The Gustav Tønnesen Interview
Have you heard the phrase: ‘your favourite skater’s favourite skater’ before? Well Gustav Tønnesen is just that… Pekka Løvås (Oslo’s critically acclaimed VX/HD videographer) told me that on a recent adidas trip Lucas Puig said that Gustav was his new favourite. Does Gustav know this? Did I ask him about this? Well I didn’t bring it up, but not because I didn’t want to know what he thought about it, but because I knew what his reply would be: ‘oh ok’. You may hear terms like ‘the wizard’ or ‘the magician’ to describe Gustav, but for me ‘humble’ is the word that best describes this Norwegian native. If any of you have met Gustav before you’ll know he’s a man of few words, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t hold strong opinions. Somehow he agreed to share his views with us, so hopefully this interview will shed a little light on this quiet Scandinavian virtuoso, or if nothing else, perhaps some of his humility will rub off on the rest of us.
Interview by Will Harmon
Can you tell me about where you grew up and your early years of skating in Norway?
Gustav Tønnesen: I grew up in a small city called Egersund, a one-hour drive from Stavanger. I was about 9-10 years old, rollerblading like all the kids in the neighbourhood… Then sometimes I would try people’s skateboards, after a short while I started liking that more, so I got a board and started skating. Egersund only had parking garages with pallets to skate in the winter. So after skating for two years or something, I started going to Stavanger every weekend. They had an indoor skatepark and a cool skate scene. I ended up moving to Stavanger when I was 15… I stayed at my grandmother’s house and went to a carpenter school, and skated every day. I kind of liked building stuff when I was young… But the main reason I wanted to move there was so that I could skate more.
Pekka (Løvås) mentioned you moving to Oslo and skating for Shit skateboards or something and you working for them?
I got sponsored by Shit skateboards in Stavanger, it was based there… I moved to Oslo when I was 17 I think. They opened a store there where I worked sometimes. I managed to survive on that and getting a bit of money for skating for Shit and Vox footwear.
‘Money for skating for Shit’, that sounds hilarious! So how did you then get on Sweet and move to Barca?
I got a message from a guy that worked at Junkyard/Sweet in Norway, saying that Bjorn (Holmenäs) wanted to talk about me skating for them. I had seen some of the guys skating on video, and after talking to Bjorn I thought it was a cool thing to join. I was going to Barcelona with a Norwegian crew, and there I met up with Bjorn and some of the guys… After a year of travelling with them, and spending some time in Barcelona, I decided I wanted to move there. Me, Nisse, Spengan and Lomar got an apartment together.
Ah the infamous Locket skate house in Barcelona!
The infamous Locket, ha ha… That’s the apartment we first moved in to. Lots of good times – we skated and filmed pretty much every day. And went out drinking 2-3 times a week… When you first come to Barcelona the party scene is so much fun, but I kind of got tired of it. Now I just go to a bar like once a week.
Who do you live with now?
Now I live in an apartment with my girlfriend, and we have an extra room that friends stay in most of the time. Simon (Isaksson) was staying there a long time, also Nisse and Lomar for a bit…
A couple years ago I had never heard of you filming and then all of a sudden you’d filmed a whole new Sour promo. How did you get into filming and how do you think you picked up the skills of filming so well, so quickly? It usually takes people years to perfect a proper filming technique…
After Lomar made the video The Sour Solution, he wanted to start studying. So he sold me his VX1000 setup. Simon Isaksson and I thought it would be fun to start filming. He had already filmed a bit before, but the Sour promo was basically the first six months of filming.
I guess I learned from being in front of the camera, working on things with filmers, and looking at videos. Then trying to figure out how to handle the camera. Angles, movements, timing… I’m still learning, but it’s looking better than in the beginning…
So are you and Simon the main filmers for Sour now? Or does Simon just film you?
Yes, more or less. Until now I have filmed almost everything, but I hope Simon will step in more. He has a good eye for filming!
Why don’t you like being filmed in HD? Can you explain your love of the VX over HD?
I’m so used to filming with the VX1000, so I get bummed pretty often on how boring it looks when I film a trick in HD. I just think the 4:3 format looks a lot better than 16:9. I also like the look of VX1000 footage, but most importantly the fact that you can be closer to the skater. It looks faster and has more action. I don’t understand how it makes sense to have more space on the sides, and less on top and bottom… A skater is taller than he is wide. I hope more people start doing it the way James Cruickshank does: HD 4:3.
