Ken Block - Subaru Rally Racing

Sam Smith
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Andrew Harvey Pej Behdarvand Lars Gange

The enjoyment part is obvious. The "snowboard thing" is just one of a handful of stunts that the perpetually grinning, laid-back Block has become famous for. All of his stunts involve his Open-class Rally America Subaru, and most read like a chapter out of How to Win Friends and Blow People's Minds With Your Rally Car: A 171-foot desert jump for the Discovery Channel's Stunt Junkies. A 70-foot leap between two dirt ramps, with Subaru teammate and former motocrosser Travis Pastrana simultaneously backflipping a motorcycle above Block, all over a house-sized fire pit. And the snowboard gig, where the idea's simplicity belies its giddily artful execution - one New Zealand ski park, a professional snowboard team, and a carefully orchestrated dance of jumping, sliding rally car and begoggled, backflipping boarders. All were filmed, edited with a bit of style, and set to music; all became runaway hits on YouTube and had the media beating a path to Block's door.

At the moment, the forty-one-year-old Block is standing in a New Hampshire parking lot, patiently waiting for his Subaru to be fixed. The New England Forest Rally, the sixth event on Rally America's 2008 schedule, is half over, and blue-suited mechanics are swarming around Block's STI, hastily replacing a pair of bent suspension control arms and a broken wheel. Block and Pastrana each hit a massive rock halfway through the previous, twelve-mile stage, each lost a suspension corner, and each came sliding into the repair area on three wheels and a prayer. Both drivers are in contention for Rally America's annual driver's championship, and although Pastrana will clinch the '08 title two months from now in Colorado, New England has been a close fight so far.

Block leans against the Subaru team's motorhome and bends over to tie his shoe. Like Pastrana, he's wearing a pair of loud, blue-and-yellow high-top racing boots with the letters "DC" plastered down the side. The same logo adorns the front fenders of his Subaru. Unlike most successful, national-level racing drivers, Block had another, very different, career before climbing behind the wheel - in 1993, the Southern California native cofounded DC Shoes, one of the largest and most successful footwear and apparel companies in the nation.

He and friend Damon Way (brother of skating legend Danny Way) initially began designing and producing skateboard shoes because the ones that their friends were using wore out too quickly. Spurred on by the emerging extreme-sports industry, Block and Way cannily built DC Shoes into a powerhouse. They helped pioneer big-time sponsorship deals for skateboarders and other extreme-sports athletes; they produced durable, cool-looking shoes; and they never left the little guy behind. The hugely successful business (Advertising Age named Block one of the top marketing experts in the country in 2004) that resulted was sold to apparel conglomerate Quiksilver five years ago for $87 million. Block stayed on to oversee the DC brand and take care of his countless sponsored skateboarders, snowboarders, and BMX and motocross riders.

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