Photos: Pat Vermeulen.
Finland's a country that's well documented for churning out some of the finest freestyle shred on the planet, so if someone's voted Finnish Rider of the Year you they're the real deal. At Slammer mag's recent gala, NDK's Antti-Juhani 'Naku' Piirainen got the unanimous props from the judges, but outside of his native country Naku's maybe not so well known. Well, listen up: he kills it. Fact. And so we thought what better time to catch up with this young stylemaster and give his fingers a good workout. The fact that he helped Onboard take the inaugural BEO Media minishred title last year should also be noted. Yes, we are still going on about it.
Onboard: Righto. Let’s roll... I was sniffing around on the internet for information about you, but most of it seems to be in Finnish. For those out there who don't know, who are you?
Antti Piirainen: Well, my name is Antti-Juhani Piirainen, sometimes also called Naku, and I’m a 21-year old boy from Finland who happens be snowboarding for livin' at this point of my life.
OB: I was going to say that I think you're one of the most underrated Finnish riders, but then you go and win the Finnish rider of the year the other day. That’s quite some props. How do you feel about that?
AP: Oh yes that is... I feel very honoured and I’m quite touched. It means a lot to me. I’m grateful.
OB: Did they explain what basis they awarded it to you for? Like was it for your video part, coverage, or just a consensus between the judges that they were stoked on you and your riding?
AP: I guess it was just for it all... I was later being told that they'd been completely unanimous, don't know if it's true but I’m quite stoked on that too!
OB: Hell yeah. Well, all of us here at Onboard were pretty stoked on your part in Goodtimes last year.
AP: Thanks. I appreciate it!
OB: Was that your first time filming for a project?
OB: And what impressions did you take from it? Were you stoked on the process and the end result?
AP: I think it was a good experience. You know, it was different from big-ass film companies, now everybody pretty much was involved in how the end result is gonna turn out. And I believe that was a good thing.
OB: Going back to the subject of being Finnish, do you think it's hard to 'make' it coming from a country where it seems like even sperms can do all four nines with style?
AP: Well, I think it has its up and downs... probably you'll have some kind of a status already from being a Finn, but maybe somehow it's really hard to "pop out" from Finland. You know what i mean?
OB: Yeah, totally. I mean with so many good Finnish riders inevitably there aren’t going to be the good deals going round to support everyone, get the budget to get heaps of coverage and so on.
OB: Hold the press - question just come in from Pat Vermeulen: “Yo NAKU! How’s life in HELLSTINKY compared to Lapland?"
AP: It's more hectic, busier, no snow, much more people, but at the moment I like my life. The funny thing is that some time ago I was like "I’m never gonna move to Helsinki". Women... Oh yes, better skating too! You know, rollerblading...
OB: Haha. Yep, women can sure help you get a new outlook on shit. Do you miss the peace and quiet of the countryside or are you now like party-guy man-about-town?
AP: I miss it sometimes but hey it's not like it’s gone forever! But I’m pretty much always just chilling home anyways. I kind of hate partying, like in the meaning of "partying"... that just sucks. I like more of just hanging around with friends and drinking beer or whatever and not like going into all these bars and shit. Like "going to party".. I just don't see a point there. You can get wasted without partying too, right? Or is that partying... I guess so. But what I like here in Helsinki is that it's kind of whole new culture to me, so it’s interesting to get to know it.
OB: I checked out your profile in Onboard a few seasons back and read Pat putting to you that not many people had heard of you at the time. Do you think this has changed now, and does it bother you either way?
AP: Hmm... I think it has changed a bit, hopefully, for better (whatever that is) so I don't feel bothered. I didn't quite get your question..
OB: I was trying to say do you think you're getting more recognition for your riding these days. Screw it, shit question - you've just been voted Finnish rider of the year for god’s sake!
AP: Yes, I think it has changed then.
OB: But do you have aspirations to be like global super rock star snowboarder, or are you happy just doing things your own way. Maybe get yourself an American Express ad "My name is Naku and I have to be able to fly where I want, when I want...'
AP: Well of course I would want that. Pollute this fuckin’ planet straight to hell, boy!!!! But seriously, of course I would like to be recognised and appreciated for what I do, and having a whole bunch of dollars on my bank account would make life so much easier and in that way better... but on the other hand, I don't know if there's anything behind all those Cadillacs and 1000-square-meter castles. I guess it’s in the human nature to always want more and more.
OB: You seem pretty switched on and down to earth though and, like, the least 'rock star' snowboarder. And I mean that as a compliment.
AP: Thank you... but still there's something about that "rock star" thing too… if you've deserved it, why not just go for it?
OB: I guess so. Hey, it's shitty weather here. Is it snowing in Finland?
AP: Naah. Pouring rain. But I bet it's snowing a bit more up north from this shithole.
OB: Voi viitu. Well, hopefully winter will start shortly. What’re your plans? I hear you're shooting for this Scrapbook thing. What’s the deal there?
AP: I’m quite stoked on that Scrapbook Project. I hope it's gonna work out well! Nothing more than that planned yet… Win another victory for Onboard team at the BEO, right?
OB: Don't get ahead of yourself there Naku. The BEO media challenge is like my killer final question... Do you have any trips planned yet for filming your part, or will you guys just wait and see where gets good?
