2019 has been a year of tremendous ups and downs for me, I’m not gonna get into my downs for the year, but those that know me close know that longboard dancing has really helped me get, and more importantly stay, out of a bad spot this year. I had an amazing time at my first longboard dancing camp back in June which really helped me snap out of a funk and introduced me to some people who I truly consider my family now – and this past weekend I extended that family, and those vibes of pure joy, in the Finnish Capital of Helsinki
HELdance Crew Presents: Finland x Sweden
For those keeping tabs, our Swedish Ambassador Robin, who I met at the camp in June, wrote an amazing article on how this event originally came to fruition, but for those now catching up, HELdance Crew is a newer longboard dancing crew based in Helsinki, and they are fully committed to expanding the scene in their home city.
I was fortunate enough to have met some of their crew members back in August at the AWHOU! Hamburg Longboard Open (check that video recap here), where we had all competed. They had mentioned that they were hosting an event with their new crew and their Swedish (hence the name of the event) neighbors from across the Baltic Sea at the end of September.
I knew Robin was going for sure, and I had never been to Helsinki before, so I thought to myself, ”Hmmm, a chance to go longboarding, hang with Robin again, AND check out a new city?” – Yeah I’m definitely doing that. Not too long afterwards our Berlin Ambassador Franzi, whom I also met at camp, booked her ticket and another amazing longboard trip was planned and in the books.
This event and everything about it blew my f*cking mind
There are simply not enough good things I can say about this event. It was absolute perfection, and to me, represented everything that longboard dancing is all about.
From what had its origins as a humble gathering between some nordic longboarder friends exploded into a truly international event, with people from Germany, Russia, Sweden, and The Netherlands all present. Additionally, two very well known board brands, Timber Boards and Simple Boards, ended up sponsoring the event with contest prizes and other means of support.
Their skate spot is absolutely legendary status
The Fins conduct their normal skate sessions at the Oodi Central Library, which is adjacent to the city’s central rail station, making it super accessible for everyone. The event itself was of course hosted here as well.
The library and its facilities itself are a work of art, but let’s talk about everything that makes this a dream skate location.
- Support from the library itself. This is one of my favorite things about the whole thing. The HELdance crew has told me that the library is actually in support of them being there and showcasing longboard culture. They’ve actually been approached by the library staff and have been told that this is exactly what the library is for, bringing people together to do things they love, regardless of what those things may be. That’s pretty badass, since more often that not there are stories about longboarders getting thrown out of places where we are simply just trying to practice.
- A huge COVERED area. The fun doesn’t have to stop if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
- Accessible bathrooms. No running behind the bushes in the park to go pee during skate breaks!
- The library has a cafe. Said cafe even has some vegan options, so if you get hungry and forgot to bring food there are options on site.
- Lighted grounds. I’ve heard a lot about what seems to be a phase of never ending darkness as the seasons in Finland turn, but that lack of sunlight in the colder months doesn’t have to stop you from skating here.
It’s truly a longboarder’s dream, and has the proper infrastructure to spend an entire day here just skating and hanging out. I really can’t wait to visit again when I am not injured so I can try the spot out myself.
HELdance sent a different kind of message to the longboard dancing scene with this event
There are many things I love about the HELdance crew, but one of the things I love most about them is that their style is primarily focused on dancing, and they truly embrace the idea of community, inclusiveness, and friendship above everything else.
This idea of having to go big doesn’t exist with them. I like freestyle, but learning freestyle seems to somehow naturally steer a person to need to keep getting crazier and more impressive with tricks. This can put a lot of pressure on riders, both experienced and new, to have to progress as fast and as hard as possible, instead of just focusing on your flow.
“Tricks deserve applause. Style deserves respect.” – Hans Wouters
This mentality can lead to some unintended barriers to the longboard scene. I mean think about it, it’s intimidating to try to start with this sport when you show up to an area still learning how to push properly, and every rider there is already able to do a big spin. If you don’t get good enough fast enough, you can end up quitting and that longboard ends up just becoming a decoration in your apartment.
Not with HELdance. With HELdance what matters is that you be you, and that you fall in love with longboarding in the process, while laughing one hundred times a minute with the new friends you just made.
This was really the recurring comment throughout the event that everybody was mentioning. Just how easy and comfortable the atmosphere was, it didn’t matter what your actual skill level was, the main thing was that you were there having a great time, creating awesome memories with like-minded people.
I had the privilege of being one of the judges for the contest at this event. To say this experience was humbling would be my understatement of the year – To suddenly be responsible for judging 28 contestants from all over Europe, some of which possessed skill levels light years above that of my own. Yet here I was, with the responsibility to determine who would be the best three riders of this group.
As the contest went on and as nerves settled, we really started to find our groove as a judging team. We got to personally meet each contest before and after their runs, and that was really cool for both sides – For the judges, because we could actually get to meet everyone participating and learn a bit about them, – For the contestants, because they could actually get some positive feedback on their performance.
I will emphasize positive feedback here, because that is what the HELdance crew requested of us, and it was the right call. Every single person that competed, regardless of age or skill level, got a personal piece of feedback from us on what we absolutely loved during their run. That is how you get people to become passionate about something. You foster an environment that showcases all elements of how amazing it is, and you give everybody a little something personal to get them even more stoked about it.
Nobody felt out of place. Nobody felt forgotten about. Nobody felt like just another number in a sea of contestants. It was really a beautiful feeling, and I cannot express in words how much joy it gave me to be a small part of that.
HELdance keep doing what you are doing, and never ever stop
If you are a longboard dancer and you’re looking for a place to go skate and meet some new friends for life, definitely go to Helsinki! Just book it already, you won’t regret it. Their skate spot is fantastic, their city is charming AF (but expensive so save some money lol), and their crew and community there is really something to behold. Go to the next event they plan, or just go to go. Either way, it’ll be something that will change your life, and something that will change the way you look at longboard dancing.
To my dearest Teemu, Marjo, Teemu, Anna, and Sari. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for creating this, and building up something in Helsinki that was not previously there. Thank you for organizing everything, and giving all of us a roof over our heads after hours of skating and even more hours at the Helsing Bar. Keep being role models for everyone there and for everyone who rides around the world. You guys have truly created something special, and for that, you all should be extremely proud of yourselves. My never ending gratitude goes out to you guys forever and ever! -S