[Markku Koski at our Send Off Session in Levi last year. Photo: Sami Tuoriniemi]
Over the course of his long career, Markku Koski has consistently thrown down at the highest level in pretty much every facet of snowboarding. From movie parts with the Pirates to Olympic pipe medals; from backcountry booters to mean street jibbing. Koski’s done it all and, though his career is starting to wind down, it’s safe to say he’s still a better all-round snowboarder than 70% of the people who call themselves ‘pros’.
We faced off with Markku to talk about how his career evolved over the years and the secret of a long career in an often youth-obsessed game...
You’ve had a long career in snowboarding. When did you turn pro?
I turned pro I guess after I finished in the army in 2001, so it’s been a while.
Like many, you started by making a name for yourself on the contest circuit. Did you get into contests when you were pretty young? What drew you to them?
The first time I saw snowboarding was through a snowboard movie, but contests were kind of a big thing at the time as well. It was kind of even between the two. So I went to some contests like the Finnish Cup – 1993 I think was my first contest – and it kind of started from there.
In the early days was that all you wanted to do? Get paid to travel the world and hit up contests, win cash, party, girls. Or were you always aware that you wanted to get into more sides of snowboarding?
When I was young I didn’t really think about the money or anything. I didn’t even want to go outside of Finland, I just wanted to ride in Finland and just have fun. I wasn’t really into partying or getting money or any of that, I just wanted to ride basically. But yeah when I did the first Junior Worlds, after that I picked up some sponsors and started travelling, but still pretty low key – going to contests and riding for fun.
When did you start wanting to shift your focus perhaps more away from contests, and what brought it on?
I guess from the beginning I was raised by the movies, kinda, and I always wanted to be in the snowboard films. That was my goal, but I started with contests and started doing good in them so I stuck with that for a while. Then I got the opportunity to film with Standard Films, so that was like my dream come true. It’s hard to say what the shift was but the goal was always to film a good part and that’s what I always strived for.
Did you find it difficult to make that transition from contests to filming?
I’d been going back and forth with filming and contests, and also my goal was always to ride everything. So once contests start getting boring I tried to shift to filming and ride more powder and jumps and whatnot. Do slopestyle and pipe contests, mix it up. Kinda go with the flow I guess.
How important do you think it is to be adaptable, and willing to step out of your comfort zone as your career progresses?
I guess it used to be more that people would appreciate riders who could do everything. Nowadays the level is so high that you kinda have to pick pipe or you have to pick slopestyle just to actually make it, so I don’t think it’s like that anymore. You only have to do pipe to do good and just focus on that I guess.
Would this extend to things beyond the actual snowboarding? Like what sponsors expect, what kids enjoy. Or do you think your own snowboarding should always be the main priority?
For myself, I’ve just always done whatever I’ve wanted and I had sponsors who always told me, “Just do what you want. Don’t listen to us." Of course, you have to do some stuff for sponsors, but the main things... if I wanted to film I was always able to film, or if I wanted to do contests I could do contests. So I’ve been lucky enough to have those sponsors who’d let me do whatever I wanted to.
Knowledge and professionalism comes with age and experience. How does that apply to you personally?
I haven’t really thought about that. I always ride the way I ride and try to do my best. For example: this rail behind me, the photographer asked me if I would like to do it and I was just thinking of some tricks in my head and just do it. And when I get it good it’s good enough for me, and if they get a shot that’s a plus. And sometimes if conditions are bad and photographers are like ‘I really want to get this shot’, if I don’t feel like I’m getting it then there’s no point in getting hurt, you know?
Do you think some younger riders could benefit from having a better, more professional attitude?
It’s hard to say, everyone’s different. For me, riding is always the priority, not getting shots or getting sponsors and whatnot. If the conditions are right and I’m feeling it, then I’ll go for it, but if they’re not right, or something’s wrong… I don’t need to hurt myself.
What’s the secret to having a long career in snowboarding?
Well, I started so early that everything was really small. It was harder to get hurt [laughs]. I guess the best advice is that when you’re feeling it, you should push your limits and if you’re not feeling it or the conditions are not right… don’t do it.