AP: There are some trips locked down already, I don't if they are top secret so I rather not talk 'bout them. But I guess first some jibbing action here in Finland and then heading somewhere else. If there's snow anywhere…
OB: OK, hush hush, I understand. But what's the deal with the Scrapbook? Do you know what direction they want to take it?
AP: I don't know actually. Check out the website for updates and news: http://scrapbook.fi. It’s changing all the time... like a chameleon.
OB: We'll keep our eyes on the updates for sure. And that's set to come out next fall?
OB: Righto. Changing tack, how come your English is so... english. A lot of Finns sound like Yanks but your accent is proper. I mean Jussi sounds a bit English too, but then his wife is from England. What’s the deal?
AP: I just picked it up I guess... when I was sailing those seven seas...
OB: Damn, I was expecting tales of you being a child roadie for Motörhead and Led Zeppelin or something. Right, here’s some randomness to compensate… What's the best mullet you have ever seen in your life?
AP: Haha! Actually that was just a while ago. But you never remember those previous ones anyways so I can't really tell if it was the best. But it was puffy and all, kinda like MacGyver’s
OB: I saw a killer one the other day in Augsburg at this rail jam. Full on 80s rocker one. Epic.
AP: But was it for real or just for fun?
OB: Real. I wished I’d filmed it.
AP: OK! Denim jacket?
OB: Oh yes. With one of those big patches of a band on the back.
AP: Too many years on the road... great!
OB: Yeah. Too much speed and whiskey. Hey, what's the worst trick you can do. and that you do fairly regularly? I used to be able to do backside 7s like an ice skater off jumps at the side of the piste. I did them quite a bit
AP: !! But that's just great…
OB: Thank you.
AP: I think the worst tricks are those ones with no identity.
OB: You mean like switch backside 7 but it looks like everyone else’s?
OB: I kinda meant do you have a 'guilty' trick you do. Like you know it's kinda whack but it's so fun you just have to bust it.
AP: It would be lovely to have the talent of adding your own little spice into every trick you do... But my ‘guilty’ trick would be a single and straight backflip. You’ve gotta love them! Or maybe switch method, because I can't really do them properly but it's fun to try!
OB: Right on! Now, you may have noticed our music issue is on sale now. What kind of tunes do you dig?
AP: Mostly rock 'n' roll, punk-rock, some hardcore shit... It depends on the mood. Even old-school rap sometimes. But what I’m not into is this recent R ‘n' B/Justin Timberlake/rap thingy... it's everywhere. Who wants to listen to that?
OB: Children with little appreciation for good music, I guess. If you were going to be stuck in a cabin for a month and could only take 5 albums with you, what would they be?
AP: That's a hard one… Recently "patV and the patV 39's". No wait, I’ll give a proper answer.
OB: Vermeulen will be pissed now.
AP: Nah… Ok then: that recent "patV and the patV39's" (it’d better be published before I get stuck in that cabin); Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Weld; Hero Dishonest – Juggernaut; Rolling Stones – 40 Licks; and "Tom Copsey - the Philosophic Poem Collection" as an audio book. I would lose my sanity...
OB: Damn. I’d better get the poem collection published before you get stuck in that cabin too... Do you listen to music when riding?
AP: No… I’ve never even tried. I think I wouldn't feel comfortable.
OB: I tried. I hate it. You can’t hear the snow under your base and I love that sound.
AP: Way to go! But I guess quite a lot of people do listen to music while riding. It's kind of fashionable too, isn't it?
OB: I guess. Must hurt when you slam on your head though. Maybe that’s just me sucking... Do you play an instrument? And if so do you have a band? I seem to remember something that you did...
AP: Well I have a guitar that I play a little bit. We're talking about putting together a band now. Hopefully it'll see daylight some day.
OB: Who's that with? And what kind of stuff would you play? Punk? Rock? Jazz?
AP: Some friends... And we’ll play techno.
OB: Haha. Killer. A live techno band would be awesome.
AP: Yeah it would be!!!
OB: As long as you all wore multicoloured tight Lycra…
AP: Yes. And had that white keyboard you hold like a guitar…
OB: Hell yeah!
AP: Nah. I guess we’ll end up playing some crappy rock.
OB: Right. Finally, and this is my killer interview ender. Think Larry King, Michael Aspel and some other good interviewer all rolled into one...
OB: Is being part of Onboard’s winning team at the BEO media minishred contest last year your best achievement in snowboarding? Can there possibly be anything bigger?
AP: I’m speechless.... only God knows if there is something bigger than that.
OB: ... is the RIGHT answer!
OB: Absolutely! Please can you be on our team again this year.
AP: Hell yeah!
OB: Alright! All you other mag bitches best be scared! Recognizzzze!
AP: I don't see any other option.
OB: And on that bombshell, Naku, thanks for your time and hope your fingers don’t hurt too bad.
AP: My fingers have been numb already from the start so don't you worry about 'em...
OB: The perils of typing… do you want to give any shoutouts?
AP: Thank you Onboard. And thanks to my girlfriend & family, friends, everybody who's ever helped me out, Untho, Avantgarde and of course my sponsors who've made also this interview possible: Arnette, Sessions and NDK.
Name: Antti-Juhani Piirainen Age: 21 D.O.B.: 25th of August 1986 Nationality: Finnish Hometown: Kulho, now living in Helsinki Stance: Regular
Board of choice: NDK Addict Boots: NDK Versus Bindings: NDK Addict Outerwear: Sessions Goggles: Arnette