From 2009 till 2010 I did a series interviews of some of the best players, go-getters, organizers and all around important people of our sport at that point. I now bring all of the interviews, for the first time collected, chronologically here on the site. Some of the people are as relevant today as they were back then, others have faded a little, but all of the interviews contain strong opinions, an interesting look into a footbag life and/or great advice about our sport. This week’s interview is with Tuukka Antikainen.
Tuukka is from Oulo, Finland. He has been playing footbag for almost 10 years. He is my personal footbag archnemesis, one of the nicest guys in footbag and has one of the most interesting styles in Europe.
Hello Tuukka, How are you?
Yo Yo Yo! I’m great! Enjoying a free day.
Let’s start with some history. When and how did you start to play footbag?
I had kicked some hacky at school ’99, but didn’t really start back then as I was too much into football(soccer). Summer 2000 I was kicking hacky with my friend and we got idea to look for it from internet. We found footbag.org and watched some move clips. I remember watching ripwalk and thinking: “it would be awesome to learn that trick”. Next day I was at a midsummer festival and I saw some guys playing footbag. Those guys were Ville Laakso, Janne Pesonen with some of their friends. I walked closer to witness Ville hitting 8 ripwalks in a row! It was mind-blowing for me in that moment and I really got hooked instantly.
You got into BAP back in 2003. How did you do that? What was the experience like?
Year 2003 Euros were held in Frankfurt and Worlds in Prague. I had practiced hard and was excited to meet all my footbag heroes for the first time. I had attended 2002 Euros and met the Czech posse, but back then by footbag heroes I meant North-American players. I had watched Pure Freestyle, Sultans of shred, Worlds 99 and Aggressive Grounds through over and over again, and players like Rick Reese, Ryan Mulroney, Peter Irish, Sunil and Ahren were my ultimate heroes. So when I entered my first circle at Euros with Sunil, Ales and Ahren… wow.
About getting into BAP… To be honest it was bit of a surprise for me when I was chosen. I had quite a unique trick selection back then, using a lot of inspins, ducking downtime moves and toe shuffle. I was also shredding a lot, especially during Worlds. I remember having great sessions with Yacine, Sunil and Tuan. Tuan and I played almost the whole night together. Still I wasn’t really trying for BAP yet; I thought maybe next year I will try to convince everyone. So when it was time to announce new BAP players I just kept shredding in a circle until in the middle of a run I heard my name. I can’t remember if I dropped, I was shocked from excitement as I walked to meet my new posse members.
You have an interesting and varied game how did you attain that? Could you tell a little about your footbag freestyle philosophy?
I’ve always been interested in hitting not so popular tricks. Scott Bevier has really been an inspiration for me with his trick selection. I have quite good basics from the earlier years and now I just tryout different stuff, watch a lot of videos and try to use tricks I find fun. These days my footbag philosophy is to have fun. Not to take it too seriously anymore, play for myself, enjoy it.
Where do you see you in your freestyle career right now? What place does footbag have in your life right now? Where do you want to take your game?
I’ve played freestyle almost 10 years now. I’m not trying to reach the stars anymore. I still want to improve and learn new stuff, but I also listen to my body and don’t try to do stuff that hurts. I also don’t feel obligated to learn everything. So what if I can’t hit something on my flipside, I couldn’t care less. When I was really practicing hard (before 2006) I tried to learn everything, but now I rather concentrate on elements I enjoy. Lots of inspins, symp dlos, weird stuff like strange rakes, fairy swirling, whizzs, gyro toes, downtime ducking stuff accompanied with my basic shuffle shred. I really enjoy playing now when I have given myself a freedom to choose what I want to learn and what I don’t have to. Freestyle is still very important for me and I will keep playing for many more years if my body allows it. I’m also going to compete for a couple more years for sure.
Finland seems to have one of the strongest scenes at the moment, with both young talent and a lot of older great players. Who do you think make people in Finland so good at footbag?
Who or what? I don’t know. I think other countries have amazing freestylers (and net players) as well. It is the dedication to the sport what makes you good. Of course if you are talented that helps a lot too, but people who are really dedicated to practice hard and also think what they are practicing will become great players for sure. Think about Vasek, Clavens, Felix, Jorden, Milan, Anssi and Jay (he will be rocking soon). Practice, practice, practice.
In Finland many players have a good style and I think it’s kind of a Finnish trademark or something. That is something Finnish scene might have created as we always call “the” tricks and try to help younger players to clean their styles. As hard it is to imagine Felix and Juho didn’t always have a perfect style.
Also I have to say that Finnish Footbag Association has worked well in past organizing tournaments, supporting players’ trips abroad etc.
