Gustav Tønnesen’s ‘This is Not The New Sour Video’
All Hail the Techno Viking
Words by Ben Powell
Photography by Gerard Riera
Full disclosure: my qualification for writing this text is based almost solely on me having had the privilege to see the photos and the accompanying video footage long before you peasants. Additionally, previous outpourings of mine appear to have amused the man behind the VX enough for him to accede to me rambling further about both his supernatural skateboarding abilities and his equally uncanny ability to film and edit other people’s skating.
Over the years, I’ve had the great privilege to meet and socialise with a whole galaxy of childhood luminaries. I weathered the over- whelming exhilaration of queuing for a shit behind Natas Kaupas at a late ‘90s Münster Monster Mastership. I survived the almost religious epiphany of being punched in the face by a drunken Scottish divorcee dressed as a zombie in a pie shop in Aberdeen, a debacle from which I was saved by a triumvirate of legends comprising Karl Watson, Steve Caballero and Mike Rusczyk. Somehow a night nourished at the teat of a huge novelty bottle of Jägermeister stolen from a Helsinki bar in the company of Cairo Foster, Louisa Menke and Louie Barletta led nowhere more unsavoury than Velvet Underground karaoke and being escorted home through an eerie Finnish suburb at 5am by two teenage lesbians who took pity on our disoriented meanderings. Basically what I’m saying, (aside from flexing about my deliriously serendipitous alcoholism), is that I’m no stranger to skateboarding’s celebrity force field.
I’ve met them all and barely raised an eyebrow – you’re famous for doing kickflips: big wow.
My world-weariness around skateboarding’s big shots makes how reverentially in awe I am of Gustav Tønnesen all the more confusing and baffling. He’s just another skateboarder, but on the other hand, he clearly isn’t. Name me another contemporary skater who is that paranormally good at skating, and filming, and editing, and looks like a supermodel version of Lord Elrond of Rivendell. Go on. You’ve got nobody, right? And we haven’t even mentioned that he’s also fucking sick at shooting photos despite picking it up as a hobby about five minutes ago and has just had his first solo exhibition in Barcelona.
Talk about Renaissance man shit…
I’ve witnessed Gustav in real life before and seen how the introverted savant meme is actually real. Too scared to speak to him, I quivered into my Instagram feed about what I’d seen rather than approaching him. This has happened multiple times now, which makes the fact that I’ve been asked to write this because I’ve previously committed statements like, ‘I’d be scared to introduce him to my wife because I’d be worried that she’d just melt in the presence of his man bun and get pregnant off his breath’ to print even weirder.
Ostensibly, I wrote the sentence above and various other breathless genuflections at Gustav’s three-striped feet because I was asked to be funny but, the reality is, that is exactly how I felt. So, during the process of ‘researching’ (lol) this piece, to find out that the man himself was at least vaguely amused by my semi-ironic forelock- tugging, was both terrifying and gratifying in equal measure and, ultimately, led me to this point in this particular sentence: what on earth do I say now?
The digression is palpable: ‘realign your purpose chakra and stop foaming at the mouth like an excited stripling’ says my inside voice. I will endeavour to do so. The photos in this article and the video of said photos on the Free website are another chapter in the as yet unfinished series of novels with the working title ‘Gustav makes everyone else look fucking useless…again’.
Both Arthur (who foolishly commissioned this bilge) and Sami Seppala in his official capacity as Sour’s receipt juggler, were both at pains to reiterate that neither this article, nor the video sitting in bed with it, are in any way productions of Sour Solution. Why they attempted this plainly suspect act of hypnosis is unclear. There are Sour heads in it; lots of them; enough in fact to make you suck your cheeks in like you’ve just snorted a line of Kimchi.
Tyler Surrey is involved too mind, which I guess justifies the ‘not Sour’ moniker to some extent but I’m beginning to think that everyone is clamouring to distance this from a brand simply because Gustav has transcended commerce entirely and is now manifesting culture like Ryu dropping mad Hadoukens.
To paraphrase Sami, ‘It probably should be a Sour clip featuring associated homies if I’m honest. That would be the sensible, business- friendly thing to do but that’s neek territory, innit?’
So what am I rambling on about in actuality? If it’s not the above, what is it?
Well, there are a bunch of expectedly brilliant Gerard Riera photographs of a number of related people skating all manner of street architecture formally unseen by lesser humans. Maybe that’s a theme of sorts? The absence of any reliance on spots already polluted by the skate media’s filthy vampirism feels very wholesome in a world of piranhas wielding Japanese tech, thirsty to exploit the flower of youth to sell sneakers. Avoiding the ‘S’ word – this has been an aspect of all of the videos that Gustav’s had a hand in; namely ridiculous and seemingly virginal plazas replacing the played-out environs of MACBA or Parallel or wherever. Not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with filming at well-known spots. I’ll happily guzzle down Brayan Albarenga MACBA manuals all day but if you’re not a Barcelonian then you ought to at least erect the pretence of putting some effort in, surely? We all loved Dill’s four lines at OG Parallel with the Cher do, the brown cords and the Prada rip-off DVS that closed out his Mosaic section but that was 20 years ago. And even back then in 2003, hiring a hotel sandwiched in between a sex club and the world’s most famous ledge/manny spot for three months to finish your video part hardly represented a shining example of effort, did it? Those days are done. That is no longer the way we get by.