Can you tell us about the Sour video you are working on at the moment? Will everyone have parts? Will it be a ‘full length’? Will you have a full part?
I think we are making a full length. We’ve made a good start; everybody has some cool stuff already! It’s kind of hard to say right now, but I would guess that most of us will have parts. Maybe some shorter or some split parts.
I know you and Simon have been all over Barcelona finding new spots. Do you use Google Street View or how do you explore?
I have used Google Street View to find spots that I forgot exactly where they were… But we have just been going to places on train, metro and bikes, looking around. Sometimes we just end up going around looking all day, almost not skating. Which kind of sucks sometimes, he he… There are still a lot of areas that we haven’t been to.
I take it you’re more into finding and skating new spots when you’re out skating rather than training up at Sants or Macba all day…
Absolutely. We go to a plaza and just skate sometimes as well, but I think it’s definitely more fun to skate different stuff and being in different places.
Is it a conscious thing you guys think about with filming in Barcelona, like ‘ok let’s not really have Macba or Paral-lel footage in our next video’? Or is it not so strict like that?
None of us like to skate Paral-lel that much anymore, we liked it more before they changed it. Kind of same thing with Sants… And Macba is too hectic for us. I still like to see footage from Macba; it’s a legendary spot… But it has to be something different or something really good to stand out from all of it.
Who’s always wins at games of S.K.A.T.E. between the Sour team?
Ha ha, ok… A little while back you had an Instagram of yourself getting electro shocks into your heel to help your Plantar Fasciitis. Do your feet still bother you?
I could not skate for five or six months because of that, and got pretty scared when I read stories about people that never really healed from it. Now it’s good… I still feel it sometimes, but I found a good way to handle it. When it stopped hurting a lot, I was biking in the mountains every day, to move my feet in a good way – then stretching after. I got some special made insoles the shape of my feet, that I put in every shoe I wear. When I’m not skating, even between spots and sessions, I use adidas Ultra Boost shoes; they are really soft and good for the feet.
Are you a skate nerd? Do you watch all the new edits coming out? If so what have you been enjoying recently?
I watch a lot of stuff coming out, and I would say I’m kind of a skate nerd, he he… Mostly I’ll just see posts on Instagram for new parts or edits, and if it looks interesting I’ll watch it. What I’ve been most stoked on these last years is the GX1000 video and Spirit Quest. Especially Spirit Quest, the filming is so impressive. Colin Read is the best filmer of all time in my opinion.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen you angry. Or do you just never get angry whilst skating? Or am I completely trippin’?
No, I don’t get really angry that often. Once a while I’ll get really pissed, but I think it takes a lot. I don’t know what it takes for me to get really angry… Sometimes trying a trick for a long time, but sometimes I just accept that I’m not gonna make the trick and stop trying…
What was it like shooting with Sem (Rubio) for this interview? Do you guys speak with each other in English or Spanish?
Sem always has really nice photos, he’s one of my favourite photographers. So it’s been cool to get stuff with him! We talk in English. I understand a lot of Spanish, but I mostly don’t know enough to have a real conversation…
I’ve heard quite a few people tell me you are one of their favourite skaters. Who are your favourites? Who do you like to watch?
There’s so many, so it’s hard to say… I’ll try to mention a few: Erik J Pettersson, Stefan Janoski, Rodrigo TX, Tom Penny and Tyler Surrey.
You’ve been living in Barcelona for quite awhile now… What do you think of the whole Catalonian independence situation?
I don’t really know enough about it to decide what I think… After that independence-voting day with Spanish riot police coming in to stop the voting with violence, I lost some respect for the Spanish politicians. I don’t see that Cataluña is ever gonna become it’s own country, but I think it’s good that they raise their voice, maybe to get the rest of Spain to be better. Again, I don’t really know…
Have you thought of living anywhere else besides Barcelona? Or are you content with Barca for now?
I thought about that before… I don’t think any city is better to live in than Barcelona. I don’t want to live somewhere that has a bad winter… Even Madrid is really cold in the winter, and super hot in summer. I’m just really into the Barcelona skate scene, plus having Sour and the guys here. And outside of Europe is not really an option to me.
