Karsten Kleppan “Welcome To Lakai” section + interview from issue 123

Words and intro by Will Harmon

At the end of 2012 I had never heard of Karsten Kleppan. Little did I know at the time, but in 2013 Mr. Kleppan would come through with a barrage of ridiculously amazing clips, photos and video parts. I think every skateboarder in Europe now knows Karsten Kleppan as a household name. No energy drink sponsor, no corporate shoe sponsor, just pure, unadulterated skateboarding. Karsten is one of the most legit dudes out there right now. Oh, and also he is one of the friendliest skaters you’ll ever meet; he’s always got a smile on his face. I caught up with him one cold January night via Facetime from his flat in Oslo. See what the Rookie of the year has to say….


Congratulations! It really all came together for you last year. Was this a conscious push to skate hard and stack clips or was it unplanned?

I don’t know, it wasn’t planned but I got on the Element Euro team a year and a half ago and they wanted me to make a welcome to the team clip. So I was working on that and I filmed for about half a year and then they just decided to make a new video. So what I was filming would turn into my introduction part. So I basically just focused on that to try and make it a good part. Element basically got me to where I am now; they took me on trips and I met a lot of people and that’s pretty much how it all came together.


Can you tell us a little bit about growing up in Oslo?

I was born in Oslo and I grew up right outside of the city in a place called Bekkestua. It’s a super nice place with a friendly neighbourhood. We had a skatepark nearby so I skated there a lot. The skatepark was built in 1997 when I was seven. So I pretty much started skating around that time. I think I got my first board for my eighth birthday and I’ve been skating since then.

Kickflip by Eirik Finseth.


How old are you now?

I’m 23 and I’m going to be 24 this summer. But growing up, you know, I was always going to skate in the city. Just to grow up near Oslo has been super good. I can’t really complain; it’s really nice.


Yeah I’ve never been to Oslo but after editing the Oslo Scene article it looks good there, nice spots…

Yeah it’s cool. I’ve just read that article too and when I started skating we looked up to those guys skating City Hall. And as we grew older, especially my friends and I, we got into skating around the city and exploring. Oslo is really good for that; there are a lot of cool spots here. I remember those OG guys we looked up to growing up; they were super tech and super good, but they would mainly stick to City Hall, the courthouse and those famous spots.


I hear you won the Norwegian national champs when you were 16. Did things change for you after that?

Yeah that was my first year skating in the senior contest, so I had no expectations at all really. I thought I was going to do super shitty because of all those guys like Henning (Braaten) and all the famous Norwegian skaters were skating in it. I remember I liked the park a lot so I just ended up skating some rails doing some transfer and stuff. I guess, at that time, not too many people were skating rails in Norway so maybe that was why I won? I was really surprised and it was super cool. I remember after that I got some sponsors. I was already getting flow from Element, but just on the Norwegian team. So after that, maybe more people took notice.


So you were on the Element regional Norwegian team and then more recently you stepped up to the full Euro team?

Yeah, Alex (Deron – Element Europe TM) started sending me boards two years ago and then about six months into it he said he wanted me on the team proper so that’s when that happened.

Wallride nollie out by Sem Rubio.


So how did you hook up with Lakai?

That was kind of like the same thing, but more recent. The same guy that did Element in Norway quit working for them and started working for Lakai and DVS so I got on then. Before that I was skating the Element shoes. So my friend Carl (Heisholdt) wanted me to continue on Element skateboards, but he wanted me to ride Lakais now after Element stopped making shoes.


So you are not tempted to ride for one of these big corporate shoe sponsors?

No, not really. I like Lakai because it’s just a skateboard shoe brand. They’ve been doing it well for years and I like skating for a shoe company that just works with skateboarders.


No energy drink sponsors either?

Nah, I don’t know, I don’t really like that. I understand why people do it because it’s super helpful with the money and stuff but it’s not really for me. I don’t really like the idea of supporting those brands; it’s super bad for the kids.


So what about competitions, do you enter a bunch to try and win money?

Nah not really, it depends because I don’t really enter competitions to win money because it’s really hard to win! But I have a couple of contests that I try to enter every year. Like we have this Norwegian one called the Bernhard invitational.