Cue this crew and their apparent ability to actually use their eyes to find new things to film on. If you are hubristic enough to feel justified in moving to Barcelona to be a sponsored skateboarder, then the least you can do is give the residents of El Raval a break from your self- important fiddling and go find other places to show off your kickflips. I’d laboured under the misapprehension that the entire Sour crew and associates had moved en masse to Barca and thus were using the squad strength to locate and decimate all these new spots. Turns out that’s wrong and as Sami pointed out, only Gustav, him, Tyler Surrey and Simon ‘I did the street loop and yes I’m a Prada model’ Isaksson are permanent residents. The rest, to paraphrase Sami again, ‘float between Sweden and Spain periodically, apart from Barney Page who might be living up a tree in Bali or some shit at any given moment in time.’ So how are they finding all these locations you may ask? Mr Surrey, sagely referred to Charles Darwin when asked the same question, piping up thusly,
‘“The most important factor in survival is neither intelligence nor strength but adaptability.” That quote explains pretty well how the mindset and MO of a company like Sour can exist and thrive after decades of skating has already taken place in a relatively small city like Barcelona with a finite amount of spots. The spot searching process is pretty difficult here, you have to open the third eye and sometimes bike quite a bit, which is what me, Simon and Gustav do often.’
Sami adds the seasoning of his role as van driver for missions scouring further afield with the full crew comprising this ‘not a Sour article’ taking in Benicàssim and its environs where a fair amount of the ludicrously tempting spots featured here can be found (but won’t be, because nobody else can be arsed to tear themselves away from the city).
In 2023 where everyone under the age of 30 is technically sick at skating thanks to the combination of a morphic resonance field, which apparently makes hardflips piss-easy to 4-year- olds, and the preponderance of skateparks everywhere, it is necessary to offer more than just being good at tricks if you want your skateboard output to have any cultural significance. Or, to put it another way, content alone is now worthless.
As much as I dislike the po-faced implications of the phrase ‘spot selection’, contemporary skateboard culture that seeks to elevate itself above triple flipping TikTok clothes-horsery requires an aesthetic purview, which Gustav and co have saddled. Imagine going out filming with one of the most gifted skaters on the planet in one of the most skate-friendly countries in the world and arriving at ‘the spot’ only to find a manhole cover with a raised welded seam in the middle of it. If anyone but Gustav had taken you there you’d probably tell them to piss off, but, herein lies another layer of this guy’s creative power. No matter how superficially terrible the spot is, you know that the filmer can definitely do the best trick on it out of everybody so, rather than complaining and demanding to be driven back to the hotel like a spoiled bellend, everyone will just get stuck in for fear of ‘the filmer’ showing them up. (FYI Gustav does do the best trick on this obstacle but that ought to come as no surprise either.)
Something else that stood out for me in both the photos and the video clip here is a dichotomy pitting utopian-looking Spanish street architecture against hubbas made of discarded guttering and knobbed rails. Again, this relates to Tyler’s previous Darwin reference and is yet another reason why this crew quietly ascends to heights that dullards jumping off buildings in body armour will never get near.
Want to do a really hard manny trick? Why not find a spot with a fence in the run up and a bike rack obscuring the landing so that when you nollie heel out of your nollie nosewheelie you not only have to propel your board through its rotation but also through a tiny gap whilst you high jump over it. Obvious really. Clearly that is going to be a billion times more interesting than the conventional alternative but, for whatever reason, only a scarce few skaters seem to grasp this. Likewise, if you’ve got the invertebrate floppiness of Vincent Huhta at your disposal, you might as well ignore the thousands of perfect handrails around you and opt to feeble that one rail with the impassable knob at the end of it. Elementary my dear Watson (laminates)…
I’m fascinated by that Vincent Huhta guy to be honest: I have tried unsuccessfully to prise some information that explains his unique style out of various people to almost no avail, sadly. All I got out of Sami was that he is, ‘a really pure kind of guy with a great energy who just fucks around until something amazing happens’, which is lovely but doesn’t explain that much. Similarly, Tyler had the following to say about him, ‘he is definitely a pure flower on the skateboard. As spontaneous and improvisational as Vincent is on the skateboard, you›d think his personality would be similar. But conversing with him made me realise that he is very astute and calm when it comes to speaking. He possesses a good balance between physical and verbal expression.’
All very cerebral from a professionalised world which, on the whole, has been as likely to celebrate bone-headed self-aggrandisement as it has calm, self-reflection but again, this is where this crew and their output deviates hugely from any perceived norms of skateboarding with a capital S.
