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Jan Henrik Kongstein

Sometimes it’s easy: you get a WhatsApp message from Alex Pires with some photos and they’re all banging! It’s Jan Henrik Kongstein, whom you can see on those pictures, and after you talk to him, he even shoots some more photos the next days. Then you ask Karsten Kleppan, one of Jan’s best friends, if he could do the interview and he’s down. Interview done. This might have been the easiest ever.

Soloskatemag Jan Sw Crooked

Switch Crooked | Photo by Lars Gartå

So how was today? What have you been up to?

It was pretty good. I was drinking coffee with my grandma and went to Munchmuseet, a local museum in Oslo named after Edvard Munch, a famous painter. After that I came here. Nothing too special.

Tell us where you’re from. You’re not from Oslo, right?

No, I’m from a small city called Horten, about one hour south from Oslo. It’s pretty small, around 20,000 inhabitants, pretty mellow and quiet.

Isn’t that the place in Norway with the best weather?

Yup, most sunny days in Norway. I read the statistics and got a little proud, but other than that, it’s pretty much a ghost town, especially during winter.

"Just like, trying to learn kickflips for two years. What the fuck?"

So how was today? What have you been up to?

It was pretty good. I was drinking coffee with my grandma and went to Munchmuseet, a local museum in Oslo named after Edvard Munch, a famous painter. After that I came here. Nothing too special.

Tell us where you’re from. You’re not from Oslo, right?

No, I’m from a small city called Horten, about one hour south from Oslo. It’s pretty small, around 20,000 inhabitants, pretty mellow and quiet.

Isn’t that the place in Norway with the best weather?

Yup, most sunny days in Norway. I read the statistics and got a little proud, but other than that, it’s pretty much a ghost town, especially during winter.

But it’s nice to get a lot of sun especially in a country like Norway with lots of rain and snow.

I guess you can say that. When I still lived there, I’d often talk to my friends in Oslo and they usually said that they can’t skate, because it was raining even though it was always sunny in Horten. So I was down at the skatepark laughing about the people stuck in Oslo.

How did you get into skating in a small city like that?

At the end of elementary school, everybody was skating. It was just a cool thing to do at that time, so I figured I needed a board as well.

So you asked your mom for a board?

Yeah, I got a cheap Toys “R” Us skateboard while we were on vacation in Denmark.

Soloskatemag Jan 5050

50-50 | Photo by Alex Pires

Soloskatemag Jan Halfcapbs

Halfcap Boardslide | Photo by Alex Pires

Classic. How was the scene in Horten? Were there a lot of guys you looked up to when you started skating?

Actually, I started rollerblading at first… [laughs]

Did the skaters give you shit?

No, I was small. Just a little shit rolling around at the park. Then I saw the older ones, the cool kids, you know? They weren’t cool to me, but they were good. I was like, “Wow, it’s crazy what kinda tricks they can do.”

Like flip tricks and everything. You could only flip your whole body on rollerblades.

Yeah, but I couldn’t do backflips. I saw them and I guess skating was cool at that time and all my classmates got boards, so I got one too. We’d just be skating flatground in the streets in front of our house. I can’t believe looking back on it now... just, like, trying to learn kickflips for two years. What the fuck?

"So that was the start of your career as a skater? I don’t know, but I remember I was really hyped on it. I was happy."

Classic. How was the scene in Horten? Were there a lot of guys you looked up to when you started skating?

Actually, I started rollerblading at first… [laughs]

Did the skaters give you shit?

No, I was small. Just a little shit rolling around at the park. Then I saw the older ones, the cool kids, you know? They weren’t cool to me, but they were good. I was like, “Wow, it’s crazy what kinda tricks they can do.”

Like flip tricks and everything. You could only flip your whole body on rollerblades.

Yeah, but I couldn’t do backflips. I saw them and I guess skating was cool at that time and all my classmates got boards, so I got one too. We’d just be skating flatground in the streets in front of our house. I can’t believe looking back on it now... just, like, trying to learn kickflips for two years. What the fuck?

I think it took me two or three years too. That’s the way you gotta go, but you guys had a skatepark, right?

Yeah.

It’s one of the main skateparks in Norway, at least at that time. Do you remember when it was built?

For sure. We had this guy called Gunnar Løge. He kinda put his whole soul into it, spent numerous hours building there. It kinda grew and got really big, but I guess it roots back to ’98 maybe. It’s been around for a long time. It’s not looking too good today though, because it’s made out of wood which is kinda soggy by now. I guess they made some improvements, but I’m not there that often anymore. It’s not like it used to be, the scene used to be really good though.

