Karsten Kleppan interview
I remember Benny Fairfax once saying that quitting a sponsor was like breaking up with five different girlfriends at the same time. That’s a lot of broken hearts Karsten Kleppan must have had on his conscience when he made the switch from Lakai to Nike and from Element Europe to Skate Mental. On top of that, last year’s separations were accompanied by one major life-altering event: his inclusion in Nike SB’s Chronicles 3. The stability he had with his previous girlfriends (taking Benny’s metaphor way too far now) was suddenly thrown out the window and replaced by a life on the road with his idols. If you went from spending your winters working at the indoor park in Oslo to going on filming missions with Eric Koston, you’d feel the heat. It takes a very special type of person to embrace that much change, but as soon as I saw Karsten pop up on my screen with a massive grin on his face and a dog in his arms, I knew he’d enjoyed every bit of the ride.
Interview by Arthur Derrien
Awww look at this little guy!
So many dogs here dude it’s sick. I’m at Scuba’s house.
North Hollywood. It’s so hot right now…
Lucky you. London’s pretty grim at the moment. What are you doing at Scuba’s house?
Well we’re trying to wrap up this Chronicles video so I’m out here trying to get the last few tricks for it.
Deadline mode. When is the actual deadline?
Well Jason (Hernandez) has stopped filming to work on the editing but there’s another filmer (Grant Yansura) we can still get some final bits with. It’s basically the very last two weeks of filming.
I bet everyone is feeling the pressure.
Oh yeah definitely. We’re all freaking out a little but that’s how it always is…
How intense is it? Do you have to be out trying stuff all day every day?
No not at all, I get to chill quite a bit. We just came back from a Chronicles trip in China so these last couple of days I’ve just been hanging out by the pool.
Has everyone managed to come through with a full part?
There is gonna be some shared parts and some full parts. Looks like it’s gonna be pretty sick though!
Does everything that goes into your part have to be filmed by an official Nike filmer or can you film stuff for it with other people?
They don’t have to be a Nike filmer, but the definitely need to have the right gear and filming skills. Hehe…
So do you have any Oslo footage then?
I have some, but I wish I had more. We did one trip to Oslo with the whole crew and then Niki Waltl came for a week. But that’s all the time I’ve had to film in Oslo.
So most of your footage is from the US and trips you went on?
Are you worried that footage filmed in those locations doesn’t represent your skating as accurately?
It’s still me skating. So I’m not too worried about that. It would be cool to have some more time at home, but we went to some pretty rad places with incredible spots so I’m not complaining.
At what point did Nike decide to involve you in this project?
I think they were always looking for a European to be in the video, so about a year ago when I first got on Nike they invited me to spend a few days with the US team in Berlin. I guess they must have liked me that time or something because after that I got invited to go on another trip to the South of Spain (Malaga and Alicante).
Had you figured out you were going to be in the video by that point?
I think I was so excited to be on a skate trip with guys like Koston and BA that at first I didn’t really consider it a possibility. Plus I’d just got on so I didn’t think it would happen. But after a while I realised that I’d actually filmed with quite a lot with Jason and thought: “hey if I do really good on this trip maybe I’ll have the opportunity to be in the video”. That’s when it started getting scary…
That’s when you fucking went for it haha.
That’s when I thought to myself: “dude, you’re gonna have to step it up if you want to make this happen”. And I really went as hard as I could. I gave everything I had on that trip.
The problem is once you’ve gone for it like on that one trip you have to match that on the next one!
Haha, yeah that’s kind of how it was but you just can’t go that hard on every single one… I had to be like “I need to chill or I’m going to get hurt”. So I mellowed out a little after that…
It’s crazy that all this started as soon as you got on Nike. How was the transition from Lakai to Nike? Were Lakai really bummed?
They where cool about it. Those things are always tough though, especially as I’d been getting Lakai’s for years… But there are no hard feelings. Looking back on it I could have maybe done it in a smoother way but that’s always how you feel about these things. I just got offered an opportunity and took it.
What about the Skate Mental thing?
I was hanging out with Brad Staba on a Nike trip and he asked me. At the time I was on the Element Europe and I love those guys, they’re the reason I got this far in the first place (which made it tough) but I felt like the next step for me on that company was to be on the US team and I couldn’t really picture myself there. They’ve already got such a big team with so much going on I couldn’t see it going anywhere. Plus I was stoked on Skate Mental and felt like trying something new. Again I think they understood, and I’m still really good friends with Madars, Phil, Jarne, Alex and all those guys.
Plus you’d already left Lakai so you were probably thinking fuck it, might as well really switch things up.
Yeah, haha. Changing sponsors is always hard though; you can’t help but feel like you are ditching someone that’s really been helping you out.
When are you going back to Oslo?
On the 15th, I’m stoked. I haven’t been back in ages.
Do you miss it a lot?
Yeah of course, I miss it all the time. Then again I’m so lucky to be able to travel and skate all over the world that I don’t really think about it too much. Apart from when I check my snapchat and all my homies are chilling in a park, drinking beers and having a great time. But at the same time at least that’s a cool thing to come back to. I’m so used to travelling now that can’t really stay at home for more than two months without itching to go again. Plus I like the way I’m doing it now, going back and forth.
Do you ever get the skateboard overdose syndrome from constantly being on the road with skaters?
