Vischan Stix guide to Oulu – A field journal

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Text: Bo Johan Sörensen / Vischan Stix Photos: Kristoffer Åkerström

My first time in Finland was a real bummer. Not to put any blame on Finland. But being 10 years old on a boat filled with drunk old people on a stormy ocean, just to find out that we were not going to explore the land at all. Just ride the ferry back and forth. 

“Are we not even gonna stay?” I shouted to my stressed mother, as the boat turned around and headed back to Sweden.

Maybe it was at this point my curiosity for other countries were born. Because ever since then I have been carrying this strangely strong attraction for being on the road. And that strangely strong attraction has taken me places all around the world, but never have I come close to that feeling I once had when I once saw it disappear in the far away horizon. The country that feels so close to home, and so far away at the same time. Was it all in my head? Or had the gambling fever from the one-armed bandits on this party boat from hell put me in a delusional state?

Throughout my life, the only things that ever made me feel a similar feeling, was listening to my grandfather sing old finish songs or when my grandmother made Karjalan piirakkas. But after my grandfather passed away and I moved up north I realized that that feeling is even further away now.

As the years goes by it becomes more and more important to be surrounded with likeminded people. And I have always thought that the things that pulls us together is that we are skateboarders.

But the truth is that a lot of skateboarders are simply unbearable to hang out with. Our connection is rooted in something else. Something deeper. It wasn’t until this whole Putin – NATO – Erdogan – shit show started, I finally understood the true connection between me and my outcast friends. I was feeling stressed. Like in school, when a close friend to you suddenly starts to hang out with a cooler group of kids. Finland was joining the NATO table and we were not invited. Surprisingly, I was not the only one in my group of friends that felt stressed over this. And this is where I realized that I was not alone. There were more people that carried it. The lure of the land in the east.

The frustration about the situation in the world grew bigger, and I felt more and more useless. And one evening I sat on the porch and looked out over the sea, I found myself picking up the phone and dialling the number to my business associate Emil.

– I wish I could talk to Sanna Marin, I said at some point into the dialogue.

– We can always talk to Johan Franzén, Emil replied.

Johan Franzén was our concrete building friend from Luleå, who had lots of experiences of the land in the east. Johans Phone were turned off but after days of searching I finally manage to track him down, in a smoke-filled trailer on the Norwegian border. “I’ll see what I can do” Johan Said and slammed the door in my face.

A big waiting game begun. The days turned into weeks, and just when I was on the verge to give up, I got a phone call from a man who simply said “I am your guide”.

The man’s name was Arttu and apparently, he was Finland’s best skateboard guide, unofficially sent out by the government. It was all I needed, and when I asked the mysterious man named Arttu when he was ready for the mission he replied “Yesterday”.

We were on our way. Finally, we would take the trip to look for our heritage in hope to improve the international relations, with skateboards as the perfect cover up.

I gathered a solid group of individuals who instantly signed up for the mission. At first sight we looked like a random bunch of people, but together we had qualities that could solve most of the world problems in one evening. It was me and Emil, Johan Niemi, Mikael Lindgren,
Kristoffer Åkerström, Isabella Aveling and Olle Fryksten. Together we formed some sort of superhuman. We had the muscles, the looks, and a little bit of brain. We covered the whole spectrum, like a band of colors in a beautiful rainbow.

Thursday morning, I woke up around 5 o’clock. Partly because of my kids but also because of the extremely rare happening that someone texts me at that time in the morning. “You up?” Emil wrote.

A few hours later we were on our way. The car was so full of gear and bodies that I had no vision in any direction than straight ahead. Luckily, it was in that direction we were going. After an obligatory stop at our favourite store “Army stuff” in Sangis, we passed the boarder and hauled ass towards Oulu. 130 kilometres flew by outside the window and suddenly we arrived to Nallikari camping. It didn’t take long before the first clip of the trip was harvested. It was clear to me that the crew had their eyes on the prize this time. Maybe it was because of the long winter had just put behind us. Or maybe Emil and Johan’s brand-new military hats from Army stuff had impact on the teams discipline. They may have been ugly, but as long the team was down to produce, they could wear whatever they wanted to me.
In the middle of the extacy over the clip we just got, i received a text from our quiet but straight forward guide. ”Library. Skate”. No questions asked. we rolled up our sleeves and searched for Oulu library on the GPS, as we took off full throttle towards the spot.  When we arrived, the session was in full action. There were people everywhere. But one person stood out amongst all the tricks that were going down. A man with a face that looked that it haven’t been carved in clay. Sort of stoned faced but with a slight devilish smile. That must be Arttu, our guide. When his eyes met mine i knew for sure it was him. 