Soloskatemag Jan Fs Nosegrind

Frontside Nosegrind | Photo by Alex Pires

Yeah, when it’s all wood, the winter takes a hard hit. I remember the level of skating was pretty high in Horten. When we’d go there for competitions, there were always good people. That skatepark had everything: vert ramp, bowl, street course. You had all kinds of skaters coming from there. But when did you start taking it a little more serious and got hooked up by sponsors? Do you remember when all of that started?

I guess when I was around 17 maybe. I’m not sure. My first sponsor was Globe.

Sick, I remember that.

After that, it was pretty much Globe and all the other brands that they had.

What was the distribution called again? Balance?

Yeah, Balance. They had the distribution on the west side of Norway, which was also connected to the skate shop called Session, which we both skate for up to this day.

You even were the Norwegian champion at one point.

[laughs]

Didn’t that happen in like 2006 or 2007?

I thought it was 2006 when I was 15, but I’m not sure.

Oh, I’m sure it was 2005 because it was in Oslo and it started raining, so we had to take it to the indoor park. You won the junior championship.

Yeah, it was my last year as a junior contender.

Soloskatemag Jan1

Kickflip Frontside Boardslide | Photo by Alex Pires

So that was the start of your career as a skater?

I don’t know, but I remember I was really hyped on it. I was happy.

It was the biggest competition in Norway at that time.

It was really big at the time. I was a happy little kid, all the bragging to my mom paid out.

She probably was really proud. Eventually you decided to move to Oslo. Why was that?

I kinda knew that I didn’t want to live in Horten anymore when I turned 18. There was not much going on and you can’t really do lots of adventuring there. I moved to Oslo when I was 20. I already knew you guys, we’ve been on some trips together. So, really, I just wanted to connect with you guys and skate every day pretty much.

How has it been ever since? You’ve been living here the whole time, right?

I see Oslo as my home now. I’m not planning on moving back to Horten, but I still go there once in a while because my parents still live there. Got some nice nature and stuff.

So how is the crew in Oslo?

We are probably like 50 really close friends and I’d say that we are really close. I love them all from my whole heart, they mean a lot to me. We are basically doing everything together. From dividing up to small gangs, eating dinner, partying a lot together, skating a lot together, basically everything. I consider myself really lucky to have that many friends around me at all times. It’s important for sure.

What was inspiring you when you looked at the Oslo scene back in the days?

I remember that I bought this video called Oslo 4. Later on, I found out about the previous parts. I watched all of them and they were made by this really good videographer Jørgen Johannessen. Watching these videos got me really hyped. Seeing all the spots in Oslo… I was really hyped on Henning Braaten, he was one of my favorites. First Norwegian pro street skater I guess, wasn’t he?

I guess so.

Still skating really well to this day. I just skated with him the other day.

Soloskatemag Jan Wallie

Frontside Wallride | Photo by Alex Pires

So how was today? What have you been up to? *** It was pretty good. I was drinking coffee with my grandma and went to Munchmuseet, a local museum in Oslo named after Edvard Munch, a famous painter. After that I came here. Nothing too special.

Tell us where you’re from. You’re not from Oslo, right? *** No, I’m from a small city called Horten, about one hour south from Oslo. It’s pretty small, around 20,000 inhabitants, pretty mellow and quiet.

Isn’t that the place in Norway with the best weather? *** Yup, most sunny days in Norway. I read the statistics and got a little proud, but other than that, it’s pretty much a ghost town, especially during winter.

But it’s nice to get a lot of sun especially in a country like Norway with lots of rain and snow. *** I guess you can say that. When I still lived there, I’d often talk to my friends in Oslo and they usually said that they can’t skate, because it was raining even though it was always sunny in Horten. So I was down at the skatepark laughing about the people stuck in Oslo.

How did you get into skating in a small city like that? *** At the end of elementary school, everybody was skating. It was just a cool thing to do at that time, so I figured I needed a board as well.

So you asked your mom for a board? *** Yeah, I got a cheap Toys “R” Us skateboard while we were on vacation in Denmark.

Classic. How was the scene in Horten? Were there a lot of guys you looked up to when you started skating? *** Actually, I started rollerblading at first… [laughs]

Did the skaters give you shit? *** No, I was small. Just a little shit rolling around at the park. Then I saw the older ones, the cool kids, you know? They weren’t cool to me, but they were good. I was like, “Wow, it’s crazy what kinda tricks they can do.”