Switch kickflip by Sem Rubio


Is that the Norwegian champs, or is that something different?

It’s not the championship, but I normally go to that one too, it’s super fun. But we have this street contest in Oslo every year and it’s been going on for 10 or 15 years or something. It’s run by this distribution called Bernhard’s parks and they’ve been doing it the whole time, they just rent this bus and invite the best 20 skaters in Norway. We skate three spots on that one day.


In the city?

Yeah, we have some of those plaza spots, like the Frognerparken – the one with all the statues and shit. Then we have City Hall and courthouse. Then sometimes we go outside the city, skate some school or something it depends, it’s different every year. But it’s always just street spots. It’s just chaos sort of, you can skate anything you want. It’s not like just skate the stairs or the ledge; you can do what you like. It’s a really cool contest and just fun. So that’s my one Norwegian contest that I really love to do. Other than that there’s the Vans Downtown Showdown, it’s sick when you get invited to that. I’ve gone to Tampa a couple of times, which is super crazy it’s really hard. I remember I was going to Basel. It’s not my main focus to go to contests, but it’s cool to meet up with people and skate.


What do you do in the winters in Oslo? Isn’t there too much snow to skate?

Yeah well sometimes you can skate until November even December if you are lucky. You can skate street, but by November it gets really cold. It gets to about minus…well, way below zero.

Crooked grind by Sem Rubio.


What’s the temperature outside now?

I think it’s maybe -10° C, it’s okay, but it is January, the coldest part of the year. To skate we have to skate the indoor park. We have a couple of options, we have a few indoor parks, but one is an hour away so sometimes we go there. The local indoor park is closer, but it’s just small so it gets really crowded. Also my friends…I was actually supposed to go today, but I didn’t want to be on the metro when we were doing this interview. But everyone was going to go skate this metro stop.


Oh I didn’t mean to mess up your skate session…

No no, it’s fine; I can do that any day. It’s a bust, but we have a metro here, it’s not huge, but there are a lot of spots there that are indoors or under a roof. We have this crew and we are going to try and make this montage….

50-50 by Rob Rouleaux.


Wait, are the metro stops indoors?

Yeah it’s indoor. I mean some of them are covered too, but now it’s -10° C out so you have to go to the indoor ones.


Isn’t that going to be an insta-bust?

Yeah it is a bust, but at some of the stops they actually have pretty good spots – good benches, good ground, banks and flatbars so if you just want to think about something you want to skate there you can easily skate there for 10-15 minutes before you get kicked out. If you are lucky maybe you’ll get a half hour session. So that’s what all my friends are doing right now; skating the metro stops.


So is there snow all over the place right now?

Yeah, there is a lot of snow. (Karsten takes his phone and shows me all the snow outside of his window)


Speaking of snow, how was it filming in Spitsbergen for the Element edit?

Yeah that was a crazy mission. We were there in May, so that’s springtime and it was only minus one or two Celsius. It was ok to skate outside if it was sunny, but it wasn’t great you know. It was cold, I had to wear full long underwear and stuff, otherwise if you stop skating you’ll freeze up.

Tailside by Sam Ashley.


How long were you there for?

One week. Yeah it was really cool. Pretty much most of the time we were in Pyramiden – the Russian abandoned city. We spent four days there, as it was such a mission to get there. We had to take a four-hour snowmobile ride from Longyearbyen, the main city in Spitsbergen. We spent four days there because we really wanted to make sure we got everything we needed so we wouldn’t have to go back. It was really, really sick to go there. Just the nature and the experience – it was crazy. It was like coming to another planet or something.

There are not many people up there. I think 2000 people in Longyearbyen and this other city Barentsburg, that is a Russian mining city with like 400 people. They always say when you get there to the island: ‘Ah there are only 2500 people here and 3000 polar bears.’ So there are more polar bears there than there are people.


What a crazy skate destination! Have you spent much time in the States? I know you’ve been there before, but how do you like it and would you ever think about moving there?

Yeah I like it, it’s cool. It’s really different from Europe. I stayed there for three months one time, a couple of years ago but it was in the middle of the winter. I was super thankful to be there but I didn’t have my own car or anything so I was really reliant on friends. After a while it got pretty boring (laughs).


