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Features > Athlete Profiles > Athlete Profile: Wille Yli-Luoma

Athlete Profile: Wille Yli-Luoma Hot

WYLFinland's WYL dishes on his boarding career, roasting coffee beans and the future.

It seems that something has always been brewing for the Finnish snowboarding star Wille Yli-Luoma (pronounced Vee-lay Oo-lee-Loo-oh-mah – get it straight!).

Now, things are literally percolating for the self-named “Free Willy” at Heart Roasters – Wille’s coffee shop and roasting company situated in beautiful Portland, Oregon.

Hearth Roasters? Actually, this name makes a ton of sense as Yli-Luoma’s motto is “Follow your heart,” words that gained him a successful snowboarding career and worldwide prestige for doing something that he loves.

Wille grew up learning snowboarding near his hometown of Piikkiö, Finland, often taking off for hours on end without his parents truly understanding the activity he was affiliated with.

“It was weird I never told anyone at home what I was doing; I just took off,” he told Snowboarder Magazine, “My parents knew I was snowboarding, but they never really knew anything about it. They probably thought I was a drug dealer or something. They would just see me get free snowboards, clothes, and money.”

No, the gear was not purchased with drug money, it was given to him for his performances at local competitions. Eventually, he was good enough to earn sponsorships and start riding worldwide with arguably the greatest collection of progressive riders dubbed the “Forum 8”.

The group was operated and funded by Forum Snowboards until it disbanded around 2007. During an 11-year run, the group shredded backcountry powder at the farthest reaches of the globe – filming all the while.

No longer with Forum, WYL is in his 10th year with K2 and also has a long-standing relationship with Volcom, the two biggest sponsors backing him.

Wille says he’s indebted to them for sticking with him through thick and thin and allowing him to ride everyday, travel the globe and film some amazing sessions.

As time has progressed, things for the 32-year old are a bit different. He isn’t riding everyday now and judging by his new coffee venture, he has other interests that don’t involve strapping a board to his feet.

“I feel like I can go longer, if I want to. If my sponsors are still there to back me, I’m going to do it. But I also have the cafe and roastery for the next years. I’m just building a foundation that will eventually, [laughs] hopefully, start making money,” WYL said.

Yli-Luoma may not ride everyday like he used to, but he’s matured and branched out into other business ventures. He still has his favorite spots, like Mt. Baker in Oregon, and travels to places like Canada and Chile to ride when he can.

Still, WYL’s feet are on the ground, pursuing his next career.

So, if you find yourself in Portland, stop in on WYL at Heart Roasters, order a latte and say hello.

You never know, you could be investing in the next Starbucks.

-Ryan O'Leary

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