I think I first saw Knut in person on stage at the Badseeds premiere in London last year – full blown smile, in Nitro team manager mode, introducing the film with ‘We didn’t want to focus on the best tricks, ‘cos we don’t have them, but this should get you stoked like nothing else’. Half-an-hour later and I knew he was a man true to his word indeed.
Fast forward to the unveiling of Eero’s ‘Ender’ film the following autumn, and a couple of us are sat on the floor in Red Bull’s London studio (where A$AP Rocky’s been recording that day, apparently). Here we get a much better overview of a dude who’s seemingly done it all, from pipping the Flying Tomato to competition top spots as a young teen, to an Atlantic migration and secondary Scandinavian shred-education.
Meet the man in person, and you’ll more than likely get the enthusiastic pursuer/deliverer of snowboarding good times, complete with one of the more confusing hybrid accents in the industry. But perhaps you might not realise quite how far his roots go… – Mike Brindley
Interview: Joe Cavanagh. Portraits: Mike Brindley
So when did you first start snowboarding?
I started snowboarding, I was 12 years old and I’m 30 now, so 18 years ago… 1997 maybe? So I started skiing when I was two and then I got into skateboarding and then into snowboarding in Minnesota. In Minnesota at that time there were no parks or anything, so I started snowboarding in this town called Grand Marais, Minnesota, It’s like a thousand people that live there, I did it for fun.
Then I did ski racing when I was younger and I was pretty good – on like the high school ski team – and the only reason I would do that is ’cause then I could travel with them and I’d always bring my snowboard. When we used to have course inspection, my coach was super sick, he was like this twin-tip skiing racer coach so he was so down with me just snowboarding so I’d go down and do course inspection and then put on my boots and ride the park in Minnesota, and then I’d always have to try and make it back in time for my run. Then I’d go as fast as I could through the gates ’cause either I’d get a good time, or I’d eat shit and wouldn’t have to take the next run… so I could go snowboard again.
“I beat Shaun White in Boardercross when I was 12… that was pretty epic. I thought I was a God. I was like, ‘I’m the fucking best, fucking best snowboarder in America right now’ I dunno… I was like 12 [laughs].”
So basically I used alpine ski racing to get me into parks. I did that for like two years, then I started doing contests in the US called the USASA; and I did those for a year, but it was like expensive for my family to travel round and do them, so I started going around with friends. I was OK at slopestyle, but not really good cause at my home mountain there were no rails or jumps or anything, it was just sidehits and we’d just build kickers off rollers right in the middle… they were so shitty… and I was really good at going fast, so I was really good at Boarder-X, so I got to the nationals in BX when I was 12… and Shaun White was in my group, then I won the nationals in BX.
So you can say you beat Shaun White?
I beat Shaun in BX when I was 12… that was pretty epic. I thought I was a God. I was like, ‘I’m the fucking best, fucking best snowboarder in America right now’ I dunno… I was like 12 [laughs]. Then I went to slopestyle and got 6th, I did like a 360, a 360, probably like a Tindy, and then, like, a 900. The last feature was a hip, and I’d never hit a hip before, so I did a side hit off the back of the hip to the backside of the landing and did a back 9 with no grab, probably like 2ft off the ground. I landed and was, like, ‘I just did a back 9 off a hip… I’m definitely gonna beat Shaun White’, which I definitely didn’t… [laughs] So then, I thought I was the hottest shit cause I’d just won US nationals in BX… I thought I was just like Shaun Palmer.
Without the drinking….?
Yeah [laughs], this was when Palmer was so sick; he was like the coolest snowboarder. I went back to my hometown, then it was Springtime, so I started playing soccer, and then I got really into American Football; then when I was 14, I was on the varsity high school team as like the kicker, cause I could kick better than anyone else cause I was a soccer player. So I got into that, I got really into football, football was my thing in the summer and I’d ride all winter on my snowboard.
“That’s when my life when from like the American dream of being a football player and going to college, and banging chicks, and fucking killing it – to being some weird American kid in Norway… and then I really got into snowboarding.”
Then my Dad, he’s from Norway, one day in like October he was like ‘guess what family? I just quit my job and we’re moving to Norway’. I had just turned 16 and just got my drivers license and everything… and I was like ‘WHAT? You’re killing me Dad my life is fucking over! I’m a football star at school, I got a hot girlfriend, YOU’RE KILLING ME!’
So then in the middle of the school year, on a Friday, we moved to Norway. We arrived on Monday and we couldn’t speak any Norwegian and we started school, and none of the teachers could really speak English that well, so that’s when my life when from like the American dream of being a football player and going to college, and banging chicks, and fucking killing it – to being some weird American kid in Norway… and then I really got into snowboarding when I was in Norway, cause they didn’t have American football, or basketball; I played Hockey for a little bit, but you couldn’t really check, or hit, people as hard as you could in America. I actually got in trouble my first day of practice, and I was thinking ‘What a bunch of losers that live here’ it was like a typical US dumbass kid thinking. Then I just started snowboarding all the time…