Fittingly in the week that Finland proudly celebrates 100 years of independence we got the chance to speak with one of the country’s finest exports, Jukka Hildén. Jukka is best known as the boundary breaking daredevil from hit MTV show The Dudesons. He also has a hugely popular YouTube vlog where he shares his crazy life and even crazier stunts with his adoring fans.
Recently he’s taken on one of his biggest ever challenges when heading up a 20,000 high mountain with other celebrities as host of the fantastic new show Ultimate Expedition. We spoke to Jukka Hildén about who inspired him, the big goals he sets himself and living a life without limits.
The MALESTROM: Hi Jukka. How are you doing today?
Jukka Hildén: I’m good, really good. Excited and getting ready to film something really cool and fun. And I’m going to get really bloody while doing it.
TM: What is it your filming?
JH: We’re filming a bit called ‘pool full of yoga balls.’
JH: So we actually have a hundred yoga balls which we blew up and we filled up a pool with them and we’re gonna do some high dives into it.
TM: Sounds like it’s going to get dangerous.
JH: Ya, it will be a little bit dangerous, you don’t know. When you land on them you bounce wherever and it gets really sweaty when you try to get out of there, and the pool is empty of water so it’s just a pool full of yoga balls.
TM: So is it your usual crew doing it with you or just you?
JH: Ya I have actually another Dudeson here, I got Jarppi, he’s here with me in Los Angeles. So it’s nice, sunshine, palm trees and just a bunch of dudes jumping in a pool full of yoga balls.
TM: That sounds like a proper day out…
JH: That’s always the best part… It’s like, I always like to walk into every situation with confidence, like ‘I got this,’ but when I step on this platform and look down I think, ‘Oh shoot, this might be a little bit sketchy.’
TM: That definitely sounds sketchy.
JH: I believe if their soft maybe they bounce me around. I’ll be like a ping pong ball inside a labyrinth. Pa da Ping ping, ping ping (laughs)
TM: Ha. So would this be part of like a typical day for you?
JH: So I run the US Rabbit Films here, we’re the biggest independent production company in Finland. Our passion is unique ideas. But also we do Saturday Night Live, Shark Tank and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in Finland. So with my day, half of it is business and half is filming and having fun, pushing your own limits. And also holding onto that inner kid I never want to let go of. I mean this morning I had a two hour meeting with our lawyer and later I’m going to be jumping into that pool full of yoga balls and obviously I’m doing this interview and then I’m stuffing a turkey with an airbag and blowing it up (laughs).
JH: So I like that my life is blessed, that I get to work with my best friends and we’ve built this from scratch and we produce a huge competition show for YouTube Red here in the US, but at the same time I get to choose how I spend my days. Some part of the year I travel, sometimes I film and push my limits, sometime I do office work and get to go to events and meetings and speak live. So I like to fill up my year with stuff that keeps my year interesting.
TM: Sounds good. Variety is they say the spice of life…
JH: Let me say that It didn’t come off easy, I broke my jaw, we took huge financial risks. I mean I come from a town in Western Finland that only 500 people live in. I come from a very poor family, my dad couldn’t read or write and I was running this company and you know in a way life is good, I’m healthy and I’m happy, I have a beautiful family and everyday I get to push myself.
TM: You get out what you put in and you certainly seem to have put a lot in.
JH: Yea, it just hasn’t always been easy, there’s been days when we’ve got zero dollars on the bank account and we’ve got people working for us and we have to find the money somehow. And (laughs)… if you don’t take risks in life, you know, you never get the reward ether.
JH: I’m a risk taker
TM: Would you say your fearless ?
JH: Yes. I would love to call myself a fearless soul. But fearlessness and courage, there are two sides to. One is the mental and physical side. On the physical side, with the life I live I want to grab on to the bull’s horns, literally. Go for it and push my limits, whether it’s working out or climbing a mountain where eight people died last year, or doing a big stunt. Also I think the bigger bravery is looking at yourself in the mirror and understanding who you are. Who you are now and where you want to get to, and then doing something to become the better you.
The way I want to live my life is to set an example and that’s why I’m doing the daily videos with YouTube, I get to use that to do my bucket list of life. Push myself to learn how to do a double backflip on a trampoline, or fly a plane, or get bit by an alligator, because I want to keep that inspiration out there, I don’t want to preach about a lifestyle that I don’t live. So it’s a good hamster wheel of coming up with these crazy and innovative ideas and pushing my boundaries, I get to build stories for life
TM: We see you’ve been levelling up on your parkour skills. That video at your house looked pretty cool.