Where exactly were you?

I was staying with my friend Moose, the guy from Deathwish. I was staying at his house, his family were super nice and cool and taking good care of us. At that time I was 20, so I couldn’t even rent a car.

Switch back tail by Sem Rubio.


Or get a beer?

Nah, I couldn’t do anything. That trip I felt maybe I shouldn’t have stayed that long, I thought maybe I should have waited a year. I like it a lot and I’ve been going back a lot after that trip too. When I got older and turned 21, you can actually get some beers and you feel like you’re worth something over there you know? It’s definitely a different world, because you drive so much and it’s a mission, it’s hard to get footage over there. Over here we just meet up in the city and skate around with the filmer or photographer or whatever, maybe take my car if we’re going somewhere outside the city but you’re not going to drive for hours. If you want to get to the other side of LA it would take you like five hours or something – it’s crazy. It’s huge. I’ve definitely had some good and some bad times over there. I’m going over there pretty soon, can’t wait it’s going to be good.


So what’s your favourite place to skate that you’ve travelled to?

That’s a hard one. We went on that Sicily trip recently and that was really sick. I really enjoyed the spots, I’d never really thought of it as a skate destination. When I got there I was super shocked, it was really good. And of course Mauro (Caruso) was showing us around, to local spots and stuff. That was one of my favourite places I’ve ever been for skating. And of course SF, I’ve been there and it’s really cool – all the hills and all these good-looking spots. So those two, San Francisco and Sicily – it’s a weird mix.


Yeah one of them is famous for skating and the other is a bit unknown…

Yeah they were both really good. But also this fall I went to Innsbruck (Austria) to skate that crazy, white plaza spot. It’s like a skatepark covered in transitions. It’s super good, but it’s more like that’s the spot in that city. You can go there just to skate that spot. We skated other spots there that were super good too, but that spot’s just insane you know?

So I had a quick Google search of all your footage you had last year and I can kind of see why you’re Rookie of the Year. You had a part in Oslo 5 at the beginning of the year, Element Spitsbergen edit, Lakai in France, Element in SF and a full part in Element’s Hold It Down. Are you always filming?

(Laughs) No, I don’t know I’ve just been on a lot of trips and every trip it’s a guy with a camera and I just see a spot I want to skate and film – it’s so much fun. So that’s just what I’ve been doing the whole year. I mean my main focus for the whole year was to get footage for Hold it Down, but stuff also ended going up in different places. Oslo 5 that was a lot of leftovers, he just put some stuff together and it was cool. But yeah the main focus was Hold It Down; I just wanted to have a good part in that video and just ended up going to all these cool places and filming. So yeah pretty stoked!

So who are some of your favourite skaters out right now?

Ahhh, there are so many good ones, it’s super hard to pick.


But when you sit down to watch something to get psyched before you go skate, whose name do you type into YouTube?

For sure, it’s always Jake Johnson, since Mindfield he’s always been one of my favourites. I fucking love the way he skates. But if I want to get hyped to skate I always watch the Polar stuff, all those guys are inspiring: Pontus, Hjalte, Oski, David Stenström, Michał Juras, all those guys hype me up. Even Eniz isn’t on Polar, his part in In Search of the Miraculous and any Eniz footage. It depends on the day. That Brian Delatorre part just came out, I watched that a lot, it’s a really good one. And my homies hype me to skate too, Magnus Borderwick he had that rad 50-50. There’s so many guys it’s hard to just choose just one. And I love transition skating and street skating a lot, so I watch Grant Taylor, Raven Tershy but yeah so many skaters.


Crook pop-over by Lars Garta.


So what are your plans for this year? Do you think you’ll go pro or anything like that?

Haha, pro, for sure not. But I just want to keep going like this and travel as much as I can. I’m trying to finish this Lakai online part right now; it’s pretty much done now I think. I haven’t really seen how much footage I have right now but I think I’m starting to get there. Got to finish that and try to film another part during the year and travel. Just do my thing.


Nice one Karsten. That about does it. Anyone you would like to thank?

Yeah, for sure. I’d like to thank Alex Deron, Mathieu Tourneur, Carl Edvard Heisholdt, all my sponsors, my friends and my family!


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