You’ve been travelling a lot with adidas the past couple years with Away Days and Skate Copa. Was there anywhere you went where you thought ‘I need to come back to this place again sometime on my own and skate/explore more…’?
I like London a lot. Even though I was there on two trips, ten days each time and I got to see a lot, I would like to go back there again – hopefully with the Sour guys, filming VX1000. All the VX1000 footage from London over the years looks sooo good. Like the Blueprint videos and everything Jacob Harris has made…
I also liked Paris, Santiago in Chile, and Buenos Aires in Argentina… I liked the ghetto areas in South America, it looks like there are gonna be unique spots all over. But it might be risky for blonde Nordic guys to skate there, on somebody’s block…
The last time we had a meeting with the marketing people at adidas they were chatting about that little clip we filmed of you at Skate Copa in London and they were like: ‘no more excuses, next year we’re getting him in Street League!’ Did this ever get back to you? Did they ever try to ‘force you’ to do that? Would you ever do it?
He he… They said something like that, but as a joke. I know, and I think they know that I would never skate Street League. I don’t even wanna talk about Street League and explain why…
Fair enough. I know in an older interview you had you said you played a little guitar… What are your other interests outside of skateboarding?
Not much, he he. Just hanging out with my girlfriend and the guys. Doing video and other stuff for Sour, which is kind of part of skateboarding…
What other stuff do you do for Sour? Who works on the graphics? Do you all contribute ideas?
We all come with ideas, and work on it with Jack Thompson.
You have a younger brother who skates as well right? Can you tell us about him?
Yes, Tormod. He started skating some years after me, when he was six or something. I remember he kickflipped an 8-stair when he was eight, he he. Now he’s bigger than me and ripping! He’s living in Malmö, Sweden, where he went to Bryggeriet, the skate school.
Are your parents pretty supportive of what you guys do? Or did they ever pressure you or your brother to go to university?
They have always supported us with doing what we like. But also worrying a bit, of course… They want us to be able to live, he he.
Have you ever thought about going to university yourself? Is that something you might want to do in the future? If so, what would you study?
I have no idea of what to do after skating… Maybe get into photo/film/design or something. Hopefully within skateboarding.
Pekka mentioned your obsession with mini-spots, tiny kickers. Why are you so into them?
I find it fun to skate small stuff. Low impact. I think it’s great if you can make a trick look good on a small, weird and hard spot.
Describe you ideal skate spot:
That’s hard… I like all kinds of bumps, bump to ledge or rail or whatever – maybe a bump to ledge where you land in a bank going down from the ledge.
Sour just put on its first French rider, Oscar Candon. I hear Sour has US distribution now too. Would you guys consider an American rider?
Yes, Oscar is sick. Most of us knew him from before, and we thought it would be cool to have him on the team. It’s harder with Americans, because the few Americans we know are already on a board company. It would have to be someone that would fit in naturally with the crew, not just put on somebody that skates good.
OK we spoke with the Sour guys to make some ‘would you rather questions’. Here they go: would you rather film an HD part for Red Bull or be locked inside a room with 15 spiders for 24 hours?
That’s a hard question. We went to Stockholm and there were a lot of spiders in Nisse’s house. We just tried to get rid of them all. Umm…
I guess I would film an HD part for Red Bull. (Laughs)
Or what, can I kill the spiders?
Yeah you could try; you’re in the room.
OK yeah then I’d kill the spiders.
OK the next one is: would you rather give a 30-minute speech about Sour at a packed trade show venue or wear the Sweet x Helly Hansen gear exclusively for your next video part?
I’d speak about Sour. I wouldn’t like it, but I’d try.
OK would you rather wear only medium t-shirts for a month or eat food that’s 24 hours expired for a month?
(Laughs) Umm… I guess I would do the medium size… ‘Cause I know there’s some really big sized adidas ones.
Would you rather produce a documentary about yourself, complete with voiceover, or be the next announcer for the next Barcelona Street League comp?
(Laughs) It’s impossible to answer some of these, the ‘would you rathers’. I guess I would do the Street League one.
Ha ha, ok cheers. Any last words, thanks?
Family and friends. Adidas, Sour and Sessions Skateshop.
Flip through this photo gallery for all the photos from Gustav’s interview: