Umeå is often referred to as the capital of northern Sweden, surrounded by mountains, forests and endless coastline, it is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The city also holds notoriety for one of the most unique and coolest skateboarding spots, a truly amazing place that should be on the bucket list for any skater. Our article was also featured in issue 33 of Confusion Skateboarding Magazine, so be sure to buy a copy and check that out.
Rännan, short for timmerrännan, is a log flume located in Klabböle, a village just outside Umeå. The flume was built in 1959 alongside the construction of the nearby Stornorrfors Power Plant. It´s purpose was to float timber downstream, which provided a cheap and relatively easy means of transportation. These could be found all over Sweden, however, they were particularly popular in the north of the country due its dense forests. Originally 6 kilometres in length it was built with aluminium sheeting which was later replaced with galvanised steel of higher strength. The flume transported around 30,000 logs per day and up to 12 million per year. It was in operation until 1980 yet in 1984 large amounts were sold for scrap. Luckily today 500 metres of it has been preserved at the Umeå Energicentrum. Rännan’s structure mimics that of a u-pipe, the speed and flow that are created in combination with its sheer length are out of this world.
To get an understanding of Rännans skateboarding history I caught up with some first generation street skaters from Umeå, Jonas Lyxzen and Jonas Lindahl.
“When I was 19, I moved to Umeå. At that time, me and my friends were driving around looking for skate spots in the city. There were no cell phones or Google Maps, just word of mouth. I remember that I heard a rumour that there was a “Ränna” in a place called Klabböle. I think this was around 92. We took my old Saab 900 and went looking. I don't know if we were the first ones skating it, but we were for sure amongst the first. When we first saw it, we knew it was built for skateboarding. Ever since then we have been skating it regularly. It looks cool and mellow, but it is much harder to skate than it looks.” Jonas Lyxzen
“I started skating Rännan during the nineties, probably somewhere around mid-nineties. As I remember it there was not much focus on tricks at that time. The focus was going down the thing a couple of times carving and hanging out and maybe going swimming in the river. There were no concrete parks around at that time and we did not have an indoor park yet. Besides smaller mini ramps we did not have much experience of gnarly trannies and (at least for me) doing lip tricks seemed quite intimidating.” Jonas Lindahl
During the mid 2000’s skaters started adopting more of a trick orientated approach to Rännan and the place gained more popularity as skaters started pushing its boundaries.
“As I remember in the early days we mostly skated it as a mini ramp, just going back and forth and doing lip tricks. In 2010 the concrete park Sparken was built and people from all over Sweden and abroad started coming to Umeå for contests. It’s around this time that Rännan became famous. Social media probably helped a lot too.” Jonas Lindahl
During 2014, Rännan featured on the cover of Swedish Skateboarding Magazine Giftorm which also followed with a feature in Giftorm’s Heja Sverige tour video during 2016. Its popularity and interest also increased with footage shot of skater John Magnusson. More recently its popularity has gained international attention. In 2016 it was skated by Wes Kremer, his footage was captured by filmmaker Jonathan Lomar, which was released in an episode of the Sour Files complements of Transworld Skateboarding. It has also made some recent drops on social media by Karl Berglind for Red Bull Skateboarding. Yet Rännans appearance in the media goes way back, documented in a number of early Swedish skate films. During 1999 footage was released in a film called Vita Nouva, it also made a feature in P-Rullen released 2006 and Futurum in 2010.
During recent years Rännan’s local ambassadors have been using social media to promote the uniqueness of this spot. Palen and his YouTube channel underfliped features content that showcases this amazing setup. I caught up with Palen to get an understanding of what Rännan means to him.
“As a kid long before I started skateboarding I used to run down it like many other kids growing up. Later in life when I started skating I was friends with a rollerblader who wanted to film there. I remember thinking it was the scariest thing I ever did doing a rock to fakie there! After that it became a yearly tradition to do a rock to fakie there every summer. Around 2015 I got myself a Gopro and filmed just cruising in the pipe. Since then I have come to love this spot. The aesthetics and location makes for a cool experience! At least once a year I go there just to carve and feel the rush. Landing tricks here is a real challenge so it's always fun to see if I can escape with one! I've guided visitors throughout the years to this spot, and the look on their faces when they see this place for the first time is priceless! Kids on Christmas morning”. Palen
Recently, international visitors, Dan Cates and Trawler were lucky enough to spend a weekend with Palen riding it during the Summer of 22. Dan was captivated by the spot after seeing it featured in a video from film maker Phil Evans. Trawler on the other hand is dedicated to travelling and documenting unique skate spots, he made a mental note of the spot after it was featured in a clip of skater John Magnusson. His visit to Rännan will feature in a chapter of his latest book, “The Ditch Rider’s Guide To The Galaxy” coming 2023.
"Your greatest concern if you are lucky enough to ever make it to the flume, will no doubt be the unforgiving trifecta of no flat bottom, sharp lip and no platforms. Don’t turn up with expectations of performing your best mini ramp run either because I can assure you that this spot, as epic as she is, is a cruel mistress.” Dan Cates
“I found it best to ride as a corkscrew picking up speed and getting up into the top 6 inches either side. It is not easy to ride as a mini ramp as the lip is angled back and it's only a few inches wide. In my experience of riding down the chute you are in your mind's eye two or three turns ahead of yourself and you don't get that in normal skateboarding, it seems like riding a motorbike, looking out ahead of yourself ". Trawler
Despite now gaining more international attention, Rännan's roots lie with the local skateboarding community. A few things that became apparent during the process of writing this article was the northern community's friendly nature and love for skateboarding. Their passion for Rännan shines as does their pride for its uniqueness. Time and time again I would hear of locals taking visitors under their wings to allow them to experience the spot. Everyone who skates Rännan, local or not, creates lifelong memories and remembers the place of two things, the people and the setup.
Don’t forget to check out Rännan’s IG account @rannanskate.
Want to find out more about this cool skateboarding spot? Be sure to stream our podcast episode on Skate Spot Pod for further information!