It seems like everybody can beat everybody in competition in Finland. Who do you think is the best at the moment?
Hah, well that’s a hard question. It depends on what we are looking for. In my opinion Felix and Juho are the two best routine players in Finland as they really know what a good show is about. They are both also very technical circle players. But when it comes to technicality Anssi and Toni are there too. They both also have very good consistency. In competitions anything can happen and if you make mistakes then there are a lot of players ready to take the chance like Aleksi, I, Tuomas, Santeri, Samu, Lauri… Everyone is capable of winning the whole thing.
The best… for me it is still Felix, he is still just an amazing player.
You made a really good long video from the NY Jam in Jyväskylä. How was that jam?
As an organizer I think the jam worked out well. We had 3 sessions with total of 13 hours time to play. The best Finnish players were there accompanied with Jay Boychuck and Matt Bailey. On the sidelines we had some sauna and swimming in the icy water action going on and some parties of course. NYJ is the biggest freestyle event in Finland and we work on making it better every year. We also welcome foreign players to join the fun next year. We’ve had a couple of guests in the past years and all of them said they loved it.
I hear Felix was there. How is he doing?
He is doing great. I think you have to ask Felix to get more detailed answer as I don’t feel it is my place to talk about him too much. Let’s stick with me.
You have currently been to 50 footbag jams/tournaments. What was your favorite?
I have so many good memories from different tournaments. All the NYJs have been a lot of fun. Berlin Worlds were really nice. Finnish Champs 2000 was my tournament, Budapest 2002 my first Euros, Prague 2003 my first Worlds and for that reason they all have a special meaning for me. Basically every Worlds I’ve attended has been awesome. Finally I think Worlds 2003 is my favorite. First Worlds, meeting many of my footbag heroes (Ryan, Rippin, Kenny Shults, Sunil, Peter Irish, Yacine and so on),shredding with them every day, being chosen into BAP, hanging out with Honza and Ales, getting to know the scene for real. Yes that was an awesome tournament for me.
You just went to the Open De France. How was it?
It was my first time in Paris. I really enjoyed the city. I want to thank the organizers: the tournament was well organized, there was food available, gym was good, lots of players. What didn’t work was the Schedule as there were some delays every day. I know that it is quite common with footbag tournaments, but I think we should really work on following the schedule. After all it is only fair for the athletes who have practiced countless of hours to do their best. Maybe we really need to start scratching people who are late as it really isn’t so hard to come on time.
One of my favorite things about footbag is how we are like one big family. One of my best examples of that is when you one late night at worlds 2006 came up to me and some of the Swiss crew and told us you where getting married. What is your favorite thing about footbag?
Yes. We truly are one big family. Everyone is nice and whenever you meet a new player you come along instantly. Even if I can’t attend so many international tournaments and I haven’t seen some of the people for a year or three, when we finally reunite it feels like we are best friends. I really love that in footbag community.
For me footbag freestyle itself is also a way to express myself and to relax. When you shred you must have 100% concentration on it and all the worries will fade away. It is good place to escape the cruel world
So favorite things:
1. Friendly community = own family
2. The possibilities footbag gives to express yourself are endless
What is your least favorite thing?
1. Injuries. They kill the joy. I quit freestyling for almost 2 years because I lost the fun as it hurt to play.
During the break I found the fun of footbag net though.
2. Incapability. Sometimes it is very annoying to having these wonderful ideas in your mind and as you try to express yourself you just fail as you can’t hit what you want. Incapability to hit what I want pushes me forward the most at the moment.
One of the things I always do in these interviews is to ask the last person I interview to come up with a question for the next. The last person I interviewed was Ethan “Red” Husted. His question is “What simple footbag move gives/gave you the most problems? (What is your secret shame move?)”
Well, what it is?
Hah, a secret shame move I think it must be flipside pixie set. I really skooled it like crazy back in the days, but it is still really not consistent at all, which is funny since my better pixie is the strongest element in my shred. Actually it is not a secret, but fits the description otherwise. The trick could be for example flip smear.
What do you want to ask the next person?
When are you coming to Finland’s New Year’s Jam?
Do you have any shout-outs? Any final comments?
If you want to be one of the bests, keep on pushing it day after day. It is not fun all the time, but it will pay off later. Remember to listen to your body. Injuries suck. If you lose motivation in freestyle try footbag net instead. Many freestylers have found new aspects from it. Ask Sébastien Duchesne, Yves Kreil, Karim Daouk, Jemery Mirken…
Thanks to Tuukka Antikainen.
Photo by Heli Lindroos
Interview by Asmus Helms
The European Footbag Champs are in Finland this July. You should come.