Words and pictures John SpelmanJacob Wester, new on the Oakley and Armada teams, 4th place at US Open Big Air, 2nd place at the Jon Olsson Invitational, does his stuff in Teddy Bear Crisis and Free Radicals, bonus part in War (that tree!!!), hyped since pre-puberty. What a run on to the international stage! But who is this guy, what’s his take, what makes him tick? A few weeks ago I saw his name on the Air We Go riders list, the recent Oslo urban event, and seeing as I was also planning to be in Oslo for this event I called him and we arranged a meet. Jacob Wester, what to expect from a Jacob? You’re on newschoolers.com so it is safe to guess we are not talking the old “Jacob”, (scruffy man in a retirement home with a beard and a bible), but the new re-invented Jacob, “call me Jake” happy, popular and modern. And what to expect from Sweden, the land of Olsson, Windstedt, Volvo, Ikea and the blondes. In suave parts of Europe, Nordic folk are labeled friendly, serious, and reliable but safe, the sort of label rightly or wrongly cast in west coast circles when discussing the mid-west. He is just turned 18, so I am thinking happy-go-lucky, open, loud, fast talking, basically all the ingredients one imagines of a skier at that age.As I go to his hotel after the event for our meeting I think about all this and throw it together and illogically get: a young, reliable, loud, safe, blonde guy who has recently re-invented himself from being an old man with a bible shuffling along in a retirement home into a happy, cool, jibber. Correct? What ever he is, for now he is in a mess. His clothes scattered all over the floor he is re-organizing his travel bags (that never ending saga for those who are always on the road). He seems totally distracted by my presence and he keeps going into and out of the bathroom in turn getting showered, dressed and ready for the Air We Go after party. He calls Jon Olsson on and off (he is in another room down the corridor), Jon calls him back on and off. He seems too distracted to begin answering my questions and I am beginning to think this might be a waste of bar opening hours.

JS: You had a good win today how do you feel about that?JW: I am so stoked. When I arrived the height and ramp looked really scary I didn’t expect to do well but once I ran in the practice session I got a feel for it and felt confident. JS: Is AWG your first comp of the season?JW: No I was at the Zurich in-city in September, it was more to meet up with guys than to compete but otherwise I have not skied since New Zealand, we are still waiting for the snow in Sweden.JS: You were in New Zealand?JW: Yep, I spent the late summer in New Zealand, the conditions were really good, the park was fun and everyone was there, it was the perfect summer hang out. I’m definitely going there next year.JS: No skiing since late summer? But you seemed in good shape today?JW: Well, in October I did this water ramp in Stockholm with Jon Olsson, it was a bunch of fun, skiing basically off this ramp into water, practicing tricks on route, but shit man, it was scary at times. JS: It sounds fun. You told me on the phone that you have just been surfing in Brazil with Jon Olsson, a really nice way to start the season I thought. How was it?JW: It was a lot of fun. First we were going to go to Bali but when we called up people we knew out there they said the place had been dead since the bomb business so we said, lets try Brazil. It was a great trip.JS: Can you surf then?JW: Not very good but I am hooked now, Jon surfs much better than me.JS: Olsson better than you in both ski and surf, that sucks. Will you take time out to hit the surf in Cali’ if you do Mammoth this season?JW: Yeah, I’ll try. I love being in the States, so any excuse to keep me there.JS: You prefer the scene out there compared to Europe?JW: Yep. The parks are so much better and the snow conditions also, I really don’t get worked up by the Alps as I do by Colorado and places like Lake Tahoe and Mammoth.When I first went to Vail a couple of seasons back it blew me out, it was like riding in a video game, the whole thing is bigger and better than anything over here. And the people are really easy to get along with, the riders, everyone, it’s that service thing they have out there, you follow me?JS: Yeah, I agree. How do you see the newschool scene now? I mean lots of guys talk about backcountry taking off big time this season, is that your take on things?JW: Well I am not so sure about that. I think back country is a little over rated. I mean a few years ago watching it in Happy Dayz everyone said “wow!”, and now everyone keeps going on about the scene moving from the park to the back country but I don’t see it happening. I mean who wants to fuss with it? Unless there is a convenient 3 meter cliff or something it means hanging out wasting time digging and shaping. I’ll do it for fun if it’s all there, set up and ready to go, but you can do so much more in a park in the same [amount of] time. Only Tanner does it really well, it would take me 3 days of runs to even be able to begin to compete with him in back country.JS: And for you personally, what are you hoping to get out of this season?JW: I really want to improve my pipe skills so I am going to focus on that. I’ll be at the US Open and hope to do well there and go to Mammoth, that place is so much fun and for Europeans it is such a good place to improve your skills. They have real half pipes there.JS: Any other comps apart from US Open?JW: Yeah sure, I’ll be at the Rip Curl in Switzerland in December where I’ll try for one of the wild cards they are offering for X-Games and then of course the Jon Olsson Invitational in April.JS: And what about filming? You have been pretty well covered for a new comer, what’s you shoot schedule this season?JW: I am in Teddy Bear Crisis again and will be shooting with them in Finland in December doing rails and also we’ll be Mammoth shooting in the New Year.JS: Last summer you signed up with Oakley and Armada after two years with Scott. Did Scott try to keep you on?JW: Well I was open to all offers but Scott wanted a complete head-to-toe deal, goggles, clothes and skis and I really wanted to split it and have a couple of partners so it didn’t really work out with Scott. Oakley have always done well with their riders, they