Aleksi Airinen Interview

Aleksi Airinen is a young Finnish footbagger and one of the favorites to win the World Championship this year. Not only did he send us the above video – he was also kind enough to answer a few questions.

Hi Aleksi! How are you?

I’m great, thanks! Summer is coming and things are going pretty well. I just finished my school semester and started a new job. It’s pretty interesting and the evenings I have free for footbag. My girlfriend is also coming to stay with me from Germany so I can’t really complain :)

You just came back from the Sport/Life eurotour? How was that experience? What were the highlights?

It was definitely a highlight of my footbag career. Going to different places with an awesome crew of people and just playing lots of footbag and having fun, what more could you ask for? I’d say the highlight of the tour was Switzerland, where we stayed for a week. We went so many different cities there and saw so many places. Flavio, his brother Silvan and their parents treated us so nicely that I will never forget it. We played by the Alps and partied until morning a few times. I wrote a short report on the tour that I think Daniel will post online, you can read it for more details.

Can you share a funny story from the trip?

Haha, I think there are too many to mention! One that comes to mind though, was when we were at a party in Luzern, Switzerland and crashed to Silvan’s place early in the morning. We were all really tired, but also quite hungry. Most had gone to bed already but me, Juho and Evan were still awake. Juho then left the room to check out the kitchen hoping to find a night snack. He came back with an egg he thought was boiled, saying something like “guys, I found something to eat.” He then crushed the egg against his elbow, spilling it all over! I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. I remember thinking I had to stop laughing because my abs were hurting so much.

aleksi_zurich_subway_c_juho_marjo
Photo by Juho Marjo

I recently interviewed Caroline about her hostel in Gdansk. And since you have been there; I would like to hear how did like it?

Oh I absolutely loved it! I think I spent ten days there on the tour and the others over two weeks. The hostel is just the perfect place for footbaggers to hang out and spend time together. It’s in a very good location in Gdansk, at the riverside and the edge of old town. We spent on a lot of time in the common room of the hostel just hanging out and watching movies. We even shredded there when the weather was bad outside. The hostel is big enough to accommodate a bunch of players, but small enough for everyone to feel like being in the same group all the time. Caroline treated us with delicious breakfast every morning and was just the perfect host. Well, you all know her :)

Last year you lived in Berlin. How was that?

I spent two semesters at the Technical University of Berlin from September 2012 to August 2013. Although I was studying it didn’t feel like that. I was living in Yves Kreil’s big apartment for the first six months when he was away and had many footbaggers and other friends stay there. There was always something going on. I spent a lot of time with Jakob Wagner, shredding and otherwise. I also met my girlfriend there. I’d say it was the best year of my life and will definitely never forget it.

Is it true that Jakob Wagner likes to have late night marathon sessions?

Haha yes. Jakob is quite busy and would often have time to play only in the evening. Jakob is the kind of player who just doesn’t stop. He loves to keep shredding when techno music is bumping and there’s no hurry to go anywhere. Often when others had stopped the session and went to take a shower Jakob would still try to hit ‘one last trick’. For him, shredding hard into the night is sort of a reward for the day’s hard work. And he’s definitely earned it.

How would you compare the scene in Berlin to the scene in Helsinki?

It’s actually quite different. In Helsinki, we usually agree on a session online and go to a gym with other sports going on there as well. The net players have their own sessions. In Berlin in the winter time FC Footstar had regular session times a couple times a week. The gym was reserved only for us, which was nice because we could have our own music and were free of any distractions. The net players were also there at the same time and a lot of times an old school player would also show up and kick with us for 30 minutes. That never happens in Finland. After the session we would often go for beers or get something to eat and just generally hang out together. When we go to a session in Finland we just drill and bust. Weekends are for hanging out. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Finland has a pretty high level of shred, I don’t know.

Finland has a long history of breeding top level footbaggers? Why do you think that is?

Like I said, we drill pretty hard. Focusing on the basics and cleanness is something everyone strives for. Maybe it’s the Finnish mentality of doing things right the first time. Don’t take me too seriously though, I think progress in footbag is pretty individual. I myself always thought that a player is as good as his or her weakest link (no pun intended) so I drilled everything. It’s not really true though, you need you specialities and big tricks as well for something to stand out.

Is there a new generation emerging and how is the scene in general doing?

Unfortunately we haven’t seen new players in years. We did a lot of promotion prior to Worlds 2011 in Helsinki and were often in the media, TV, newspapers and so on. I’d say most people in Helsinki knew about Footbag Worlds coming there that summer, but somehow nobody new picked up footbag. Outside of Finland though, I think there are many new players showing up and I do not agree that sport would somehow be declining. Through the internet and many tournaments being organized all the time, I think the community is better than ever.

What are your tournament plans this summer? Are you gonna win the European Championships on your home turf in Turku?

I will go to both Euros and Worlds, and take my word for it – I will do everything I can to win them.

You have been dominating the Shred30 in recent years. Is that your favorite discipline?

I’m glad you asked! Actually, Shred30 is my least favorite discipline. It’s very mechanical, not one bit entertaining and who wants to count the score afterwards? I think it only measures your ability to step and whirl on both sided. I’m good at Shred30 because I can step and whirl and will probably continue to compete in it as long as it’s organized, but my opinion is, Shred30 could be dropped as an event all together. If you know the history of the discipline, it was introduced as a fun sideline event and was never supposed to be competed the way it is done now. Somehow it just stuck. I think routines are the ultimate discipline – it takes a lot of effort to put together a good routine and perform it flawlessly. I also like circle because you sort of battle directly against the players and their games in your circle.

Do you think anybody will ever get a score of 300? You think you could do it?

I definitely think it’s possible, but very hard. If you think about, you have time to do 32 tricks in Shred30. That’s roughly 4.7 adds per trick. So you could do 22 five add tricks and 10 four add tricks. You could also change two five add tricks to a six add and a four add trick. So 20 fives, 11 fours and a six adder. It’s very hard but definitely not impossible. I think I could come up with a combo that I could hit on camera but first I want to get the 25 Fearless.

You won the GoPro camera at Danish Open back in December. I was happy to see you win it since you have been making many great videos, most notably with your Berlin Sessions series. But where are the videos? Anything in the works?

That was a great price Asmus, thanks once more! Apart from the Links of the Day video I didn’t film much in the winter. I sort of had this post-Berlin laziness after doing so many videos there. But now that summer is here and we’ve been playing outside a lot I might film more. There’s definitely a Worlds Video Contest video coming.

Any shout-outs or final comments?

Keep shredding! Go to tournaments. Tournaments are the salt and pepper of footbag.

Thanks to Aleksi for the interview and Juho for the photo.
Interview by Asmus Helms.

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