Real Talk: Antti Autti

Hitting pow in Niigata, Japan. . Photo: Jani Karppa

Hitting pow in the Arctic Circle.
Photo: Jani Karppa

Antti Autti’s career has followed the mould of what is expected of a professional rider. Step 1) Enter contests and get your name out there, Step 2) Start winning contests, collect the cheques. Step 3) Get tired of the contest circuit and head to the backcountry to ride pow. It sounds great in theory but many riders fail to complete all the steps and instead end up fading away after they quit the comps. Antti is quickly establishing himself as backcountry rider after a long career riding icy transitions and is now focussing his attention to his new two year movie project “Approach and Attack” Here we find out more about the path that led Antti to the pow.

Finland produces some of the most talented riders but only a few of those will receive global recognition. Why do you think Finland has so many good riders and why will so few of those make it?
Let’s just say that we have short parks and the ones that are great in shape allow you to take crazy amounts of laps each day. It is easy to repeat the tricks you want to learn and become a master of those but I think that is just one part of it. We have a lot of history in Finnish snowboarding and kids have a huge amount of riders who they can look up to. I think that is also important that they have these idols whose steps you can try to follow.

However if you want to make it as a professional snowboarder you need to have more than just great riding skills. To make it you really have to want it. You have to be able to set everything else aside and just focus on your riding and following your dream of becoming professional rider. I think that a lot of Finnish riders lack of confidence because in Finland, the most typical personality is based on being able to settle for smaller than you would deserve and be very modest about the stuff you do. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this but if you want to be able to make it in the world of snowboarding which sometimes can be very harsh from the business side of things, you have got to learn how to put this dismissive attitude that so many Finnish people have aside and stand up!

You are known mostly for your pipe skills but you also have placed 3rd at the Air and style, second at the 2006 BEO slopestyle, won the 2008 Toyota big air and now you are riding heaps of backcountry. Why do you think you became pigeonholed as a pipe rider?
When I started snowboarding there were only two things I would do, ride pipe and play in the trees. I would lap my home resort every day riding in the trees and finishing the run in the pipe. So that is how I learned how to snowboard. Jumps came later and after learning how to ride pipe it was very easy to learn how to ride jumps. When I started to compete in the nationals, as a junior there was only pipe contests and no slopestyle. So it was just these natural steps I took towards bigger games through pipe contests. I still ride pipe every time there is one at the resort, I just love the feeling so much. I actually think that I’m riding pipe better now than when I was doing the whole circuit. Probably because I’m not focusing on this certain trick so much anymore. Now it´s more about how I stand on my board and how good the flow is under my edges.

Getting a sneaky end of pipe run in Cardrona, NZ. Photo: Jani Kärppä

Getting a sneaky end of pipe run in Cardrona, NZ.
Photo: Jani Karppa

You’ve pretty much given up contests and not focussing on backcountry. Was this because you felt like you had completed your goals in contests or more of a natural transition?
You know where I come from we never had good parks so we were always building our own kickers in the trees. This is where it all started for me and it became very natural to just go out of bounds when there was more snow involved. For a while contests were my biggest goal because I saw that as a possibility to become better rider and probably make it into the World. Ultimately I put my name out there but I have never really been such a competitive person, I have never been hooked on the feeling of winning so much. Sure it felt great but I have always been thinking about the bigger picture of my riding beyond wedges and pipe. Then few years back there was this one contest in Japan where I ended up 3rd and I didn´t feel anything. There was no joy of being on the podium or being able to go celebrate this result…absolutely nothing. Then I knew that it was time to do something about this because I didn´t want to lose my love for snowboarding and if I would have kept doing contests I might have done that. So I left the scene and just really put everything into learning about backcountry. By this I do not mean to learn about how to build a jump and land in powder. I wanted to learn how ride in nature and learn how to read natural terrain.

How supportive were our sponsors when you said you were leaving contests and heading to a backcountry lifestyle? Were they easy to convince to keep supporting you?
Most of my sponsors such as Giro have always been very supportive since the beginning. They have believed I had more potential as a rider outside of contest gates. But I would be lying if I would say it was easy to convince all the sponsors. There was of course one sponsor which I had been with from the start of my career and they instantly said ¨no¨ we do not support your goals towards this direction. Then they basically offered me a 6-month deal saying that I should try to go to Olympics and if I do not make it they will drop me.

It was such a shock to me back then when everything I had done with them from pure loyalty with ups and down. When they told me this I was like now I’m seeing the true nature of this company. They only cared about me when I was in the spotlight and didn´t want to create this long lasting relationship with a rider who wants to be more than just a pipe rider.

Luckily for me at the time, Northwave and Drake were looking to build a new team and they took me in! it has been such a great ride man. It started from riding park related products to help designing powder sticks. With Alvaro Vogel being our rider/tm we have a good thing going on there because the communication and support from the company is towards the things we want to do as individuals. I definitely do feel this very big loyalty and motivation as their team member. I’m not there to collect paychecks, I want to be part of program that is keen to go forward and see the big picture of snowboarding.

In the end you have to be able to make these decisions and follow your dream as a rider. Only then you will see who actually supports you and even if no one wants to support, you will still have your passion for riding and that is what ultimately matters.