To return to Sami Seppala again for further clarification here, there are, in his words, ‘no normal people in this crew’. I’m going to assume that also includes former San Diego resident Tyler Surrey who has officially embraced Spain as his home and gone native. ‘It took a long while for us all to appreciate each other’s mental peculiarities because everybody involved is really weird in their own way, but it works and the skating that comes out of that melting pot of international eccentrics speaks for itself. I mean what do I know anyway? I’m not doing the skating, I’m just the backroom boy…’
On the subject of the vibe being cerebral, I do like to entertain the notion that this lot disregards the tropes of Barca pro skate life entirely. Rather than sinking drain beers and inhaling street hash, I imagine them sitting around the Sour office where Gustav lives discussing the lasting impact of the Francoist era on Barcelona’s version of Modernism and the intersection between poetry and sport after a filming session. Whether that’s true or not is immaterial, in my head it’s real so that’s good enough. There’s some small glimmer of justification for this dream sequence of mine too, since at least one of the skaters heavily featured here is exploring high-end Physics calculations on his iPad whilst waiting to be delivered to the next 70-degree 2-foot-high Ingemarsson pop-out, Benicassim flat bank. Fittingly it’s the very same skater who negotiated the white-knuckle inducing backside nosegrind to fakie in the actual boat who’s studying to be a Physics teacher. Obvious really.
What else do you really need to know here? What other elements can I add to this to enhance your enjoyment of the photos and video clip?
Oh my God…wait a Goddamn minute… literally as I’m struggling to complete this text, none other than Gustav himself has seen fit to respond to my stupid questions. I think we might have an ender here people.
After all that rambling above, here is the concise reason why everyone insisted that I did not refer to this as a Sour video, from the horse’s mouth. In response to that question, Gustav simply said: ‘It’s not a Sour video because I wanted Tyler Surrey to have the ender and he doesn’t skate for Sour.’ Difficult to argue with that one really, completely logical and utterly on point…
I’d asked Tyler about how it felt to be filmed by somebody as talented as Gustav and his answer was great, ‘I generally get a bit apologetic to the filmer if I get stuck in a battle that lasts more than 10-15 minutes. And with Gustav that feeling is a bit more enhanced because I feel like I’m taking away from his time to skate. I mean after all, who doesn’t want to watch Gustav skate? It always makes me a little nervous filming with him too, knowing he could probably do whatever I’m battling in a matter of a couple tries. But at the same time he genuinely loves filming and playing with angles, so keeping that in mind always makes it fun and exciting to see the end result. Even when he feels like he “blew it” the clip and filming look like his skating: divine.’
With Gustav being known for being a quiet person, I’d also wondered how that worked as regards the other responsibilities of being ‘the filmer’. If we follow the established filmer archetypes with your Ty Evans and/or Dan Magee at one pole (the dark men relentlessly squeezing the skaters to produce their best) and with Beagle at the other extreme fulfilling the ‘one of the homies’ role – where does Gustav fit in? It’s hard to imagine him throwing out multiple victory handshakes or refusing to buy somebody a drink until they’ve landed the most torturous trick of their life. Gustav’s own take on it was, ‘I do encourage people to get the tricks in a positive way, even though I probably don’t have the most “hype up” behaviour. But I can also film for hours without complaining so I guess I have my own benefits.’
Let’s not pretend we’re all over asking questions about the VX1000 either because as a culture we’re wedded to that particular piece of technology for good. Plus, it’s always the people who’ve moved onto shooting commercials who like to dismiss the significance of the VX to draw attention to how difficult it allegedly is to shoot supermarket adverts for a living, in my experience at least. For the man in question it’s simple:
‘I don’t care that much about how many pixels a video has, so I’m still happy with the VX. I have never heard any better skate sound than with the VX, and the 4:3 format with the MK1 fisheye is just perfect. I’ve still got two good condition cameras, two fisheyes and 100 tapes, so I’m good. I won’t be changing any time soon.’ Great news.
I’m over the word count now so I’d better wrap this turgid nonsense up. Historically, a lot of notable skate filmers and photographers tended to be dudes who used to be good but suffered career interrupting injuries, or were old fat guys unworthy of being filmed themselves. There are exceptions of course but this is true in the main. Gustav represents a new genre of filmer, one who can ollie down flights of stairs or wallie through waist high sculptures whilst filming a line. Whatever comes next, whether you’ll just type your section requirements into Chat GPT and it’ll upload a fully AI-created Instagram banger reel to your account, or people continue to make skateboard content using traditional methods, you can guarantee that this bunch of weirdos will be at the forefront of it.
Postscript: Reading the above back it has occurred to me that with a 3000 word count to aim for, I could’ve made things a lot easier on myself by just typing the following ten words 300 times: ‘Gustav is a pisstake. This is not a Sour video’.
This is where it ends. Goodbye.