Sittin’ Sideways With DC’s Ken Block

If I you didn’t know better you could mistake Ken Block for an oversized kid--he hits the X-box heavy, brimming with enthusiasm on the subject of anything snowboarding--he’s shredding at the DC Mtn. Lab and The Canyons on the regular. Games aside, when it comes to building empires, Ken Block is all business. Surely, founding and maintaining the ever-successful DC Shoes is not child’s play. Ken has mastered the art of channeling his passions into lucrative business, and it’s proves a winning formula every time. Ken also started Droors and Dub clothing brands as well as Blunt magazine back in the day (later selling all brands to focus on DC Shoes). As evidenced by his newest endeavor, it’s no secret that wherever the man applies himself, he lands on top. Ken recently took up rally racing as a hobby--shortly thereafter winning Rookie Of The Year within his division and landing a Subaru factory ride along side motocross phenom Travis Pastrana--wow.

Who were DC’s first riders and when?

DC started in ’94 and our first two guys were Danny (Way) and Colin (Mckay).

How many pro athletes does DC Shoes sponsor today?

We have around 35 pro athletes, and that’s only the pros in America. We have regional riders around the globe.

How involved are you with the decision making process of choosing new athletes nowadays?

I’m still very involved in choosing our top-tier athletes. We take our team very seriously. To be on the DC pro team is very special. Every guy we put under contract gets one of those nice white gold and diamond DC rings--I don’t like to give those out to people we get rid of the following year.

We have a really great set of team managers and promotional directors that scout the new kids. I’m not as involved with that side. I trust the people who work for me to handle that job.

After all these years sponsoring riders you’ve flipped the script and found yourself a sponsor.

Yeah, I’m sponsored by Subaru Rally Team U.S.A. along with Travis Pastrana--they have a really prestigious history and its pretty amazing Travis and I have become good enough to actually race for them. So I guess all those years of sliding around in the snow did pay off (laughter).

How does it feel to have sponsorship expectations resting on you?

It’s been fun to play the other side and do the best that I can. Because I’ve sponsored people for so long I know what’s expected of me. I go out and race to do my best on the track, but at the same time I also understand the additional expectations like doing interviews or whatever. I came with that experience, because I’ve seen both sides of the game.

It’s worked out really naturally for Travis and I. We’re something fresh for the Motorsports market--a shoe guy and a supercross/freestyle motocross champion. It’s been pretty easy for us to garner a lot of coverage. Instead of finding a couple pro drivers, Subaru brought in two guys coming from a fresh angle who garner exposure for them in a new medium.

You bring youth and celebrity to the sport.

I’m definitely not the celeb--we’ve had families drive six hours in Northern Michigan just to meet Travis, you know? It’s been pretty amazing that so many people are aware of what we’re doing. We’ve brought a lot of new eyeballs to the sport.

Are there other Subaru U.S.A. drivers?

Nope. Basically, Mitsubishi ran out of money so they quit doing a factory team--so it didn’t make sense for Subaru to spend a bunch of money to go out and beat amateurs. So there was a hiatus for a couple years where Subaru didn’t have a factory U.S. rally team at all. With our team they look at it as a good avenue to go out and show what their car can do and create a buzz about the Subaru STI, and the company.

What does a full sponsored ride include?

Well, basically just racing, because the cars are so expensive and you have to have a full team with mechanics--and the parts are so expensive. So it mainly entails just being able to go out and drive. The team that handles everything is about twenty-five people deep with a total of four cars.

An Impreza STI at the dealer costs around 34k. How much are these rally cars worth?

The cars cost about 150 thousand dollars each last year and costs are going. We’re in the Open class this season, meaning the new cars have more technology and we can tweak on them--so that means even more money (laughter).

Nice work Ken--very proud of you.