Not even a person suffering from a severe case of Tourette’s syndrome can hold a candle next to the amount of cursing I’ve done over the subject of telesales. Damn their sly and cunning tactics to try and trick you into some grand swindle. When you pick up the phone they immediately make you feel cornered and offended. You’ll have to pull out some lame-ass excuse or white lie to avoid getting lured into buying a bunch of useless crap. You hang up and start ranting about your disgust towards the whole tele-sales industry. On the other end of the line sits Anton Gunnarsson, demolishing his headset in wrath, ranting about his disgust towards arrogant lying kooks like you.
To be able to fund his snowboard career, Anton works as a telesalesman. Don’t be duped into believing that having a second job isn’t the reality for a lot of ‘professional’ snowboarders. Sorry to crush the illusion of economical independence immediately after reaching pro status. He flogs anything the boss tells him to, from socks to lottery tickets. On any given day he receives more verbal abuse from his potential customers than what is considered healthy to remain in good mental shape. “Right now I’m working in telemarketing. I’m flogging stuff to senior citizens, cowboys, angry old hags, clan leaders, racist pigs, alcoholics, druggies and random people who basically just want to tell me to go to hell,” he declares. But Anton endures the abuse. ”It pays the bills,” he says, and reflects over the fact that it’s at least a job that allows him to take time off whenever he see fits.
Apart from the usual tidal waves of abuse and unconditional hate, there are also times when Anton can relate to Dr Phil. ”Some people start confessing their inner emotions, and downers like stories about their dead relatives and really sad stuff. There are days when it’s not the jolliest of jobs.” He especially recalls this one woman who seemed calm at first, but after revealing her entire life history started talking about how she got the ‘illness’. After an hour and a half of Anton merely listening to the woman’s tragic life story, she starts crying like a little baby. Not all calls are downers, though. Through the years working with telesales he has been offered a bunch of job proposals as well as the occasional indecent proposal from desperate housewives.
At the meagre age of 20, the young Swede has already landed himself a spot on the Nitro Snowboards international team. But the way there wasn’t easy, especially when coming from a remote Swedish town with less than epic riding conditions. People considering it mind-blowing that the Talma resort in Finland produces so many good snowboarders should stand dumbstruck at the possibility of a town such as Kristineberg generating just one professional rider. “There was always a shortage of snow at our local slope, and we didn’t really have any role model who could teach us stuff, compared to the kids these days who have inspiration and technical knowledge coming at them from all directions.” With no proper slopes in the nearby area, Anton and his buddies had to take the matter in to their own hands. Sure, the grass was probably greener on the other side, but without a driver’s licence to actually get there, they had make do with what they had. “We started building kickers and stuff on the town’s streets and hills, basically on anything that had a slope. In the end we almost had a complete snowpark in the town consisting of three jumps to flat, one kicker with a sloping landing and a kick-arse halfpipe with one-metre-high walls. We had to bring cables to hook up the lights, as well as get the boombox blasting. My dad also helped me build a kicker in front of the house where I could learn grabs and 180s. Those were good times,” Anton recalls. Lesson learned: if you are down on the state of your local snowpark, get off your lazy arse and do something about it.
There is nothing wrong with being a rollerblader. Oh, who are we trying to fool? Of course there is something terribly wrong with it. Otherwise cool and image-conscious guys like Dimitri Fesenko wouldn’t cringe over being a former fruitboot champion. If action sports were snowboard grabs, rollerblades would be the Tindy. And although our beloved Russian friend got away with stating that he didn’t want to talk about it, we will settle for nothing less than the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth from Mr Gunnarsson. Time to come clean. “OK, I admit it, OK. I used to be a ’blader’.” Oh, a bit touchy perhaps. “I was into it when I was living in Kristineberg, before I moved to enter the Vännäs Snowboard High-school. But it’s a closed chapter of my life.” By the time he started hucking at the Vännäs school, he had dropped the ’blades and the ghetto apparel. He kept on breakdancing for a few more years and claims he can still cut a mean rug and throw down if it comes down to a dance battle. Oh man, it’s on. Anton understands the importance of having an image in this industry but also believes it’s a bit dangerous to take it over the top. “It’s almost a bit amusing to see people riding around being mad bling-bling with all the accessories. It’s OK in moderation, as long as you don’t become a caricature of yourself.” When it comes to dropping the image for a cause, Anton wasn’t late to sacrifice a bit of it to fit into the characters of this year’s Onboard Photo Annual article ‘A Swedish Lesson’, nor for this profile’s opening portraits. Even if you are exceptionally image conscious, it doesn’t hurt to show that one can be self-deprecating.
After graduating from Vännäs with a Masters Degree in double backflips, time-optimism and sneaking queues, he settled down outside of Umeå, Sweden. Teaming up with his favourite ally Jonas Gustafsson, also a former Vännäs student, they soon joined the Skull Films Production crew. You’ll be able to see Anton strutting his stuff in their new flick entitled ‘Frenemies’, as well as in this year’s Nitro and Tacky videos. By the way, the name of the video comes from the entire crew being keen fans to the TV show Sex In the City, in which the expression ‘Frenemies’ was coined.
The time served on Nitro Snowboards has taken Anton to several snowboarding shindigs in Europe. Having to use his second language, the impression on many foreigners might have been that he is the calm and quiet type, perhaps even a bit shy and somewhat reserved. This is however just a common misconception, since in his native tongue and stomping grounds, the lad just won’t shut up nor sit still. He pities his parents when he reminisces about his childhood and all the mischievous behaviour that they had to put up with. “A lot of people have probably been diagnosed with ADD for a lot less,” he says, and recalls pranks and stunts that herein will remain untold. For anyone who is eager to break the silence with Anton, they should know the best and only internationally acclaimed remedy for monosyllabic personalities. Booze.
According to his accomplice Jonas Gustafsson, apart from being a complete TV and youtube.com addict, Anton has a severe addiction for cutting in line. “He loves to sneak. He’s probably the person I know who has cut in line on more lift-queues and salad buffets than anyone else,” Jonas confirms. “It’s a dying art, to cut in line, I mean.” On this topic, Anton says: “The trick is to avoid eye contact, make phoney lift tickets, train to get through tight passages and act like you just got off the yellow bus if anyone disapproves of your behaviour.” Another good thing to know is that in all other sports, the outer lane in a curve is always slower than the inner lane. When it comes to sneaking, it’s the other way around.
Anton Gunnarsson is now standing in line to get a spot in the blindingly bright limelight. Rest assured that he will not just be waiting for his turn to come up. He will most likely be cutting in line, ducking, diving and dodging all possible obstacles, performing devious tricks and cons to get ahead, to get himself where he wants to be. “I want to go as far as possible, more or less live off the sport. It’s been a dream for a long time. I want to get more coverage, film a considerably amount more, travel and just go the whole 9 yards. Everything is possible if you just want it bad enough.”