Young Norwegian powerhouse Alek Østreng had a breakout season of sorts last winter. Finals at the WSC, first major career win in the slopestyle at the BEO, a joint part in Forum's Vacation, and a profile in Onboard magazine. Here is said profile from issue 127 with some added video gaga...
We think it's safe to say that this is just the beginning for Alek. Heavy skills and a heavy style have the habit of taking you a long way in snowboarding, and the 20-year-old Østreng has them both in spades. This profile was originally in Onboard issue 127.
RAW TALENT AND STYLE
[Words: Uli Köhler]
An exceptional work ethic, a strong set of shred skills, and an ever-growing presence in Forum’s team videos: Alek Østreng might just be the next big thing from Norway. Time for Onboard to shed some more light on the versatile redhead who also goes by the name of ‘The Donkey.’
BATTERY BATTLE EDIT - 2009
It all happened on a trip to New Hampshire, where the Forum team went to film for last season’s team video Fuck It. Alek Østreng had been to the States before, and wanted the crew to stop at a Dunkin’ Donuts. Only he didn’t remember its name and kept asking if they could go to Donkey’s Donuts. That’s why Kevin Keller, his US team manager, started calling him 'The Donkey.’ Somehow, this name seemed all too fitting for a rider whose snowboard skills might seem boundless, but who more often than not ends up in comical situations. “He is such a cool and funny guy," his European team manager Chris Patsch tells us. “Not funny as in cracking jokes... more unintentional stuff... he is funny without trying to be. He is nice and polite, but never quite knows what’s going on around him." Alek’s long-time friend Olav Stubberud uses the words “kind, weird and strong" to describe the 20-year-old Norwegian. But when it comes to his riding, there are no doubts about his exceptional talent, which was already evident from a very early age.
TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE PART - THEY CAME FROM... - 2009
Alek grew up in an unassuming suburb of Oslo called Rykkinn. In fact it is so peaceful and quiet that urban developers from around the world visit the place for inspiration for their own perfect suburbias. However, it was there that he started snowboarding and where he met Onboard’s staff photographer Olav Stubberud: “We met at a playground outside of where we live, I think I was four and he was five," remembers Olav. “It took some time until we got to know each other because he was too afraid of my sisters to come and visit me at my place." But soon this changed, and when his grandfather gave him a snowboard for Christmas, it was all about gliding on snow for Østreng and his mates.
Quickly he progressed his riding, and garnished it with an abundance of talent and style – just as so many world-class snowboarders from Norway before him have done. Kevin Keller has his own theory for what makes Norwegians excel at snowboarding: “As a Norwegian, he [Alek] gets to drink the water up there that makes everyone from that country an amazing snowboarder. People from everywhere else in the world have to work a lot harder to become that good." Maybe it also helped that from early on he had riding buddies like Ståle Sandbech and Torgeir Bergrem – all outstanding snowboarders in their own right. Alek himself believes it was also down to the local infrastructure: “We have small hills so people get a lot of runs. The hills are also opening in the evening, so kids snowboard pretty much every day after school." Not surprisingly, it did not take long until Alek got his first sponsors: “I got kind of recognised in a shop. They asked me to give them a video and they were stoked on it I guess."
YOUNGBLOODS PART - F' IT - 2010
As most successful Norwegian riders he was also a student at the famous snowboard school in Geilo, from which he graduated in the spring of 2010. But even before that he had many heads turning: partly due to his growing success at local and European contests (most importantly a third place at the Andreas Wiig Invitational in Geilo in 2009) and partly through his solid video appearances. He had filmed for Factor Films’ They Came From (2009), and Video Wizards’ I’m Here Out There (2010), and delivered impressive appearances in both. It was not long until he attracted more sponsors, and in 2010 he became part of Forum’s Youngblood team.
To Olav this success was no big surprise: “Alek has a board feeling that is from another dimension. He can ride anything, and by that I mean literally anything. You can give him a stick and he can kill it. His style is unique, and he is a perfectionist when it comes to how a thing he does is going to look, and that shows." When we asked Kevin Keller what Alek’s greatest assets as a rider are, and what made him stand out from all the other young riders, he replied: “To answer both questions: raw talent and style." His short but strong video part in Forum’s latest team movie Vacation is a testament to this sentiment: From front 12s in the park to rail trickery, from backcountry doubles to monster backside 1s – Alek puts every trick in the book down with apparent ease.
RK1 CREW CRUISING AT HOME - 2012
Holding High Standards
When asked about his own style, Alek finds it hard to find the right words. “That’s a hard question. I like to ride all kinds of terrain: Park, powder, rails, transitions." One has to watch his video parts to understand just how good he is in each of these environments. Chris Patsch is less reserved with his own response: “This might ring hollow as it comes straight from a team manager, but I believe Alek Østreng will be ‘the next big thing’ from Norway. He just knows so many different tricks. When he rides contests he does not show a standard trick with the easiest grab. He is more likely to throw down that one extraordinary trick that nobody else is able to do." Not only does this make him stand out from the crowd, it also pays off result-wise: he bagged a couple of podiums over the past seasons, and most recently won the TTR 5-star big air competition at the 2011 Livigno River Jump.
WINNING SLOPESTYLE RUN - BEO - 2012
Olav, who spends a lot of time nowadays shooting his childhood friend, points out another of his outstanding characteristics – his relentless work ethic: “You will always get something done when you shoot with Alek. If you don’t it’s because he either ended up in hospital or you broke your camera." Which makes us doubt Kevin’s “Just add Norwegian water" theory even more. That’s why he is quick to add this to his earlier description of ‘The Donkey’: “Alek is the most mellow, happy-go-lucky kid in the entire world. He loves snowboarding and skating more than anything, and he holds his own standard of riding higher than anyone I know." And what does the future hold for Alek? “It’s hard to say. An Olympic medal? Enders in videos? He’s so young, so talented, and so motivated … possibilities are endless." Whatever his future will bring – we’re already looking forward to seeing more of him, and we will keep you posted!
Alek rides for Forum, Foursquare, Arnette, and Junkyard.no
YOUNGBLOODS PART - VACATION - 2011