BMX in Helsinki – Words and Photos by Scott Connor.
Nordic freezer, Baltic bliss or summer sauna? In my opinion it’s definitely a little of each.
Located in the Nordic region of Northern Europe and Sandwiched between Norway, Sweden and Russia, Finland is somewhat of a hidden gem. I spent a little over 2 years living in Helsinki and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. My original intention was to go there to live with my Finnish girlfriend and begin University, but it didn’t quite work out that way. I did study, but only Finnish language. Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language and vastly different from the Germanic based languages of Europe and quite possibly one of the most difficult languages in our world. – “Suomen kielen erittäin vaikea!”
Finn’s are known for their solemn demeanour and this can seem a little uninviting to outsiders. I’ve heard it said that there are no awkward silences in Finland, only awkward conversations. They have a no-nonsense attitude with little interest in small talk, but will be keen to discuss bigger issues and engage in conversation when it’s something that’s actually worth discussing. Regardless of appearances, Finnish people are friendly and very genuine; you just have to warm their stoic facade.
From a riders perspective, Helsinki can be an awesome city. But this very much depends on the time of year, as the winters are very harsh with snow and sub-zero temperatures that make outdoor riding impossible. But…… spring, summer and Autumn are usually great, with temperatures rising above 30 °C in mid-summer. During this season the Nordic region is home to the natural phenomenon known as midnight sun. Although less pronounced in the southern regions, the sunlight stretches long into the evening and night. This somewhat makes up for the long winter days, as you can ride into the wee hours of the morning.
What follows is a short collection of photographs I shot during my time living in Helsinki. All the riders featured here and several guys not featured really made my time in Finland and I’m very happy to be able to call them friends. kiitos paljon – Scott.
Markus Manninen – Barspin
This set-up ain’t as perfect as it looks. It’s jammed tight under a bridge next to the Kalasatama (Fish Harbor in English) metro station. Right from the camera and opposite the bottom of the bank is a little cobblestone wall and the run-up is a busy 3 lane road.
Levi Jackonia – Tuck no-hander
Levi is from the tropics, the far north of Queensland, Australia and a good bloke as they’d say. He’s a regular visitor to Finland in the summer months but has yet to brave a frigid Finnish winter. We shot this photo just a few hours after his 8000 mile long flight landed in Helsinki in August 2014. The location is Savela Freestyle park, in the Suburbs outside Helsinki.
Robin Moore – Barspin
Ruoholahti (Grass Bay as it translates in English) is ledge heaven. The coastline there is littered with various arrangements of large granite blocks, which have been waxed to near perfection. It’s also a great meet-up spot/hangout spot/swimming spot/drinking spot/sunset spot. Ask any rider or skater in Finland. It’s just a great spot.
the sunlight stretches long into the evening and night. This somewhat makes up for the long winter days, as you can ride into the wee hours of the morning.
Patrick Alaspää – Construction site no-hander
Patrick is a local hero in Helsinki or maybe an anti-hero depending on who you ask. He’s also a good friend. This spot is way sketchier than it looks. The run-up is a mess of sharpened steel plate and concrete reinforcement rods all wedged between stacks of wooden crates. While the trick is pretty stock, the natural light and lines provided by the industrial backdrop made for a pleasing shot.
Oliver Qvick – Hop
Do you know where Santa Claus lives? Well Oliver lives there too. That’s the far north of Lapland and the northern point of Finland. There the temperatures can fall below -30°C during winter, when the sun never really rises. Oliver still rides all year,making various trips around Finland and beyond to escape the freeze.
Andre Jesus – Tailwhip transfer
Andre was a fellow foreigner in Finland. He’s from São Paulo, Brazil. He’s also a seriously talented bike rider, sending this whip over a big transfer from a quarter way back behind that bank.
Levi Jackonia – Carve
There’s a vast network of tunnels that run under Helsinki. From Subway tunnels to reservoirs and even a skatepark. Luupi skeittihalli is located at Kontula in the east of the city. It’s built underground within an old bomb shelter. It’s development and maintenance is funded by the city council and run by the Helsinki skaters group.
Levi Jackonia – Jersey barrier
Riding a concrete barrier is one thing, but airing out of one like a skatepark quarter is a feat. We had sessioned this spot on Levi’s last visit to Helsinki but it was late at night and the conditions just weren’t ideal for shooting. A year later, a perfect summer sunset and the shot was in the bag.
Andre Jesus – Suvilahti DIY Skatepark
Suvilahti is home to a large DIY concrete park built by Helsinki’s skaters. They have a deal worked out with the city and are allowed to build and skate there. Unfortunately that means they pretty much detest bike riders. That’s Andre Jesus getting in a sneaky run while nobody was home.
Levi Jackonia – Wallride
Kalasatama is home to an old disused harbour area and a power station. This huge concrete block is something that ships were once moored to. With he addition of a few scraps of wood Levi was able to crave right up the thing.
Andre Jesus – 360 Tuck
Andre kills it on ramps. There’s no simpler way to say it. We shot this photo on the first outdoor riding session of the year, you can still see snow laying against the ramp. I shot this further back with a longer lens which enabled me to compose the frame better and catch him at the perfect moment above the tree line.
Levi Jackonia – Savela Bikepark
Late Autumn. The light from the low sun and golden leaves gave the shot a nice,warm feel. However, it didn’t really feel like that on the day. Look at that white ‘paint’ on the ramps, that’s actually frost.
Tomi Brunell – X Up
A little DIY concrete spot we came across whilst spot hunting outside Helsinki. Totally uneven ground, concrete that was mixed with a combination of dirt and trash, with a sprinkling of empty Koff (piss cheap local beer) cans.
Timmo Haapalainen – Barspin
Timmo aka Tim of Finland. A street purest and audiophile, a connoisseur of metal pegs and vinyl records. We visited this warehouse spot to shoot a clip with Patrick and I shot this between runs. Just a timeless trick against a backdrop of industrial lines which made for a pleasing shot.
Robin Moore – Ledge Ride
The combination of ambient light in this alleyway and flash really made this photo pop. Another shot that came about as a by-product of a failed idea with another rider.
Patrick Alaspää – Barspin
Pasila in Helsinki is home to a cluster of gray tower blocks reminiscent of 1970s inner city England. It’s criss-crossed with a network of bridges and walkways all high above ground, which provided this bird’s-eye view.
Andre Jesus – Flair
Mr Jesus posses effortless style. Seen here sending a lofty flair over a hip at Savela Bikepark on a stormy afternoon.
Andre Jesus – Footjam Nosepick
Andre Jesus with a somewhat evangelical footjam atop the back wall at Savela.
Robin Moore – Railride to Barspin
There’s a fun little dry spot tucked away under this bridge. The rail is crooked and bent out of shape from excessive bashing but it adds character. Robin eyed this up and ‘one banged it’, done.
Patrick Alaspää – Halfcab
A personal favorite warm-up spot of mine and only a few blocks from my apartment. This barrier is tall, but after getting it in just the right position, Pate popped a quick 180 up the curb followed swiftly by a mean halfcab right over the top of it and rolled away clean.
Patrick Alaspää – Icepick to Barspin
Construction hard barley finished at this development when we came to christen it with pegs. We had to pause for a while to listen to a concerned member of the public grumble about how “you skateboarders and scooter boys are ruining things.” After the lecture Patrick responded this combo.
Check out more of Scott from Subvert and give him a follow @subvertbmx.