Eetu Toropainen interview23.06.2023
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Finland in a place called Leppävaara. I’ve lived there my whole life but actually when I leave this trip I’m going to move in with my girlfriend for the first time in the centre of Helsinki.
Nice. So tell us a little bit about Leppävaara. Who lives there? Is that where you started skating?
That’s where I started skating, yeah. Who lives there? Not many skaters live there, but there are a couple of legendary spots. It’s like 10km from Helsinki. It’s just a little suburban town.
How’s the skate scene in Helsinki these days?
It’s pretty good. There are a lot of spots and a lot of people skating. Everyone is friends, but there are a few crews who skate more tightly together. We’ve got the Helride event. It’s nice.
Name some Finnish skaters who have inspired you over the years.
I used to watch a lot of YouTube videos of younger skaters who don’t really skate that much now. Then of course Arto (Saari) and Eniz (Fazliov) still to this day. A lot of the Perus guys, remember those?
I do. Do you see yourself living anywhere else? Would you leave Finland?
Yeah maybe. I really like it here in London and also Paris so maybe one of those places.
How was the winter just gone? I read in your Solo interview that you only skate indoor parks during the winter back home.
Yeah it’s normal, just half a year in a skatepark. There are three different indoor parks, but one main one that’s in a cave, underground (Kontula) – you take these massive stairs to get down there. That’s where everyone skates for half the year.
Does street skating just not happen in the winter or do people still try?
No, there’s snow and ice and stuff. Maybe like parking garages or indoor spots a little bit but there aren’t many of those.
Do you think having to skate skateparks all winter makes Finnish skaters more well-rounded?
Yeah for sure because they have everything in the park. That’s what I try to do, skate the bowl section or whatever then skate the ledges and try to learn something new.
I’m guessing this (spring) is one of your favourite times of year?
For sure. Everyone’s going out and brushing the sand off the spots and shovelling the snow, skating wherever and enjoying the sun.
Korahn (Gayle) told me to ask about your hollow legs.
Hollow legs? (Laughs). Does that mean I can eat a lot? That’s what they say… I think Griff (James Griffiths) said it to me and I thought it meant something like weak bones.
I’d never heard the saying before. I think the idea is that that’s where all the food goes. Tell us about your burger sponsor.
(Laughs). There’s this guy Oki (Kalaoja) who co-owns the skate shop My Favorite Things in Helsinki. He used to be the sales rep for Nike. Now he’s doing marketing for this burger spot and they just opened one in Helsinki. He was like: “I have two deals for you. Either you get a few tickets and you can eat five times or whatever or I have this golden card and you can eat free whenever you want – you and your friend, as much as you want – you just have to post a few Insta stories here and there.” I was like: “Yeah I’m down for that.”
What’s the restaurant called?
Bastard Burgers. I think it’s Swedish. They sponsor some skaters in Sweden too. It’s just that at some point I was eating there so much with my girlfriend…
Does it get dangerous?
Kind of, yeah. I go there almost every day. I’ve done that, eaten a burger every day of the week. It’s too easy.
Burgers aside, what are your top three Finnish dishes?
It’s not really like traditional Finnish food, but maybe makaronilaatikko – it’s macaroni, minced meat, cheese on top, you put it in the oven. And then maybe… it’s not like you eat it every day but I like the reindeer meat with mashed potatoes and cranberry jam.
How is the reindeer meat served?
Just slices of it. It’s good. What else? Like a treat… maybe salmiakki, the black (salty) liquorice. That’s Finnish.
What are your top three places to eat in Helsinki? I guess you have to say Bastard Burgers.
(Laughs). Yeah Bastard Burgers, maybe a pizza place called (Pizzeria) Via Tribunali and then Aangan, this Nepalese place. I used to eat there a lot when I was working at a skate shop as part of my studies.
You have been working on a project with Will Miles for the last year or so. What can you tell us about that?
We’ve been working on a full-length video by Will, a Nike video. It’s coming to an end – there’s one more trip after this one.