JH: Ah yeah. Thank you man. In Finland we actually have free activity parks, and each activity park has about 150,000 people visit every year. And it’s all about learning to use skills with your body, whether it be skateboarding, parkour, climbing, zip lines, trampolines, foam pits. So I’ve been doing that quite a lot, that’s how I grew up, but I had to learn by myself how to do a flip, or a backflip and I landed so many times on my head. So I’m quite glad we have these places and we have these amazing Tempest athletes that can give you the reasoning on how to do a double backflip.
I set myself goals for this year and I like to call them #imadudesongoal. My #imadudesongoal for parkour was I want to learn a double backflip, I want to learn a full twist backflip and a gainer, and there’s something called a wall spin with hands and I’ve learned every skill. You get such a good feeling when you work on something and you finally nail it.
TM: Is there any other big challenge you want to take on? You’ve done so much with the Dudesons and outside of that, is there anything else you’re looking to go for?
JH: A huge challenge for me was this huge competition reality show that I produced called Ultimate Expedition where we took eight celebrities, stars from the digital and traditional world, a combination of great personalities that had a really good personal motivation and we threw them so far out of their comfort zone.
We took them to this mountain that is 20,000 feet high and eight people have died there this year, so I’m trying to summit that mountain, we take complete rookies there and it’s a race for the top. But in a very organic way, there’s no tricks or anything, you don’t have to jump through hoops, it’s like very physical, mental and social challenge. You have to learn all these skills from zero to one hundred, because every skill you learn is something you need in order to summit that mountain. We’re talking about vertical ice climbing and crevasses and ice the size of a block building surrounding you.
TM: 20,000 feet for people with no climbing experience seems a bit risky right?
JH: It’s very risky. High altitude mountain climbing is one of the most dangerous sports. Also there’s two ways to do it, the stupid way and the wrong way, that will end up getting you killed. When you go in with professionals and local guides that know the mountain like the back of their hands, they know when to go, how to go. There’s always that one factor that you can’t predict, the luck factor. But it was a huge risk, a huge push physically and mentally for everybody, it was by far the biggest challenge that I’ve faced in a long time.
TM: Were there any scary moments up there? There must have been being up so high…
JH: Yea, every day. And when you’re that high above sea level there’s not enough oxygen for you, so your body is constantly failing, your mind starts to wander and every morning you wake up with this feeling of being water boarded, your head pounding. So I don’t know why people do it, but I kind of do (laughs). What I love is you go there and push yourself beyond the limits you thought you had, using the potential within you that is the size of the Pacific Ocean, and you can use that feeling to overcome a lot of things in life in the future. I think it also redefines you, a place like that with no cell phones, it’s just survival, you against Mother Earth
TM: Was there anyone who didn’t cope too well or couldn’t complete the challenge?
JH: We had to evacuate people down and there were major malfunctions in the body and in the mind. It’s daily failure and then finding a way to overcome that when you hit your limits.
Having a prankster reputation, did you find people didn’t trust you?
JH: People trusted me very, much I mean, I don’t like to be called a prankster because the modern prankster’s are just shocking the world for the sake of shock. The Dudesons and my reputation was as a loveable daredevil, I always latch onto a stunt or a challenge, an idea that is just ridiculous and then I 110 per cent went at it. If we pulled pranks we pulled a prank on each other, basically just ball busting your friends. These people know that, these stars they got to know me personally, and trust is one of the key values in my life because even if you think about Dudesons and all the shows we’ve done in the past, the key was trusting your friends, trusting your crew.
Everybody was one big happy family, we went there and put our lives in the line of fire, literally and you had to count on everyone that when they’re working 9-5 and then when it hits five they’re not gonna drop the camera and stop caring, we were a group of people that had that camaraderie in it. Ever since the Dudesons we’ve done other shows that since we grew up we had the same mentality, we believe in the same things. I really see myself as the modern day Indiana Jones, keep doing adventures, exploring and pushing peoples limits and setting an example.
TM: Do you think too many people maybe live in their comfort zone?
JH: I think if you want to evolve and if you want to learn new things about yourself, you should definitely get out of your comfort zone because that’s where most learning happens. When you’re not just doing what you’re good at or you know what you’re comfortable doing. I also know that people are afraid of the things they don’t know about, for example I did a thing where I swam with twelve foot pythons in my pool and I don’t like snakes. They’d come up to me and I was petrified by them, but by the end of the day I swam with them I dived into the pool and they’d turn to face me and there’s a moment like ‘oh shit there gonna go for my face!’ but at the end of the day I was so comfortable and now I’m fine with snakes.
