box and switch hardflips over the hips. A Finnish skater, Juhani Salo, got fourth place doing bluntslides across and down the ledge on the big pyramid and kickflipping the whole pyramid to flat. Third place was yours truly. I did some okay stuff, but I’d rather write about Arto getting second place and pulling a nollie heelflip noseslide across the whole bank to box on top of pulling his usual course mastery. That leaves Reek MacKrank who just came off of a big win in Vancouver. He got first place by frontside flipping the pyramid, backside 180 nosegrinding the bank to box (which was damn long) and ending with a massive ollie over the wide box to nosegrind down the long rail.

Directly after the finals was a free-for-all demo for the kids, with everyone busting their big tricks to huge applause. The Finns know how to have a good time, the fans are into it, and the place was nonsmoking, which made the contest super fun to attend.

After the contest, this Italian guy named Umberto, who was doing a feature story on Arto for the Eurosport channel on TV, wanted to interview Reek and I. We tortured Arto on worldwide TV by telling them about Arto being the Finnish Princess and that he’s bigger than Madonna. This stuff I’m saying is no joke. You could not pick up a magazine or newspaper in Helsinki that weekend without an article about Arto! He’s huge!

May 17

We packed our crap up and hucked it into the rental van that was emblazoned with éS, Emerica, and Etnies stickers. Our first stop was Arto’s house so we could torture his mom and his one-year-old baby sister. We photographed his room and all his embarrassing baby photos. Yody shot portraits of him with his family, and I took photos of his stuffed squirrel that his stepdad shot. He also has a stuffed turkey on his wall.

We were scheduled to appear on Euro MTV, so we went down to the station and waited for our live interview. When the interview time came, it turned out they were just going to talk to Arto. I slipped away to a secluded hallway with Yody where he wrote Arto on my ass AR buttcrack TO. During his live TV appearance, I yelled to get their attention then whipped out my ass. I could see the camera guys zooming in on my cheeks. Regardless, this got me a short interview by the wacky-haired nerd VJ, which was used to torture Arto about his celebrity status.

It was time to hit the road, so we left for the north to start our road trip. The tour was a motley crew of vehicles and people. The convoy consisted of a large cargo van with Burton snowboard logos all over it that carried all our bags and some small obstacles, the passenger van mentioned above, and a red car. The red car was filled with Timo Hypponen from Numero magazine, Aksu Bonsdorff our DJ, and Juho Liesmaki and Antton Liesmaki from Flashback magazine. The passenger van carried Reek, Arto, and I, along with Finnish skaters Mappe “the devil’s brother,” Timo Kuhn, and Juha Ponkanen. The cargo van held Markus and Joonas Tietavainen. Our destination for the night was Kuopio, said Koo-oh-pee-oh.

On the way to Kuopio, we stopped at a town called Lahti, said like Brian Lotti, where there was a hipped mini ramp. Arto and I got publicly humiliated by Reek’s domination of that obstacle.

Before we got to Kuopio, we stopped again. This time in a town called Heinola (Hey-no-lah). There was a massive opening surrounded by trees with a dirt track for racing horses, and in the middle of this track was an asphalt area between two long asphalt banks. The area was filled with assorted riff-raff from what looked like old ramps and unwanted obstacles. It looked like the “Island of Misfit Skate Stuff.” I was informed that this was a typical Finnish skatepark. It was completely abandoned and very cold. Surprisingly, on closer inspection the stuff was kept up and solid. We skated and shot photos in this strange place. Reek went to take a pee-pee in the woods and came back with a sporty colorful windbreaker found near the pee-pee spot. He shot photos in his new “Finnish-guy costume.” Then Reek and I set up this high-backed bench on top of a Evel Knievel pyramid so I could shoot a photo Smith-grinding it. Then the Princess came along and kickflipped frontside boardslid it. Either way, I was on a roll with keeping shotgun from Arto, who has a strange and sick fascination with getting it. And it was the ultimate torture for him to be scrunched in the very back with his long legs, while I chilled in his coveted shotgun.

We got to Kuopio and checked into a Sokos-brand bank to box (which was damn long) and ending with a massive ollie over the wide box to nosegrind down the long rail.

Directly after the finals was a free-for-all demo for the kids, with everyone busting their big tricks to huge applause. The Finns know how to have a good time, the fans are into it, and the place was nonsmoking, which made the contest super fun to attend.

After the contest, this Italian guy named Umberto, who was doing a feature story on Arto for the Eurosport channel on TV, wanted to interview Reek and I. We tortured Arto on worldwide TV by telling them about Arto being the Finnish Princess and that he’s bigger than Madonna. This stuff I’m saying is no joke. You could not pick up a magazine or newspaper in Helsinki that weekend without an article about Arto! He’s huge!

May 17

We packed our crap up and hucked it into the rental van that was emblazoned with éS, Emerica, and Etnies stickers. Our first stop was Arto’s house so we could torture his mom and his one-year-old baby sister. We photographed his room and all his embarrassing baby photos. Yody shot portraits of him with his family, and I took photos of his stuffed squirrel that his stepdad shot. He also has a stuffed turkey on his wall.

We were scheduled to appear on Euro MTV, so we went down to the station and waited for our live interview. When the interview time came, it turned out they were just going to talk to Arto. I slipped away to a secluded hallway with Yody where he wrote Arto on my ass AR buttcrack TO. During his live TV appearance, I yelled to get their attention then whipped out my ass. I could see the camera guys zooming in on my cheeks. Regardless, this got me a short interview by the wacky-haired nerd VJ, which was used to torture Arto about his celebrity status.

