words: Zoe Oksanen
Once upon a time I was a young free spirit traveling the world, spending winters strapped in to a snowboard and summers surfing. Then I met the love of my life, pro snowboarder Jussi Oksanen, moved to California, had two beautiful boys, spent five months of every year raising them practically on my own, didn’t see a snowboard for several years (mine, that is) and was perpetually tired. The end.
I jest. Kind of. It has actually been a journey of gargantuan proportions and has had so many highs that I couldn’t possibly list them all here. But there’s no getting away from it: Being married to, and having a family with, a professional snowboarder is not always the glamorous ride many people imagine it to be.
When I met Jussi back in 2002 I was working for Burton in Europe. We met at a company sales meeting in Vermont — the Finnish boy and the English girl — and the rest, as they say, is history. Those were heady days of frequent international travel, 5-star hotels and nice cars. After trying to base ourselves in Europe (winters in Austria, summers in Finland) we realized that unless we were content with not seeing each other at all for four months straight during the winter, we needed to move to the States.
Settling in Encinitas, Southern California (Portland, we tried, but the rain was all too familiar), we quickly moved on to the next chapter of our story: Kids. I found out I was pregnant just before running out the door to catch a plane to watch Jussi in a contest in Vail. I will never forget that. I missed the flight to the next contest — the X Games — because I was so darn sick with the pregnancy I couldn’t get out of bed. Then, like magic, there I was at the following X Games with a beautiful four-month-old baby boy watching his dad at the bottom of the slopes.
Not long after, another mini Oksanen came along and suddenly we were a family of four. This is when our narrative changed. Our babies didn’t sleep, so neither did we. When Jussi came home from several weeks filming it wasn’t to lazy days, endless surfs and heavy drinking like most of his friends, but rather a somewhat deranged wife who hadn’t slept for days and was in serious need of a break. And a surf. And maybe some heavy drinking.
But we found our groove and learned how to function as a family with a dad/husband who was gone from January through May. There have been many times, of course, when his career has dominated our lives. When there’s snow, he has to be there, no matter what is going on at home. Like the time I was alone with an 18-month old baby ready to pop out his brother while Jussi was filming in Alaska (admittedly we could have planned that pregnancy better). When he threatened to bestow us with his presence earlier than expected (the baby that is) our plan was as follows: If contractions really seem serious, call helicopter operation; they radio through to the heli pilot flying Jussi and fly him to the private airfield; Jussi charters private plane to Anchorage and then commercial airline to San Diego; cross fingers, and legs, he gets home in time!
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