Testing Pow sticks is a tough job. Photo; Jani Kärppä

Testing Pow sticks is a tough job.
Photo; Jani Kärppä

Staying with contests, do you feel any regrets about not having an Olympic medal?
Absolutely none. I do not regret anything I have done. There are shitty contest results and difficult decisions I have faced throughout my career but I take these as a learning experience not as a failure. Sure you can be bummed out and that´s fine but you have to able to learn about these to become better as a rider and person.

How are the Olympics in your mind? The pinnacle event or just another contest?
It is not just another contest. That´s the biggest crap I have ever heard. There is a reason why people either go there or hate it. That reason is the institute and brand that the Olympics are.

I do think that for some riders Olympics are great way to be part of the snowboarding scene. You know some of these riders that are representing for countries that are not so successful in snowboarding can get good support from their associations which then helps them to travel the world and see things even though their riding skills would not put them into the podium or even finals. From that side of things I think Olympics are good opportunity and of course if you do well you are gonna get some serious spotlight time which will give your career an extra boost!

I’m not even talking politics here but I will say this. It is ridiculous that in each Olympics there have been so many mistakes in competitions. The pipe is shitty and judging scale is jumping around. You know these riders who want to go there and finally make it to get treated in this way is not good. I believe that the biggest reason for these massive mistakes is that there are no people in charge who actually care about snowboarding enough.

At the 2005 Aspen X games, you became one of the only two riders that ever beat Shaun White. Would you say this medal was your best result? Would you trade that for an Olympic gold?
In the competition side of things, that has been the biggest boost in my career but no it is not my best result. My best pipe result is from Vans Cup 2006. This pipe contest was the best where I had been at the time and I ended up winning it. It was a 1 hour jam where everyone was throwing down! I remember Danny Kass started with bs alley oop 720 to cab 1080. It was such a sick contest…. Now I’m getting carried away so to answer about the Olympic gold. No I would not trade it for my x-games gold.

Obviously they are pretty stoked on Shaun white at the X-Games, were the crowd and organisers stoked for you or did you feel like you rained on their parade a little?

They seemed pretty stoked at the time for sure, you know X-games has this way of bringing a hype to certain tricks. That time it was all about back-to-back 10´s. I always thought it was funny to bring this hype around me because Kass and some other riders had done back-to-back 10´s way before me. Well anyways, I ended up getting first and after that I  scored so much just by doing those 10´s in the contests, even if rest of my run wasn’t the most clean. That right there just shows how much power media has over competitions. Hype around one trick grows huge and then it can sometimes cloud the judging system.

Away from contests and you have spent the last couple of years filming for your movie approach and attack. How has filming gone and how hard was the switch from transitions to powder?
Tom, I have never switched away from transitions. Nature is full of transitions and that’s what I’m still doing everyday when I’m riding powder. I’m looking for this next bank or lip where I could slashes and tricks. The fact that my roots are in transition riding has helped me a lot to be able to ride backcountry. That´s what my favourite type snowboarding is finding and riding transitions. The best way for me to do that is to get out in backcountry.

The movie itself has been going well. I have been trying to stay away from the shovel as much as possible and I believe that it shows in the movie. We have some booters in the movie but the technical side of riding is definitely more in lines and natural jumps.

What can we expect from Approach and Attack?
Approach & Attack is movie about extreme soul riding! It is about my desires as a snowboarder to be able to connect with local riders from each place I visit. It will have lot of fluffy powder and good vibes but it will also tell you more about how snowboarding is in these locations. Filmer director Teemu Lahtinen and I share a similar vision of movies so I know that Approach & Attack will have good flow in the editing and music, which will make you want to go snowboard outside of your comfort zone and explore.

I heard that in Japan you are a megastar and get treated like a Hollywood celebrity. Is this true and if so why wouldn’t you live there full time and shred pow and live the good life?
In Japan snowboarding is treated differently than anywhere else in the world. Most of the riders who film great video parts or do well at events like Toyota Big Air get treated in  this way, but you have to understand that this is just one part of it. To Actually be able to get respect in Japan you need to show your politeness to their culture and history, respecting your hosts’ request and older people is very important. To do this you have to spend some time and learn how everything works there, this is not something you will learn in competitions or video premieres.

Learning local customs in Japan. Photo : Jani Kärppä

Learning local customs in Japan.
Photo: Jani Karppa

Can you see yourself growing old in Finland or will you relocate somewhere else?
I’m going to live up in northern Finland for rest of my life probably. This is great place to live because we do not have any mountains because if I would live in a place next to mountains I might become too picky to what I want to ride, so I would rather have a place with good access for park and fun tree riding. When I want to go ride in the mountain, I can drive up to Sweden and Norway. You know I live only 6 hours from the border so it is easy to get away when I need some mountain time for myself.

Have you any plans for what you would like to do after you finish riding professionally? Will you stay in the industry or want to do something else?
My plan is pretty simple. I’m going to snowboard and live happy with my girlfriend. I know I will find a way to work around something where I can snowboard still almost everyday.

Follow Antti on hs facebook page.
Index photo : Matt McHattie.
All other photos: Jani Kärppä