“What is it that Jake Phelps said? ‘Skateboarding got soft’, I’m pretty sure that happened,” Samu Karvonen, one half of the Finnish Skateboarding Association says, as we sit in the shade, and watch other people assemble a kicker-car-kicker setup in the heat.
Whilst Helsinki Helride rallies against the softer side of skateboarding, “we don’t want to be seen in too good a light”, the organisers are mindful that Sweden and Denmark have both benefited a great deal from convincing the municipality that skateboarding is a positive force for young people. By forming associations and galvanising their scenes these two neighbouring countries have become examples of best practice.
Though Helsinki still has some way to go before it can be considered among the top skate-friendly cities, it has a wealth of street and DIY spots, as well as a solid selection of skateparks. So here’s a street-level guide to Helsinki from someone who should know best – Helride organiser Samu Karvonen.
“Looking for spots is part of skateboarding so I won’t reveal our secrets. You’ve got to come and find it for yourself. There’s a Finnish saying, a direct translation goes something like, ‘the one who asks doesn’t get lost from his road’”, he tells me.
Samu recommends the Museum of Modern Art, Kiasma, as a good central meeting place. It’s the best known spot in the city (the one with the black ledges) and is next to the music centre’s slappy curbs. You won’t get kicked out, and will always find someone skating there.
Alternatively, don’t spend your precious time searching out street spots and instead head to one of the city’s fine skateparks. There’s Micropolis which recently got a renewed bowl and flat area, and Ponke’s in the south of Helsinki. “On a windy day you might want to think twice about here, but on a hot summer’s day you’ve got a beach just next to the park, for a refreshing Baltic dip.”