Like flip tricks and everything. You could only flip your whole body on rollerblades. *** Yeah, but I couldn’t do backflips. I saw them and I guess skating was cool at that time and all my classmates got boards, so I got one too. We’d just be skating flatground in the streets in front of our house. I can’t believe looking back on it now... just, like, trying to learn kickflips for two years. What the fuck?

I think it took me two or three years too. That’s the way you gotta go, but you guys had a skatepark, right? *** Yeah.

It’s one of the main skateparks in Norway, at least at that time. Do you remember when it was built? *** For sure. We had this guy called Gunnar Løge. He kinda put his whole soul into it, spent numerous hours building there. It kinda grew and got really big, but I guess it roots back to ’98 maybe. It’s been around for a long time. It’s not looking too good today though, because it’s made out of wood which is kinda soggy by now. I guess they made some improvements, but I’m not there that often anymore. It’s not like it used to be, the scene used to be really good though.

Yeah, when it’s all wood, the winter takes a hard hit. I remember the level of skating was pretty high in Horten. When we’d go there for competitions, there were always good people. That skatepark had everything: vert ramp, bowl, street course. You had all kinds of skaters coming from there. But when did you start taking it a little more serious and got hooked up by sponsors? Do you remember when all of that started? *** I guess when I was around 17 maybe. I’m not sure. My first sponsor was Globe.

Sick, I remember that. *** After that, it was pretty much Globe and all the other brands that they had.

What was the distribution called again? Balance? *** Yeah, Balance. They had the distribution on the west side of Norway, which was also connected to the skate shop called Session, which we both skate for up to this day.

You even were the Norwegian champion at one point. *** [laughs]

Didn’t that happen in like 2006 or 2007? *** I thought it was 2006 when I was 15, but I’m not sure.

Oh, I’m sure it was 2005 because it was in Oslo and it started raining, so we had to take it to the indoor park. You won the junior championship. *** Yeah, it was my last year as a junior contender.

So that was the start of your career as a skater? *** I don’t know, but I remember I was really hyped on it. I was happy.

It was the biggest competition in Norway at that time. *** It was really big at the time. I was a happy little kid, all the bragging to my mom paid out.

She probably was really proud. Eventually you decided to move to Oslo. Why was that? *** I kinda knew that I didn’t want to live in Horten anymore when I turned 18. There was not much going on and you can’t really do lots of adventuring there. I moved to Oslo when I was 20. I already knew you guys, we’ve been on some trips together. So, really, I just wanted to connect with you guys and skate every day pretty much.

How has it been ever since? You’ve been living here the whole time, right? *** I see Oslo as my home now. I’m not planning on moving back to Horten, but I still go there once in a while because my parents still live there. Got some nice nature and stuff.

So how is the crew in Oslo? *** We are probably like 50 really close friends and I’d say that we are really close. I love them all from my whole heart, they mean a lot to me. We are basically doing everything together. From dividing up to small gangs, eating dinner, partying a lot together, skating a lot together, basically everything. I consider myself really lucky to have that many friends around me at all times. It’s important for sure.

What was inspiring you when you looked at the Oslo scene back in the days? *** I remember that I bought this video called Oslo 4. Later on, I found out about the previous parts. I watched all of them and they were made by this really good videographer Jørgen Johannessen. Watching these videos got me really hyped. Seeing all the spots in Oslo… I was really hyped on Henning Braaten, he was one of my favorites. First Norwegian pro street skater I guess, wasn’t he?

I guess so. *** Still skating really well to this day. I just skated with him the other day.

But skating has changed a lot since then. What do you think about what’s going on in skating right now? *** You can see that there’s a lot of other things changing. Skating is gonna be a part of the Olympics. It arrived in the mainstream, but you can also still be a low-key skater, a bowl skater. There’s many ways and that’s really cool about it.

So you’re not hating on skating being in the Olympics? *** No, not at all. I mean, it’s good for the whole thing. A lot of politicians will realize that skating is cool and it hasn’t been considered cool in the past. Now that people see that, you’re gonna get more money, which means more skateparks, which is good for us. What we do gets more public attention, you can’t hate on that.

You already have a commercial side to your skating when it comes to competitions, so I don’t think there will be much change. *** And if you don’t like it, you don’t need to be a part of it. You can just hit the streets and skate a curb. I see no need to hate on it.

Alright, do you have any last words? *** Not much, just a shout-out to everybody out there, keep doing what you love. [laughs] No, just kidding. That was kinda stupid. I would like to thank all my friends for sure, and you for doing this interview. I would like to thank my girlfriend as well and Nike and Polar, all my other sponsors. Special thanks to all my friends, my family and everybody I love and everybody I interact with. Thank you too.