 -Huomenta sotilas he shouted. 

– Hyvää i replied, and instantly felt like a fool. The team, or more correct, mr.Niemi put in work and after a few ledge tricks Arttu looked at me and nodded. We were in. As the hours flew by, our stone-faced guide named Arttu started to loosen up a little bit. After the library spot we mostly wandered around with our new found friends. We looked at “spots”, drank some beers and just pretty much soaked up the atmosphere, as they showed us around the city. At some point we shook hands and agreed to meet up the next morning again. Tired from all the socializing we all fell asleep quick that night. Me in my Volvo, Emil, Kristoffer and Johan in tents, Olle and Isabella in their hammocks, and Mikael in his SUV Porsche AKA the luxury suite.

The next morning, we woke up early, frozen, and stiff like popsicles. It must have been below zero that night. After a quick defrost with help from our friends at Lemmel coffee, we hit the road once more and headed towards Saarela. A rough bank/wallride spot under a bridge. The session was off to a slow start but after some pep talk from our new friend Jyrky and a slight nod from Arttu, we started harvesting clips. The clips themselves might not have been brain melting material, but I felt that we all did it for the same purpose. We all were like siblings fighting over the little nugget of attention that our father was capable of giving. Our father in this case, was Arttu.

It wasn’t until that second night I finally felt that we all put our prestige aside. The night was blurry but clear fragments of the evening remains. We had skated and put in work all day but according to Arttu, there were one last mission of the day. He took us to a bar named Sarka. From the outside it looked like any other crap bar from our home town, but apparently it was Oulu’s oldest bar. He looked at the group and said

“This is the heart of Oulu. If you get accepted here, you are practically finnish”.

Self-confident from all the small successes of the day, we yanked the door open and stepped inside. There were blinking lights and people singing Karaoke. You could feel that the place was historical just by looking at the odd crowd that were there. I was a little bit nervous, but I had a feeling that we would fit right in. Arttu took a seat at a table were an old man sat. He leaned over and whispered to me that the old man was one of the  regulars at Sarka. He continued saying that never before had he got to sit at the same table as him. I nodded at the old man and he answered me by turning his head towards Arttu, clearly saying something about me. After a while talking finnish to each other the old man looked at me and shook his head. What did it mean? Did we fail the mission? In my desperation I looked around and finally found what might be the rescue. I looked over at our odd group and thought to myself that I had to do this for the group, for Sweden, and for the international relations. The thing that had caught my eyes were an old book with a leather cover, packed with songs. The karaoke bible. I grabbed it and rushed towards the bar where I found myself pointing at a title that would be the perfect counter attack. Ei tippa tapa. After my request the room started spinning and i felt nauseous, as I nervously awaited my turn to take the alter. Never had I felt that weight on my shoulders this heavy. In some way it felt like the whole trip weighed on this moment. I ran outside and took some fresh air. When I turned around, I saw our group sitting by the table inside. Stiff, with Arttu desperately trying to mediate between the nations. But the old man was hard, and we were weak. Arttu looked outside the window and our eyes met. We knew it had to be done. For the nations.

I stepped inside, grabbed the microphone and the next thing I know an old lady is dancing in front of me like maniac. A happy crazy beautiful maniac. Just like the rest of us. After a while even the old man turned up at the dance floor. Not dancing, not smiling, but importantly: he turned up.

After the song, we all hugged in pure happiness. And i could see in Arttu’s eyes that he was proud of us. Everything looked a little different now. The place felt less shitty, the people felt happier and the old man felt a little less threatening. Most of that night is a blur, but the few things I remember is Isabella dancing with him and Kristoffer buying his hat for 10 euros.

Now we were in for real. The nations were united. And the day after we did not wake up in a foreign country. We woke up at home. At home in Oulu.

It truly felt like we had found the key to the city. Suddenly, we had flow. The sessions were on fire, and we made more and more friends. It was clear to us that the last boss was defeated, and the last level was accomplished.

After a week in Sweden we were back in the hamster wheel. We were all back at our jobs and the gray days flew by outside the window. The adventure was over, and we all drifted apart like sticks in a stream. It wasn’t until a day when my old man next door asked me if I could help him to cut some wood, I actually realized that the mission wasn’t done. As much as my old man next door needed my help, I sometimes needed his help as well. And without a neighbor you are alone. “Of course I will help you” I said, as I picked up the phone and texted Arttu.

– Wanna come to Sweden soon?

– I thought you’d never asked, replied.