Check out Swedish stallion Kalle Ohlson's full interview from issue 131 of our print mag. For those who can't read, this is full of sick video of KO ripping too.
Despite his productivity, his versatile riding style, and his great personality Kalle Ohlson is not the obvious choice for a main interview. Yet his opening part in last year's Pirates movie 'Bottom Line', and another successful season that followed, were convincing enough to grant him his second Onboard interview - a feat only a handful of riders have ever achieved. We caught up with Kalle just before he launched into the infamous Swedish midsummer celebrations. While we interviewed him on the phone, we could hear his best mate Chris Sörman crack the drinks open...
Before you do an interview with a professional snowboarder for a snowboard magazine, you have to check if there are enough adequate photos available. Our staff photogs as well as the many freelance snappers out there submit their photos at the end of the season, usually around May. This summer, the folder collecting Kalle's A-shots was soon bursting at the seams. Only a year after his standout opener for the Pirate movie 'Bottom Line' the 24-year-old Swede had once again been one of the most prolific riders in Europe. And even though in his career he has often been flying below the radar of public love and media approval Kalle has definitely earned his merits in our sport.
Everything could have been different. The opening portrait of his first Onboard interview in 2007 shows the snowboarder from Örebro next to a set of gymnastic rings. Indeed, Kalle had been a successful gymnast as a kid, even winning the Swedish championships. Yet Kalle was looking for something different: "When I was twelve I had been snowboarding for a few years and I figured out that gymnastics is actually pretty gay and snowboarding is pretty nice, and I decided I wanted to quit gymnastics, and wanted to be a snowboarder. It's probably the best decision I ever took."
And even though it would have been the obvious path to follow, he did not turn into a spin-to-win-triple-cork-guy. He laughs. "I'm not one of those? I don't know, I guess I lost that over the years. I can still go on a trampoline, but I don't know, I'm not into that style of snowboarding. And lately, I've been doing more rails."
Despite his obvious athletic talent and the fact he went to the snowboard school in Malung, in the past he sometimes found it hard to find and keep his sponsors. Why? "Two reasons: Sometimes I had troubles, sometimes they had troubles. That's how it goes..." Would he do anything differently today? He laughs again: "There are a few things I would have done differently, for sure, but I'm not going to mention those things!" If it hadn't been for his time at the snowboard school, he might have been even harder soldering through those times. "You learn to take care of yourself, and you're riding with all of your best friends, which are all really good. So you push each other."
These days, he has found his peace
These days, Kalle has found his peace and can focus on his filming career with the Pirates. When he talks about the season that led up to his 'Bottom Line' part, he makes it sound like anything but hard work: "It started pretty well. It snowed so much in Sweden, we just stayed home and shot there. You're always most productive at home, because you know the spots, the area, and we had plenty, plenty of snow, so you could do anything. And if it starts good, then you have a good motivation to continue that way."
This past winter seems no different. Kalle went to shoot a lot of street spots with Teo Konttinen, and once again with his BFF Chris Sörman, but he also went to the backcountry with Arthur Longo, "which is super sick, ‘cause I can learn stuff from him in the backcountry, he knows how to ride in the backcountry for sure!" Not that Kalle needed much teaching after learning about the dangers of avalanches the hard way as an 18-year-old: He got buried while wearing a broken avalanche transmitter, and has been aware of the perils and joys of riding powder ever since.
Shooting rails in Helsinki, riding pow with Arthur Longo and shredding the park in Riksgränsen: Once again Kalle has tried to deliver a part that is as diverse as it gets. "That's how I like my video parts. I don't want to end up with only backcountry or only street. I want to have a bit of everything, rails, park, and powder. It will be a mixed part again."
Looking over the snowboard movie releases of the past few years we cannot help but wonder why so many riders now go for this approach, take Mark Sollors, Jake Welch, or Torstein Horgmo for example. This all-round approach seems like a trend in snowboarding. "I don't know. I would say there is no trend to hit everything, but there is a trend hitting rails. I mean, Videograss is huge, and all the kids are starting to look up to those guys." And he continues refuting our impression that this would be more applicable to the US. "This is happening more in North America, but in Scandinavia as well! Alps could be different. It's more natural, it's more relevant to people in the Alps to watch a backcountry movie. For the people in Stockholm or Oslo it's way more relevant to watch a rail part." And after some chuckling, he adds: "I mean, our mountains are a hundred meters high."