Of course I get over it sometimes, but it’s not like I’m always on a proper trip where I have to be on it everyday, because that can be a bit much. You can’t keep that up forever, you have to take breaks from it. When I’m in L.A at Scuba’s for instance if I want to go for a bike ride or chill instead of skating I can. Then again I have a part to film so being on the road is just part of what you have to do.
What did you do before you started living the “pro skater” life?
I finished high school and then basically just skated. I got a job working at the indoor park as a social worker, taking care of kids and stuff. I still do it every now and then when I’m back home…
Is that where you spend all you time when you are back home during the winter then?
I spend a lot of time there but I also enjoy doing regular “winter stuff” like being in the mountains, skiing, snowboarding…
Figuring out what to do in winter must have been such an important part of your youth.
Of course. If you don’t do that kind of thing you en up stuck inside for six months. You’ve got to get out there! October/November is when it starts getting dark; then December is when it starts snowing. That’s when it really sucks.
So what do most people do?
Mainly just party… Or if you skate you go to the indoor parks. But obviously those get super crowded so you have to do other stuff as well. You can take the metro from the centre to mountain where you can snowboard.
Damn that’s so sick.
Yeah you just hop on the metro with your snowboard and 15 minutes later you’re there! It’s quite expensive though so we usually only go a couple of times during the winter. What I enjoy the most is cross-country skiing. You know just the classic skiing through the woods? There are so many cool slopes and trails around the city for it!
You definitely have to get creative and force yourself not to stay indoors though; otherwise it’s very easy to get depressed. It’s dark, it’s cold and you can really feel it when people have been stuck inside their houses… For some people it’s rough.
I see why you enjoy being on trips so much… What was your favorite destination to film for Chronicles?
The trip to Chile (Santiago and Valparaiso) was really fun. It was really hard to skate but the spots look so good: super colourful buildings, the craziest hills… And it’s on the other side of the world, which is always kind of cool.
Yeah I saw that GX1000 edit and the spots do look incredible.
Yeah! We basically went exactly where those guys went! I can’t believe how much footage those guys got actually. I thought I was used to rough spots because of skating Norway but that place was next level. I didn’t actually get that much out there because the spots were so hard. I don’t know how long those guys were out there for but that edit was crazy…
You were on that other South American Nike SB trip as well weren’t you? You know, the one with all the mental demos… How was that?
That was insane. I felt pretty out of place on that one… It was Paul Rodriguez, Shane O’Neil, Luan, Ishod, Leticia and me. Actually Youness was there as well but still, that’s a pretty intimidating line up. I think it’s the first Nike trip I went on too… They just threw me on that trip and I was like “yeah that sounds tight, a demo trip!” Obviously I had no idea how gnarly it was going to be. It was seriously insane. I was terrified. I don’t think I’d ever seen that many skaters in one place before. Having to skate a skatepark in front of them was so nerve wrecking. And I was just randomly in the middle of a bunch of skate stars, it was mad. On top of all that I rolled my ankle quite badly on the first day so I couldn’t skate the first two demos. It was swollen and everything. I remember freaking out… I ended up skating the third one even though it was still hurting, just because I really didn’t want them to have flown me all the way out there to sit around. I had fun though and I’m super glad I got to go on that trip! Will remember that one for the rest of my life.
Wow that sounded terrifying. Have you had to do anything similar since?
I skated that pro open contest in Barcelona to try and qualify for Street League! Didn’t make it, haha!
Oh yeah I forgot about that!
It was super scary. I’d never skated in a contest like that before. When you’re up and it’s your turn to skate there’s a dude holding his arm out telling you “wait; stop; hold it; okay go!” and then it’s time for you to kill it in front of loads of people… And it’s on TV… It was fun to try though! Just the guys that are in there are so fucking good that I didn’t stand a chance.
This whole year must have felt pretty surreal.
Yeah, it really did. Going on normal skate trips expect the guys you are travelling with are Koston, BA, Lance Mountain, etc. has been crazy. Growing up those guys were role models for me, superstars and then suddenly you’re in the van with them and they’re the coolest people. You’d think a legend like Koston wouldn’t have any time for “the new guy” but he treats everyone the same. He’s the coolest guy, funny as fuck.
I bet you geek out and ask them tons of nerdy questions about how stuff went down back in the day.
For sure. I’m always asking them about tricks and stuff. It’s probably quite annoying actually… But most of the time they are more than happy to tell the stories. Like I will ask Lance about the names of inverts and stuff and he’s always down to tell me about it and who invented them and stuff.
Sounds like you had a rad time. Are you going to take a little break from skating after this?
Yeah it’s been amazing. I put a lot of pressure on my self because I want my part to be good. So I can’t wait to take a break from that and just skate without thinking of the next trick or line that I want to film. But it’s not like I’m gonna take a break from skating. I got to skate! It’s the best thing to do! I think I’m just going to stay in Oslo for a bit and figure out what my next step is. I don’t have my own place at the moment so I need to decide if I look for somewhere there or go somewhere else like Copenhagen…
I’m sure you’ve saved up a fair bit of money just by constantly being on trips where everything is paid for and not having to pay rent for a while… I’m sure it won’t be too hard.
Yeah I’ve been saving but if you actually want to buy an apartment it’s still really expensive.
Especially in the cities you’ve just mentioned… Either way good luck with it and I’m sure I’ll bump into you in the near future. Cheers!