It’s not for everybody to push their limits, to go out of their comfort zone but I would say that people who truly want to evolve should do something that they’re not comfortable with, because that teaches you something about yourself, and that also teaches you new skills. I’ve been flying a plane and I’ve learnt how to do a hammerhead and all these circles up in the sky and it’s fucking cool to be able to say ‘yeah I’ve flown a plane, I’ve took off, I’ve landed a plane.’ When you’re a little kid everyday you learn something, first you learn how to crawl and then how to get on your knees and then how to walk, and run and jump – you constantly learn but at some point you stop, you get all comfortable on the sofa and start watching TV and drinking beers. But I don’t want to be that, I want to set an example, when I’m 80 I still want to be doing a handstand walk down the stairs.
TM: Who inspired you to be like this?
JH: I grew up in a small town and I really admired my Grandpa and my Dad. My Grandpa never gave up, he was such a strong willed man and ran a huge farm with my Grandma and was such a hardworking man, but he also had such a great sense of humour, he lost his teeth when he was 22, got fake teeth but never put them in (laughs), so he would have just the gums throughout his life. He’d by like ‘hey Jukka, tell your Grandma my sweet tooth is aching,’ with this beautiful smile and no teeth (laughs).
Then my Dad coming from where he came he just can’t read or write, but I always got attention from him which gave me great confidence. In the holidays my Dad and my kids we would go to a park in the fall and all the leaves have fallen off the trees, he’s the first one to dive in, before my kids. He inspires me and on the other side I always grew up wanting to be a ninja, so I was watching a lot of Bruce Lee movies as well and knowing where he came from and he overcame so much opposition but he was badass! He inspired people to do several things, keep pushing yourself and never settle down and get lazy. Be optimistic and positive and always look on the bright side of life, no matter what it throws at you. When a shot’s fired it’s not about people who stay down, it’s about people who get up and keep going.
TM: You mentioned your kids there is that what you want to see them do – push boundaries?
JH: I tell them that if you’re gonna be dumb, you’ve got to be tough. I want them to find whatever they want to be in their heart, I mean obviously they’ve watched Daddy light himself on fire and jump down from the roof to the pool in the morning (laughs), but you’ve got to do what your heart tells you and that’s about finding your passion, something that’ll make you happy. I’ve got a 5 year old son and a 3 year old daughter, and my daughter’s a daredevil, she is the one giving me a hard time – right! My son is a very empathetic person, he loves lions and tigers and wild animals so I think he’s gonna be sort of a safari man – the grizzly man living with the bears in Alaska, hopefully not getting eaten.
I love my children they’re so innocent, so straightforward and I enjoy when I go home, obviously with work there’s a lot of risks I take in my life, and when I get home I unload all that and I start building, like last night I was building a ninja drone robot with my son and you completely forget all the worries and you’re in that moment with your kids. And then we built a deathstar out of our sofa pillows and he put on a Darth Vader costume and I was Chewbacca (roars Chewy style). It’s weird to see Darth Vader and Chewbacca just hanging by the way.
TM: That is an odd combination…
JH: My daughter was BB-8, she’d just roll around going bloop, bleep, bloop (laughs).
TM: Ha! That sounds like a fun night. With all the dangerous stunts you’ve taken part in, what was your favourite?
JH: Like I said I love unique and original ideas, I love the moment when we get a ridiculous idea, like lets fill up a pool full of popcorn and do some high dives into it. Or another example – one of the latest ones has been learning new skills, like parkour, we went to Tempest free running academy. We had kind of like a hole in the wall in the shape of a man, but lets say it’s upside down, so you’ve got to try and run from the platform and get the position right to get through, but obviously it’s so hard.
We just shot a new one of those and it’s going to be epic, it was sort of like a time race and there was all these different things you had to pull off and I almost broke my jaw doing a double front flip tying to go through this one hole, that’s been my favourite for a while now. Also walking into a bullring on stilts and then you see the bull get released and it comes after you, and you’re like running away and it starts poking you with its horns and you end up in the path of of the bull, still on your feet though and you just keep on running, that’s my favourite big dangerous stunt where you don’t know the element and where a certain amount of it is skill, and a certain amount is just down to luck. I think a lot of this courage and fearlessness comes out taking that leap of faith, knowing that ‘I’ve got this’ or ‘I’m not going to die but I want to try this and I’m not going to give up.’ I’m not going to be an old man in a retirement home thinking ‘I should’ve done that.’
