Catching Up With DC’s Ken Block

By Jeff Emig

Jeff Emig: I am here with Ken Block, founder and co-owner of DC Shoe Co., a skate shoe company. So Ken, skating is your background, then?

Ken Block: I grew up in Long Beach, California. I tried to play baseball, but I sucked at it, so I decided to become a skateboarder. I’ve been skating since 1977. In 1982, my parents decided to move down to northern San Diego and I found myself stuck in what was then the middle of nowhere with nothing to do, so I made them buy me a dirt bike.

JE: So you were the “Dirt Bike Kid” for a long time, going to Carlsbad Raceway and all that…

KB: Yeah, I grew up racing at Carlsbad and Barona Oaks, but I never got out of the novice class. I raced minis and 125s for a few years, but in high school I started to have parties at my house when my parents were away and that was the end of it. There came a point that they said, “That’s it! One more party and we’re not going to support your racing!” Well, I had that “one more party” and that was the end of that. Before they cut me off, I’d say I raced about 30 times or so. I enjoyed the hell out of it.

JE: The first time DC Shoe Co. came on the motocross scene, it was by sponsoring Ryan Hughes. How did that come about?

KB: Well, I was living with Danny Wey at the time, and he happened to have a bike. He was actually pretty good and he was good friends with Ryan Hughes.

JE: (Interrupting) Danny Wey, by the way, is one of the world’s best skateboarders. He is the guy who drops out of helicopters and holds the World Record for biggest air on a skateboard at 16.5 feet.

KB: So anyway, they got me riding again after about eight or nine years of not riding. Ryno taught me a lot very quickly.

JE: But business has been good with DC Shoe Co., which allows you the time to go ride motorcycles…

KB: Yeah. I am a skateboarder at heart, but if I had a second heart it would definitely be dedicated to riding motorcycles. I am just getting too old for skateboarding. At the age I am at, it takes too much effort and a lot of pain to have a little fun skateboarding. Motocross, for me, is great because it’s easy to go out and hang with your buddies and have fun. It’s especially fun when I get to go out and hang with guys like you, Jeff.

JE: (Laughs) This brings us to your new Emig Racing Kawasaki KX250. What do you think of your new bike?

KB: Well, today is my first day on the bike. It is definitely an amazing setup. It’s nice to be able to afford a product that is as well done as this bike you’ve built for me. With all of the accessories on it, it is definitely an incredible bike! The Pro Circuit motor is awesome and Ross Maeda at Enzo Racing is definitely taking care of me with the suspension.

JE: Okay, back to other stuff. How does the professional motocross scene differ from that of skating?

KB: I deal with professional level riders in both sports. There’s definitely more of a rebellious image in pro skating. I think the differences occur early on. When you grow up a kid in amateur motocross, it’s more of a family sport. You go to the track with mom and dad and it’s a family effort. Skateboarding, on the other hand, is a way to get away from your parents, so the kids actually grow up with more of a rebellious attitude. I think the skateboard pros run their lives a little looser, but it’s also nice to deal with the motocross pros because they know how to run their lives a little more correctly. The motocross industry, I think, tends to crack down on stuff like partying, while in skateboarding it’s a little looser.

JE: Well, I can vouch for that! (laughs) Okay, so how many days a week do you get to ride?

KB: Well, in the summer I would say two or three days a week. It’s like heaven. This year we are sponsoring Ricky Carmichael, Ernesto Fonseca and Ryan Hughes. It’s a lot of fun going to the races and being a part of it and being able to interact with the guys. As a company we all enjoy it, too. A lot of the employees are into it, as well as the other sports.

JE: DC Shoe Co. has been running motocross ads for several years now, but you are a skate shoe company. How does this all make sense for DC?

KB: We are a skateboard shoe company, but after that we cater to the alternative lifestyle. We really focus on five sports. Skateboarding and snowboarding are the two main sports that we make product for, as well as BMX. Surfing and motocross just kind of fit into that whole genre of action extreme sports.

JE: And everyone has to wear shoes…

KB: Yeah! We don’t actually make a product that you can wear while you ride, but shoes like ours are something to wear when you don’t ride.

JE: Any plans for a DC motocross boot? (Laughs)

KB: (Laughs) Well, I’ve been joking with Pete Fox about that for a few years! There sure is a lot of interest in a motocross boot, but at this point I don’t think it’s something that we’re gonna actively be going after.

JE: Yeah, it’s a pretty tough project to make a good motocross boot.

KB: You really think so? I think we could make one pretty easily… (Laughs)

JE: (Laughs) Okay, anything else you’d like to add?

KB: I’d really like to thank everyone else who has helped us out in the motocross industry with promotions, like you, Jeff, and guys like Ricky, Ryan, Ernesto, Mike Cinqmars and Jimmy Button. I definitely appreciate you guys liking and endorsing our product.

JE: Before we go, let’s talk about the “Greatness Has a Price” advertisement. That was your idea…

KB: Part of my job at DC is advertising, and the way we handle our ads is through pro endorsement. We idolize the pros and like to put them in the ads to make them look as good as possible. The concept of that ad came to me because I was bummed out going to the races and not seeing guys like you and Jimmy racing. Two of my heroes are not racing anymore. We all know that motocross is a dangerous sport, but we accept it because we all love to race so much. That ad was a way for us to express that.

JE: So when you are at DC working late at night on an ad and you have a photo of RC just whipped upside down, do you ever cut out a picture of your helmet and paste it on there? You know, with a headline that says, “Block, #43” so that it looks like you? (Laughs)

KB: Hell no! (Laughs) I respect what you guys do, and I enjoy watching you race so much that I would never do that! (Laughs)

JE: Yeah, right! (Laughs) Well, enjoy the bike test, fans. And thanks, Ken.