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Time waits for no man, as a fella once said. And time, it seems, has finally caught up with the legendary Finnish snowboarder Jussi Oksanen – who just announced his retirement.
A goofy-foot on a skateboard, Jussi famously learned to snowboard regular since that was just how his first bindings were set up.
Jussi has been a phenomenally consistent pro for over 15 years. While contemporaries have fallen by the wayside or been overtaken by the next generation, Jussi has continued to churn out banger parts like a metronome – witness his latest Burton web edit that dropped just last week.
A goofy-foot on a skateboard, Jussi famously learned to snowboard regular since that was just how his first bindings were set up. The result was that he took switch riding to a new level. By the turn of the millennium he had become one of the biggest names in snowboarding. You need to be pretty special to get a pro model with Burton – especially if you have a name most Americans can’t pronounce – but Jussi followed fellow Scandis Terje and Johan Olofsson to that honour in 2001.
After several stellar seasons with Standard Films he worked with Travis Parker and David Benedek on their new RobotFood project, where his buttered take-offs in Afterbang started a mini-trend of their own. Injury then set him back for a season or so, before he returned to prominence in the Mack Dawg and Burton films. By now he was hitting mainly natural jumps in the backcountry, a long way from his roots in the icy parks of Finland. That uncanny ability to stomp tricks, however, remained.
You need to be pretty special to get a pro model with Burton – especially if you have a name most Americans can’t pronounce
Somewhere along his meteoric rise Jussi married an English girl called Zoe (who – as we discovered in a WL interview – introduced him to the joys of marmite on toast!) and moved out to California. By the last few seasons he had the whole filming process down to a fine art, making efficient bursts into the mountains between family life and surfing.
In hindsight we could probably have guessed that it wouldn’t be long before he hung up his snow boots, but since his backcountry freestyle skills were still up there with the best it looked like Jussi’s career twilight just could not be dimmed. Perhaps he was just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up before retiring on top? As Travis Parker, himself no slouch in the progressive riding department, put it:
Jussi man… he completely blew our minds because he was so far ahead of us in terms of talent. He was real technical with his jumping; he could do anything switch, and everything came so easy to him that it made us try extra hard. We wanted to be as good as him!
So without further ado, let us present various highlights from Jussi Oksanen’s video career, as made available by the gods of Youtube.
[part title="TB8 - 501PTSBYD #10"]
Jussi Oksanen burst on the scene in 1999 with this incredible opening section for TB8. Though follow cams are two-a-penny these days, in this pre GoPro era it was still a novelty for the viewer to join a pro for the ride.
We’re with Jussi in the park - all you can hear is the sound of his board on the snow and his heavy breathing as he sets himself up for a kicker
And what a ride. We’re with Jussi in the park - all you can hear is the sound of his board on the snow and his heavy breathing as he sets himself up for a kicker. Looking at his feet you can see his bindings look a bit odd, and you figure out he’s coming in switch. You wouldn’t know it from the way he’s riding. Jussi carves up this huge American transition, busts a cab 900 off the lip – which is pretty much as tech as tricks got back then – and it’s like you’re riding alongside him, watching this machine rotating through the air and landing clean as a whistle. Then he charges straight into the next kicker, where he launches a massive front 5…
The now legendary segment set the tone for the rest of his section (and, arguably, future park lines like Torstein’s. With pretty much every trick in the book nailed one way or another (‘regular’ and ‘switch’ seemed to be alien terms to this guy) across kickers, powder and rails, this young Finnish kid was setting new standards for freestyle snowboarding.
[part title="TB9 - 501PTSBYD #11"]
Spinning. That’s what we remember this part for. There’s that weird spinny camera angle at the start, and the almost constant sight over the two minutes that follow of Jussi’s maroon base spinning towards the camera as he lands yet another tech park trick into powder. All in all, it was a great advert for the Burton Custom.