Still, riding every type of terrain means you need to be on top of your game in more than just one style of snowboarding. Kalle is not having anything said about him being an exceptional snowboarder: "I would say I'm not super technical. I kind of do what I can, I have my tricks, and I try to get a few new tricks all the time. It's not that I go to a spot with a lot of tricks in my bag. Sometimes it's like 'ok, this I can probably do here, and I do it until I learn it."
The cutback leaves him with mixed feelings
However, dear reader, you will agree that Kalle's riding is more than just some hit and miss on a rail. Or why else would the Pirates crew have picked him to be one of only eight riders to be featured in their new movie UNIQUE8. As Pirates producer Basti Balser states: "Kalle is always motivated, pushing his limits. Either on his board, in the bar or whatever else he is up to. When we decided to cut down the crew to 8 riders, it was clear to us that Kalle would be one of them. His positive approach, and strong will to take it a step further again and again, is what you need to film a stand-out part."
If anything, this cutback of riders leaves Kalle with mixed feelings. "It's sad in a way. A lot of the other riders were really good friends, and they're out now, which sucks. I would say that a lot of the guys who got cut are really good riders, but they didn't really focus on getting a good part. I guess it doesn't make sense to pay for a whole part, invest all this money, and not getting good stuff together." Apart from Kalle, the new movie will feature aforementioned Teo, Chris, and Arthur as well as Werni Stock, Marco Feichtner, and Marko Grilc. And Gigi Rüf of course, who has always been Kalle's favourite rider. When asked about other inspirations he does not have to think long. "My favourite right now is Halldor. I think he is amazing. His personality, his attitude, his riding - everything is just amazing. He's still the same guy, and he's killing it big time. And Mikkel Bang is an amazing snowboarder, and Danny Davis is also super sick."
While we hear some happy mid-summer chatter and the clinking of classes in the background, we get a bit more interested in the difference between the Norwegian scene that is forever producing a plethora of outstanding riders, apart from the aforementioned Mikkel also pros like Torstein Horgmo, Stale Sandbech, or upcoming kids like the triple-corking Jørn Simen Aabøe. Kalle is also aware of the buzzing scene in the neighboring country: "They have more role models and a bigger industry. I think that's the reason [they produce more snowboard talents]. In Norway they are choosing from 500 talents and kids, and in Sweden they're choosing from 20 talented kids."
A secondary career - and giving back
To give back and help the small scene of Sweden grow Kalle has started to organize his own snowboard events. While he and Chris will host their second Swedish Pirates movie tour this Fall - "because the snowboard scene in Sweden is too lame, and they need to shape up!" - he is also working on a bigger project:
Together with an old friend ("an old passionated snowboarder from the business world") he is planning a new snowboard park at the Kläppen ski resort. "The project is basically to build smaller junior parks that are ridable 24/7, with lift and hiking possibilities, lights for late night riding, and weekly events and happenings during high season." They plan on finishing the season with a big contest for pros and rookies alike. "The whole idea behind this is to start building a platform for Swedish snowboarding to grow." This is remarkable for a snowboarder who is in his early twenties himself. To him creating events is as much about building himself a secondary career for the time after being a pro snowboarder as it is about giving back to the scene that he grew up in: "The whole concept is geared towards younger people, and the aim is to include pro riders in the events and the concept so that the kids can interact with them, relate to them, and be inspired to snowboard more." And he continues: "That's what we all want in the end. Snowboarding to grow, and for the next generation to have some fun events and to see the possibilities that snowboarding can give you!"
However, it is a long time before Kalle will retire from riding. In fact, only last year he joined his long-time buddy Hans Åhlund in the all-Swedish all-internet film project Random Bastards. While the first release 'Tentacle' mostly contained B-shots from 'Bottom Line', this year he filmed with them at the beginning of the season as well as on a trip to Folgefonna. When we are impressed by this two-film-part-a-season approach, he laughingly plays it down: "I would say one and a half. It is not going to be a full part. But I will be super stoked just to have a small fun part in the end, anyway. It's a growing project, and Hans is running it, who's one of my best and oldest friends."
Still, we are hoping he will continue to film for the Pirates. Or will he? "I will always shoot my video parts with the Pirates. That's always going to happen, no matter what." Or, as Basti Balser says: "You rule, Kalle!"