JUDGEMENT DAY - Onboard Magazine

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In the snowboarding biz the riders are the rock stars — and that’s
for a good cause fo sho. But there’s a lot happening on the other side
of the industry fence too. Not everyone who loves riding becomes a pro
but they still keep being involved with the sport somehow; whether
that is by shredding the slopes nonstop, working within the industry
or being a sunday cruiser. The point is that our kicks are originated
by the same cause — no matter how it’s done. If you are loving it
that makes you your own rock star!

Ah — this intro’s point is to represent you one of those people who
loves snowboarding without being a pro and gets to do pretty darn cool
things while doing so. Give it up for Martti “Mara” Hahtonen — a 30
yr old international snowboard judge who began riding in 1989; living
and loving it since!

1. Hi Mara; thanks for taking part in this short interview. You are
truly a veteran in snowboarding. Where and how did you get started
with it?

I got into anowboarding when a couple of friends got their own boards
and “lured” me into joining them. Our home hill was called
“Kokkolanmäki” and we were the first ones to practice our method
air’s around there.

2. Right; you come from a fairly small Finnish-Swedish city called
“Kokkola”. It’s located on the coast line of Finland and isn’t
really close to any hills. Besides Kokkolanmäki, was there a specific
resort you used to go, or did you always hit the north to catch some

Yeah, Kokkola is right in the flat land area, but fortunately there’s
a few hills around. A place called “Louekallio” in Sievi was the most
snowboarding friendly place at the time so that’s where we spent the
most weeknights and on the weekends we cruised around bigger resorts
like Ruka and Iso-Syöte which are located closer to the arctic circle.

3. You’ve been judging some of the biggest contests around throughout
the years (e.g. Burton European Open/Nippon Open/US Open, Toyota Big
Air, Freestyle.ch etc.) – did you always want to be on that side of
the industry fence or did you aim to be a pro rider in the earlier

At first the riding was the main focus — the only thing on my mind
was to be on snow as much as possible as it was just so much fun. Many
years were passed by while just having a good time riding with
friends. At some point in the mid-90’s the judging circles came along
and I’m still on that road.

4. Seems that you are getting the best of both world’s. So what kinda
road has it been; getting to be a judge on such high scale contests?

In the early says I did the Suomi Cup (Finnish Cup) and some
commercial contests in Finland. Between 1997 – 1998 I was an exchange
student in Munich/Germany so I took the advantage to do an
international judging course in Davos/Switzerland. That way I got into
small international events and it grew from there.

5. What would be the hardest part of judging – any examples from real
life situations?

The most difficult thing is to get the so called “hockey dad’s” to
understand that their kid did not ride as good as they think. Getting
that through their thick skulls can be really hard sometimes.

6. I hear you there — I think every sport is cursed with that kinda
parents. But fortunately you’ve had the priviledge to see the good
sides too like travel a lot, meet a lot of talented snowboarders,
participate a lot of events while doing your job – what experiences
would rise above the others or are you even able to compare?

The travel part has probably contributed the most into my life and
what could be better than doing that with great, same spirited people.
I have had the priviledge to see awesome events in some of the coolest
places on earth within good company. So I can’t really complain!

7. Doesn’t sound bad at all to me. How does all this go along with
your life at home in Oulu? You are building a “normal career” in your
family business. How often do you still go on judging trips?

Unfortunately I don’t really have the time to judge Finnish events
anymore, but I try to do them as often as possible. The past winter I
spent about 5 weeks abroad, doing international events, but this
becoming winter I won’t be able to do as much despite the invitations,
because of my work at home.

8. You have seen the sport develop over the years – how crazy do you
think the level is right now, say compared to 10 yrs ago?

The level in park and pipe riding is pretty wild compared to what it
was 10 yrs ago. The parks have grown size-wise a lot and I think that
the laws of physics will create a natural limit, no matter how much
the riders keep pushing them. The pipes and kickers can only grow so
much, you know.

9. Right you are; I think it’ll be interesting to see when that limit
really becomes reality… Well, as you have been holding the best
seats in many huge events, you must have seen some of those riders who
keep pushing the limit higher and higher. Can you give us your all
time TOP 3 trick list — if possible?

1. Kevin Pearce, SUPER BIG Fr 3 from a corner, Nippon Open Slope Style 2007
2. Eero Ettala, Switch Double Back Flip, TBA 2007
3. Andy Finch, Method air, Europen open 2006

Thanks Mara — we’ll be seeing you on that judging chair for many yrs
to come, I think! Keep it real!


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