Saturday, March 25, 2023

Lena Salmi: Being Yourself is Enough


“Don’t wait to be inspired. Do it yourself” – an important message I took away following my brief call with Lena Salmi, who is an avid traveller, an artist, a skateboarder, a graffiti writer, a sports journalist, a competitive swimmer and an amazingly inspiring and cheerful individual from Helsinki, Finland.

don’t be me. be you.

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Lena Salmi with her famous Helsinki Tram #4 board / Photograph by Ben Awin

You might all know Lena as someone who has started longboarding at the age of 57 and skateboarding by 61. But I am not here to speak about Lena’s amazing energy or her age and how everyone should be like Lena. I am here to pass on a message from Lena to you: “Don’t be Me. Be You.”

I am also here to tell you about the ways how Lena changed my perspective on the patterns of my own life. 

No Fear

After speaking to Lena, I have realised that as humans, we are afraid of embarrassment or what others may think of who we are and what we do. Lena is definitely not this person. 

We should not care what others might think as we are the only ones who are responsible for our own happiness and learning. 

Lena thinks that perhaps having lived a full life people feel more freedom to try new things when they are much older. But what’s important is that there is no need to wait that long until you have lived your life the way others wanted you to or the way you felt they wanted you to. You need to live your life today.  

If you have a passion – start it, if you want to travel – do it, if you want to try it – then go ahead. You will never know unless you have done it.

Yes to Inspiration

Lena spent many years in Lapland doing winter sports and working there as a sports journalist and upon return to Helsinki she started longboarding. She used to ride a beautiful bicycle but in a worry of it being stolen, Lena started longboarding. Her curious nature took her to the alleys and nooks and crannies where she had never been before. Like that, she discovered graffiti. 

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Lena told me that graffiti is at times seen as an art for the lonely hearts who are looking to leave their mark. From her own experience, every time you release the spray cap of the can it feels like freedom as the words or images start telling your own story. 

Whenever, Lena travels anywhere, she makes sure she has two things with her: a skateboard and a spray paint can. Lena is soon to travel to Spain where she is looking forward to meeting graffiti writers there and share some inspirations with them. 

Yes to Desire

Every morning Lena eats ice-cream for breakfast – a promise she made to herself many years ago that when she would live on her own she would treat herself to a delicious scoop or two of ice cream. Commitment to your own desires is of outmost importance.

Lena starting from a young age and until now has been someone who was always interested in outdoor sports and has continued this tradition until today when she feels amazing having a swim at the stadium. It is a deep meditation state for her. Coming from a family of sportswomen (Lena’s three sisters were also competitive swimmers) Lena is not foreign to trying new sports where she would need to put her whole body to test. The energy Lena gets when she is learning dancing, wakeboarding or acrobatics – it is all very demanding and challenging, but nevertheless, there is a natural beauty of pushing yourself to the limits of your own desires and strengths. 

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Yes to Kindness

Lena was shown how to longboard by someone she reached out to in the forum more than 8 years ago. This person was so kind and nice that it made her feel as part of the longboarding community and back then she instantly knew that it was her stuff.

Lena believes that learning is diverse. Just like her first teacher, Lena welcomes any initiative of learning from anyone else.

During the recent pandemic times and lockdown, Lena learnt dancing behind the opera house in Helsinki where some of the spectators became her skateboarding students soon after.

Lena’s reward comes in seeing what effect a single choice of doing something different and getting out of the comfort zone has on people.

learning is diverse

As part of humanitarian cause, Lena previously travelled to Uganda with the skateboards in support of teaching the love of sports to children there. She also had a plan to travel to Brazil this year which was postponed, but Lena is hopeful she will go there and meet skateboarding enthusiasts of all ages as soon as borders are completely open.

Speaking to Lena made me realise that it is not only important to live your life fully, but also help others to see and experience it as well.

Be Yourself and Be Approachable 

Lena is well welcomed by the famous Tram #4 in Helsinki and her second longboard ever is dedicated to this very tram. Lena told me that all her 7 boards tell the story, but this one is very precious and close to her heart.

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I and Lena also talked about aesthetics and how a brilliant story told on the board can make a difference and fit with the overall personality of the owner. 

Lena’s choice of colourful clothing and shoes show how diverse your hobbies and tastes are. Like that, every single piece of your wardrobe can speak of real and true “You”. 

be first in your life. don’t be second in someone else’s life

I and Lena have a 30-year-old gap but I felt so like-minded with her as she is such an incredible human being. Our talk was very therapeutic as I have realised that every step we take in our lives we need to make it in a way so it suits us and our desires. Disobey. Act Now. Be First in Your own Life. Not Second in Someone Else’s. 

Thank you, Lena, from the bottom of my heart for showing me the right way…for showing me my way.


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