Sure, this kind of thing is bread and butter to the street rats of today, but it’s worth remembering that few riders back then could top Jussi for cross discipline tech-ers
Funnily enough though, the highlight is a good old backside 180 melon (1.54) that’s sent a full 30 metres and tweaked to perfection. Jussi’s switch 50-50 to 180 out on a nasty down-flat-down-flat–down (1.50) is also worth a mention – sure, this kind of thing is bread and butter to the street rats of today (and they’ll do so in a more painfully cool skate style, without the GoreTex) but it’s worth remembering that few riders back then could top Jussi for cross discipline tech-ers.
Aside from all that, this part boasts a soundtrack that screams TB heyday. Random, heavy and strangely catchy, it’s Meatloaf meets Metallica – the ideal earworm for Jussi to end his part with a spot of early dual snowboarding.
[part title="TB10 - 501PTSBYD #12"]
In TB10 we got to enjoy one of our favourite intros as an American TV presenter struggled to pronounce ‘Jussi’. We also got to enjoy watching a freestyle god at the top of his game.
Jussi was not just a creature of his time, though, but a trendsetter
Once again it all kicks off with some piano tinkling, only this time it doesn’t break into dirge-like metal but the outstanding tune choice of ‘Jealousy’ by Mojo and Heman featuring Ty. Welcome to the hip hop era Standard Films, what took you so long?
We’ll forgive the zeach on 1.09 (no one even knew what the word meant back in 2002, and hell that is a massive gap!) and move on to the powder footage, which is awesome. Jussi has by now mastered the art of taking park tricks into the backcountry, to the extent that he’s even doing double hits (see the impressively quick recovery to go from cab 5 to back 7 on 1.17). The line approach is also applied to his jibbing, with a tidy switch front boardslide to backside board on 1.41, as well as the park stuff (3.07). Take note: we are well and truly into the era of the super booter.
Jussi was not just a creature of his time, though, but a trendsetter. With this in mind, look no further than the numerous corked tricks or even his piss-take suitcase jib on 1.27 that demonstrated the kind of fun spirit he and the RobotFood crew would soon unleash on the industry to game-changing effect.
All in all this is a very enjoyable way to spend three minutes of your time. We’re even treated to no less than two of Jussi’s impeccable 180s. Juicy indeed.
[part title="Standing Sideways - 501PTSBYD #13"]
It takes a great rider to use the same song as Heath Kirchart and Jeremy Klein in their seminal Birdhouse Skateboard's part from The End, but Queen and David Bowie's classic Under Pressure finds a deserved second home here.
Queen and David Bowie's classic Under Pressure finds a deserved second home here
Filmed almost ten years after any of the other videos on this list, it shows just how timeless Jussi's style became. Clean as you like, but gnarly as hell - there are some gargantuan hits in here, spun so slowly and landed so softly it looks like he was taking side hits off the nearest green run rather than 100+ foot backcountry booters.
The first line says it all really, not just that it's super solid but that it's a line. Jussi was one of the riders that pioneered multiple hits in the backcountry, perhaps a glitch from his life of skateboarding seeping over into the snow. Though after a while we stopped seeing street and park features in his parts, he traded his versatility for all out amplitude, that back 180 at 1.28 being a case in point. High flying.
[part title="Afterbang - 501PTSBYD #14"]
You’d think it’d be hard to pick a highlight in a career like Jussi’s, but it’s acutally piss-easy: Afterbang. Robot Food’s debut film was lauded for its deviation from ‘The Format’ (even if, compared to some of the bonkers releases of the nineties, it still played things relatively straight). Early on in the film Jussi skates into view backed by the opening chords of The Cars’ ‘Just What I Needed’ and drops the part that will essentially define his career.
Jussi skates into view backed by the opening chords of The Cars’ ‘Just What I Needed’ and drops the part that will essentially define his career
There are plenty of traditional hammers in there, but it’s the butters that stay in the memory. Watching him casually pressing on both nose and tail before launching a front 9 off an impossibly small park jump sums up what a lot of us enjoy so much about snowboarding. And, as is proven by the snowboard world’s lasting affection for the part, that stuff never gets old.
Louie Fountain and JP Solberg may have had Afterbang’s opener, but it was with this section that RobotFood truly arrived.