A Living Legend

By Trevar Cushing

The opportunity to see such pros as Shaun White, Travis Rice, and Pat Moore attracted throngs of New Yorkers February 5th to the Snowscrapers big air event. However, it was the presence of iconic snowboarder Terje Håkonsen that got the elite roster of professional snowboarders riled up.

For my part, I trekked from my home in Ridgewood, Queens. The event stood as a rare opportunity to see one of the biggest snowboarding legends of all time, the Norwegian Terje, ride in a fantastical urban setting. Situated in Manhattan’s East River Park, the Snowscrapers set-up featured a 90-foot drop-in which launched riders into a huge, double-sided hip.

Throughout the making of my VBS.TV snowboard show, “Powder & Rails” — which is dedicated to documenting the legends of snowboarding — I gained many pro riders’ perspectives on Terje. This only fortified my curiosity.

To begin with, the 34-year-old snowboarder is immensely versatile. For his fast and raw style and ability to MacGyver-roll out of slams and continue riding (which long ago earned him the affectionate nickname “The Sprocking Cat”), Terje has redefined what it means to ride backcountry powder lines. Footage of his exploits rounds out countless videos, and, in the event of Volcom’s 1996 Subjekt Haakonsen and 1999 Haakonsen Faktor, entire videos themselves. Additionally, Fuel TV created a 2007 series called “Terje’s Season Pass”, which trails the icon on the hill and throughout his private day-to-day. Sporting one of snowboarding longest careers, Terje has also proven himself as a ruthless contest competitor since he was a teenager. Here’s a glimpse of his trophy case: five-time winner of the European championship (91-94, 97), three-time World champion (93, 95, 97), and two-time champion of The US Open (95, 97). By contrast, at the Snowscrapers event, Terje seemed far more intent on having fun than jogging through a requisite list of tricks. While he placed eighth in the event (Torstein Horgmo took second, Scotty Lago third, Daniel Ek fifth, and Shaun White sixth), it was Terje’s signature one-footer across the gap-to-bank that the judges awarded Best Trick.

The “Powder & Rails” production crew, which is never more than VBS shooter Dana Lavoie and myself, walked around during the Snowscrapers media hour, collecting interviews pertaining to Terje from some of the pros.

Fellow Norwegian pro Torstein Horgmo, who’s a strong contender to the Slopestyle Winter Dew Tour Cup, said he was thrilled to ride alongside Terje. “He’s pretty much the most talented snowboarder who’s ever lived,” he said. “And I think that’s how most people feel.”

The Finnish Heikki Sorsa, who’s teammates with Terje at Burton Snowboards, spoke of Terje’s stature. “I always looked up to him as a kid,” he said. “Just being here always reminds me ‘wow I get to do what I love and travel around with Terje and all the other guys,’” he added. “It’s pretty awesome.” What are some classic Terje tricks? Heikki pointed to his McTwists and methods as the definitive. “He knows how to do them the right way,” he said. “He tweaks them Japan.”

Terje doesn’t just tear it up on a snowboard—he’s got a reputation for surfing and skateboarding with as much controlled abandon, and often intersperses such footage throughout his snowboard parts. Fellow Norwegian Andreas Wiig (who’s in contention with Shaun White and Mikkel Bang for the Slopestyle Dew Cup at the Toyota Championship), is also a longtime skateboarder. In fact, he has even skated his fellow countryman’s mini-ramp several times. Is he any good? “Of course he’s good,” Andreas said. “He’s Terje — what do you expect?”

Throughout this series of interviews — and not small bit unnervingly for us — Terje continued to dip around periphery, politely inquiring if we still wanted to talk to him, too. After we wrapped several interviews, Terje’s enthusiasm got the better of him. “Are we going to do this or what?” We laughed as we fixed the mic on him. When some veteran professionals speak about events that occurred twenty-plus years ago, it’s not uncommon that memories are reluctant to surface. Terje, however, ejected his answers almost immediately, no matter how far into the early’90s and late ’80s we dug. When I asked him what he thought about snowboarding in New York City, he chuckled. In a 1992 he had said a dream of his would be to ride in a snowboard event in Central Park. “This competition is pretty close,” he said.