It was time to hit the road, so we left for the north to start our road trip. The tour was a motley crew of vehicles and people. The convoy consisted of a large cargo van with Burton snowboard logos all over it that carried all our bags and some small obstacles, the passenger van mentioned above, and a red car. The red car was filled with Timo Hypponen from Numero magazine, Aksu Bonsdorff our DJ, and Juho Liesmaki and Antton Liesmaki from Flashback magazine. The passenger van carried Reek, Arto, and I, along with Finnish skaters Mappe “the devil’s brother,” Timo Kuhn, and Juha Ponkanen. The cargo van held Markus and Joonas Tietavainen. Our destination for the night was Kuopio, said Koo-oh-pee-oh.

On the way to Kuopio, we stopped at a town called Lahti, said like Brian Lotti, where there was a hipped mini ramp. Arto and I got publicly humiliated by Reek’s domination of that obstacle.

Before we got to Kuopio, we stopped again. This time in a town called Heinola (Hey-no-lah). There was a massive opening surrounded by trees with a dirt track for racing horses, and in the middle of this track was an asphalt area between two long asphalt banks. The area was filled with assorted riff-raff from what looked like old ramps and unwanted obstacles. It looked like the “Island of Misfit Skate Stuff.” I was informed that this was a typical Finnish skatepark. It was completely abandoned and very cold. Surprisingly, on closer inspection the stuff was kept up and solid. We skated and shot photos in this strange place. Reek went to take a pee-pee in the woods and came back with a sporty colorful windbreaker found near the pee-pee spot. He shot photos in his new “Finnish-guy costume.” Then Reek and I set up this high-backed bench on top of a Evel Knievel pyramid so I could shoot a photo Smith-grinding it. Then the Princess came along and kickflipped frontside boardslid it. Either way, I was on a roll with keeping shotgun from Arto, who has a strange and sick fascination with getting it. And it was the ultimate torture for him to be scrunched in the very back with his long legs, while I chilled in his coveted shotgun.

We got to Kuopio and checked into a Sokos-brand hotel, which sponsored the tour. So from now on, when I refer to Sokos it means the hotel.

May 18

In the Kuopio City Center, or Keskusta as the Finns call it, we found a health-food store with no health food in it, so we opted for the regular market. We visited a sporting-goods store with a pathetic skateboard selection. A local skater named Janne Tiitinen worked there, and he promised to show us around town. He wore a head-to- toe Axion jogging suit. The first spot was a shitty bank to a thigh-high iron bar. Timo and I tailslid it, Juha switch crooked grinded it, and Janne frontside noseslid it. Arto was around the corner Smith- grinding a curved bar. All the townfolk stood around fully entertained and watched us wreck their town.

A light sprinkle started falling from the sky as we showed up to the Kuopio skate area to do a demo. There were five people skating and 100 people sitting on the grass on a nearby hill, which I thought was strange. There were about 40 people near the course, including some local “Punkers.” The “Punkers” were drinking hard liquor and one had freshly dyed his mohawk fluorescent orange.

The area was on two tennis courts’ worth of painted asphalt, and the obstacles had just survived nine months of snowed-in winter. The locals build all of the obstacles themselves out of whatever they could afford; some of the supports were made of chopped-down trees.

Everyone skated hard. We rigged up some stunts with the movable ramps, and the crowd seemed stoked. Out of nowhere one of the “Punkers” appeared totally nude on his skateboard and did a demo of his own flapping his dong about and slamming on his hip after hanging up on a fakie rock.

The rain came down a little harder. We stopped skating, got in the van, and drove to a town called Jyvashovi for the night. Tonight was Arto’s last night with us, because after tomorrow’s demo he had to go back to Helsinki for a heart operation. Arto had to have arthroscopic laser surgery to repair a defective vein. I abused him a bit and kept him from eating my last pack of Bio-Waffles, which are the best snack in Europe.

May 19

I awoke and called first shower. Arto jumped up and ran into the bathroom and started to take a shower. This was war. I got my camera ready and opened the lock on the bathroom from the outside with my Swiss Army knife. I walked in, opened the shower door, and took a photo. Arto sprayed me with water from the shower and screamed for me to leave. I did nothing of the sort. Then I proceeded to pour at least 80 cups of freezing cold water onto him, while he tried to cover his wee-wee and continued his shower. I flushed his boxers down the toilet and stole his clothes and towel. He stayed in the bathroom forever knowing that when he came out naked, I’d take photos of him and send them to Big Brother magazine.

We finally left and drove to Seinajoki, the birthplace of the Finnish Princess Arto Saari. Seinajoki is pronounced Sen-ah-yokee. We went directly to the spawning grounds of the Finnish Princess. A town center with four stairs, loads of marble ledges, and a ledge going straight out over four steps. This is where Arto learned how to skate, and it’s the only spot in town. Locals skated and chilled here, smoking and looking dope. We left to eat pizza at a pizza joint, and returned just in time to take a crap before the demo.

The demo was at the spawning grounds, and they were now filled with people. The small obstacles we carried in the cargo van were placed around and down the steps. The demo was a bloodbath. We all struggled to skate well and felt like we did a bad job. The crowd was happy and appreciative anyway, so it wasn’t too bad in the end.

Arto left at this point with his mom and baby sister, and took the train back to Helsinki to have his heart operation. We wished him luck and promised to visit him in the hospital after tour was over. After dinner there was word of a big party we could get into for free. It turned out to