TM: So it’s about not having regrets really?
JH: Yeah obviously that doesn’t mean that you have to just do stupid shit that will clearly get you killed or you know, harm anyone else but if it’s about you trying to push your limits, you should just go for it – believe in yourself!
TM: Now with social media, you’ve obviously got a huge following – but what do you feel about the role it plays nowadays?
JH: It’s a double edged sword, the light side of it is you get to share your life, share your inspiration or tell your story to people all around the world, you know by shooting something on your phone, pressing one button and then sending it everybody, it becomes easier and more accessible to huge audiences and I love that. The Dudeson family that we’ve been able to build can inspire and also we can set an example, but they can also tell us what they like and what they don’t. The dark side of it is so many people live only on social media and forget their real life and face to face conversation and you know going to a restaurant on date night, you don’t have to take a picture of the meal and send it to everybody. That’s a moment for you and your girlfriend to share or whoever you’re there with.
Also another thing is people have become so ADD about it they are constantly on their phones and they live their life through the phones and then if there’s a negative comment they go all balls out on it. Life is about good and bad and positive and negative feedback, learn how to live with it you don’t have to delete the comment. So that’s why for example Ultimate Expedition, was such an amazing show to do because it’s a blackout for media. It takes about two or three days to forget about social media, about what’s going on in the outside world and you start living in the now. You start thinking about yourself and your priorities, what you want to do now and I think that is something that I recommend to everybody, take a little time off every once in a while. Stop living your life through social media, live your life in the now with the people.
TM: Well one good thing about social media for example, the other day you posted a picture of yourself in a diaper with Vanilla Ice? Do you ever think, my life is pretty mental?
JH: (Laughs) Everyday! It’s crazy to look back to 2007 and all the things we’ve got to do and share, and social media is a big part of how we get to tell our story. We get to do really freaky and unique, unbelievable ideas and it is crazy, from you know rocking diapers to (laughs)… I actually came out at the European Music Awards to Eminem dressed in a diaper, ha ha ha, and then I was hanging out with Vanilla Ice!
TM: You’re obviously good friends with the Jackass crew right? Who do you think was more extreme, who pushed the boundaries more?
JH: Well we know each other really well and we’re one big happy family, but we both kept on pushing the boundaries and became a thing with a lot of synergy, like I would see them do something and then we’d do our thing. We actually produced two seasons in America together with Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine for MTV US. There was never any jealousy or anything, we’re pulling the rope in the same direction, we’re on the same side, pushing each others limits. Showing the world how you be (laughs) a daredevil and live the life. Johnny Knoxville is such an amazing mastermind and he’s really professional and smart but at the same time abso-fucking-lutely crazy. I mean getting in front of a bull blindfolded… makes you really appreciate life to do a thing like that.
TM: Now Finland celebrates 100 years of Independence on the 6th, how important is that as a Fin?
JH: I’m really proud to be from Finland, we are a small country up there between Sweden and Russia, we’ve always fought against them. We were under Russian influence for a while and then under the Swedes and then again under the Soviet Union and that’s where we won our independence from. I think the Finnish values, common sense and honesty – the older people don’t talk a lot but when they say something they truly mean it – so you know what you have a Finn, you get a hardworking, reliable person that whatever he or she does they do it with heart.
I was in the Special Forces a Purple Beret in Finland so the 100 years means a lot to me. I’ve met some of the Special Forces soldiers that fought in the war against Russia so yeah. I am a very proud Finn…. but I like to live in Los Angeles too because I like the palm trees and the blue sky. When I was growing up there was free healthcare, education, dental care, social care – a very safe uncorrupted society and it’s really liberal and everything works really well. They say that the US is the land of opportunity, but if you want to become a doctor you need a lot of money to go to school, but in Finland anyone can become the best surgeon in the country, you know it’s the same for everyone.
TM: And finally any words of wisdom for our readers or a mantra that you live your life by?
JH: Yeah I have a motto on my hand that says,
“Live hard, live your dream.”
Find your inner passion, what makes you happy, do that for yourself because if you’re happy you can be a better friend, a better husband, a better Dad or whatever you want to be, but it all starts from you. Everybody’s gonna hit a bump in the road, but have no regrets and learn from mistakes and keep on going forward because you can’t change the past but you can really affect the future. Live in the now and keep pushing your limits.