know what they are doing so I went with them, and Armada was my choice for ski.JS: But as a good friend of Jon Olsson’s and a Swede, you weren’t tempted by J.Lindeburg?JW: Well as I say I was open to offers all round but they were slow, I finally received a contract offer from them only on the very day I signed with Oakley, so it was too late, and besides they couldn’t really match Oakley on price.JS: I have been hearing your name around for a few years now. You have just turned 18, last week, so you have been hyped a bit since you were early teens. Do you think being hyped so young is a good or bad thing, because so many 13 and 14 year old kids have this now?JW: Well I don’t feel I was hyped, that is something I guess is more observed from the outside than from the view of say a 14 year old rider. It never bothered me if that is what you are asking. I don’t think I was hyped… was I? JS: Well hyped is not the problem, people need to know who is coming up, over-hyped is the problem, and I didn’t sense that about you. What about the industry, the “hype-makers”, is that a pain or do you enjoy it?JW: You mean the ski business?JS: Well I mean the business personified, the media, you know the circus we live in, photographers, journalists, event organizers, agents, the whole solar system that revolves around freeski.JW: Yeah I like it, its fun, most people are OK but some are a pain. (I am smiling and he guesses what I am about to ask so quickly throws in: “but you’re OK”.)JS: Phew! That’s a relief, thanks! Do you think slipping that in will make me write nice things about you?JW: (laughs) No, you will screw me up for it!JS: But of course this is not real “celeb-world”, newschool is only a niche sport hardly comparable to the on-the-street recognition you get from [European] soccer. But is that a problem tying to explain to people who don’t know this area what, exactly, it is that you do?JW: Oh yeah, very much. It can be really hard to explain to some stranger on a plane what you do, what the newshcool scene is. When you reduce it to words to someone who doesn’t even ski it just sounds empty, it sort of reminds you…JS: …how small our little world really is?JW: Yeah, puts it into perspective, not sure if that is good.JS: Nothing wrong with anecdotes. I want to ask you about your future. You are 18 and now skiing full time, is this it, is this your career? Or are you, say for instance, deep inside an accountant which is dying to get out - but you have put that on hold so you can have a few years of fun first?JW: (laughs) I don’t think I am an accountant! No way!JS: You blow your money, OK I get it, but are you a skier for life?JW: Well I sort of dropped out of school last year and now this is what I do. I think I will always be in this game, even after my time, as an agent or something, that’s what I hope. I love what I do, this is what I am good at and this is how I want to live.JS: Someone, (who I’ll keep nameless), but a big name skier, said to me last season that it is all about money, just make as much as fast as possible then quit the game and do what you want. It was a bit spirit-less but do you think that was smart, is that how you see this game?JW: I know who said that and I don’t think he believed it for one moment because that person is always trying to improve his tricks and stuff like that, he really lives to ski. It’s good to get money, especially if you love what you do, but I love skiing, its what I get out of bed for, the whole thing only sucks if you hate your sponsors or something and if you’re at that stage it’s better to quit and be poor.JS: So keep your spirit?JW: Yep, don’t sell out.JS: Ah! that over-used phrase. But has it any meaning here? I mean this is freeski we are talking about, it’s not art or world changing stuff is it? JW: You must love what you do or ask yourself why are you doing it, being stuck in a shit situation is selling yourself out.JS: Quite right. But then again in this beautiful, happy world sometimes you have to scrub the floor to pay the rent, agree?JW: I’ve done thatJS: This round the world stuff, I mean the States, New Zealand, Brazil - its not the normal world of a 17, (or now 18) year old, what about your friends, home life?JW: Well I love being with my family and I get to see my friends and still want to see them but once you are sponsored and start traveling you do get sucked into… what did you say before? …the circus. During the fall I skate and hang out with my home friends, we catch up, I feel I am keeping in with them but I guess really you are not, you throw your self into this life if you want to be dedicated.JS: And girlfriends, do you have one?JW: No, I am kind of lazy about that, I don’t really feel the need for a girlfriend right now.JS: You are not on the look to get hooked.JW: You said it.JS: Just as well because living the circus life can be a relationship breaker don’t you think?JW: For sure. But as I have not found the girl of my dreams it is not an issue for me. But then I know Jon manages it well with his girl so it is not impossible. JS: OK lets quit this, I need to get out of here. What’s next for you?JW: Party time!
As we leave the hotel I am left to ponder my absurd expectation I arrived with: “A young, reliable, loud, safe, blonde guy who has recently re-invented himself from being an old man with a bible shuffling along in a retirement home into a happy, cool, jibber.” Whacko description. And now what do it think? Let’s say quick, smart, self-confident, above his 18 years. The stereotypical Swedish blonde? Yep, I checked, it wasn’t hair color, no black roots, he had the real thing .A happy, cool jibber? For sure he is! He loves what he does, this is his life!And was this all written in the stars? Well, I may be wrong, but something tells me the dropping out of school bit wasn’t part of the original game plan, or I guess his folks game plan. But then again age 18 is not exactly the last chance saloon. Maybe parklife has been his dream since the age of five, whatever, leaving school confirmed this for him - he is a freeskier, this is his calling, in for a penny, in for a pound. And people in that mindset, push themselves to win. And the test? Lets see how he does at the US Open. The big air is good, but watch the pipe, if he cracks that this season I reckon he’ll be on a roll.