You’ve been travelling a lot with Will, Korahn and the rest of the crew. How have you found these trips?
They’ve been cool. In December 2021 I went on my first Nike trip to Mallorca with the Milan kids, the younger kids. Then Will asked me if I wanted to go to Mexico for this video – I guess that was the first trip for the video – then from there we went to Mexico again then Paris, Bilbao, Croatia, London a few times…
Yeah Sicily. Now we’re going to Marseille.
How have you found getting to know these guys?
It’s been really nice. I like all these guys – I love them. I’m fortunate to be part of this team.
Whose skating has impressed you most in real life?
On this trip (Sicily / London) at least I’ve been really impressed by Joe (Campos).
Yeah I’ve heard some stories.
He gets out the van and he’s like: “You ready?” He does the trick in two tries. Will almost missed it. He always does that – he’s real quiet then like: “You ready?” then just does the trick.
Two-go Joe, yeah, that’s what they call him.
Which has been your favourite destination?
Maybe Mexico. It was super-nice. We went there twice, to Guadalajara and Aguascalientes, both for like 10 days. I really liked it.
What was it about Mexico that you liked specifically?
It’s just a bit exotic and the food was so good and cheap. Mexico had the best food – that’s my favourite food, tacos and stuff. The spots are cool, colourful and stuff, people are cool…
Moving on to London, how do you like skating here?
I really like skating here. There are a lot of spots that I think always look good, crusty spots…
I guess you’re used to crusty spots back home.
Yeah. I just like how everything (in London) looks. And the city overall is cool… It’s a lot bigger than Helsinki of course.
Some visitors find the pace of life here stressful. Do you feel that at all?
It’s a bit crazy in Brixton where we’re staying now, so I can really see that.
Who are some of your favourite skaters to watch in London?
Kyle Wilson obviously. I watched his new part a lot, the Palace one – I really like that one. Korahn, Kyron (Davis), all those guys… The Atlantic Drift guys obviously, Casper (Brooker)…
What’s your favourite place for a fun skate in London?
Maybe Stockwell – it’s pretty nice, a good warm-up just cruising around. Southbank too – I like Southbank if it’s not too busy.
You dislocated your ankle in Croatia back in September 2022. Tell us about that experience.
I was here in London before that for one week and that went pretty well, I got clips. Then we went to Croatia straight from here for another 10 days or something. I skated one and a half days then I got sick. I was sick for like a week, puking, a fever and everything. I don’t know what it was. I just stayed at the house by myself. The first day back I could skate a little bit but obviously still not 100 per cent – I was still half sick. I tried to film a trick, excited to be skating again, ran down the stairs, missed one step, put my weight on my ankle and dislocated it. Maybe my body was not fully recovered. I’ve never done anything like that. It was scary.
That was your first serious injury?
Yeah. Then I got in the ambulance, drove to the hospital and they put it back. They put a cast on it and I stayed until the end of the trip. When I got home they took off the cast and I got the boot with the strap instead. It was painful at first but it was a pretty quick recovery. I think I was back to skating after three or four months.
Still, that’s a while to be out of action. How did you fill your time during that period?
I didn’t really do anything new. I was just hanging out with my girlfriend a lot. Maybe that was a good side of it, having a lot of time together. Towards the end when I still had the boot but I could walk, we went to Venice.
Nice. I heard your mum is a physiotherapist. Do you think you took your rehabilitation more seriously because of that?
Yeah probably a little bit but I could have taken it even more seriously. I could have done more of that stuff, but for sure I took it more seriously than I would have done if my mum wasn’t there. She knew what I had to do.
Based on your experience, do you have any advice for someone going through a serious injury?
It’s not going to last forever. It’s going to be fine. Remember to do the physio, don’t just do nothing.
What are your plans for the rest of 2023?
We’re going to Marseille in a few weeks and that’s going to be the last trip for the (Nike) video. After that I don’t really have any plans yet.
What about longer-term plans?
I just hope to keep doing this – skating – for as long as I can.