FOZ DO IGUAÇU, Brazil -- For the past three years at X Games Los Angeles, event sponsor Ford Motor Company has partnered with art collectives Street Factory Media (SFM) and So-Gnar to create an authentic on-site cultural experience for action-sports fans. We've built, from the ground up, combination sport/music spaces that include custom mini-ramps and feature top DJs and live bands. When thinking about how we could replicate our activation on foreign soil, however, now that the summer X Games series has expanded internationally, we faced many logistical questions:
Where do we source the wood to build the ramps, and how do we properly set one on clay soil? Which artist will we invite to help paint the ramps? Who will translate our messaging into Portuguese? What about local music -- who can fill DJ Qbert's legendary shoes from last year's LA event? Which athletes can we partner with to host our demos?
And how much will all this cost?
Artist/printmaker Dave Sheets and I had a mission: to create an organic space that resonated with the X Games audience and generated awareness for the Ford brand. A lot of the youth of today love to skateboard, ride BMX and participate in street art and live music -- the cultures that are the foundation upon which the X Games were built.
At the Ford Fiesta Park -- part of the X Fest Foz event area -- we mix live skate/BMX demos with music from local DJs and bands and host an hourly trivia game where consumers gather around the vehicles and answer questions about the X Games, sponsored Ford drivers and local culture. Prizes include custom-designed skate decks that are screen-printed in our full-service on-site Board Shop. Live music from local DJ Everton mixed with live performances from Brazilian bands Anchor, Honey Badger and Telecivo will keep the energy high.
With a lot of language barriers, we needed a great host with lots of experience. We partnered with Paulo Charaba, who's announced plenty of contests, does demos in high schools with BMX/skate teams and can bounce back and forth between cultures with me, the other host. Paulo's friends with all the riders, too, which creates a great cohesive energy in the space.
To team up with us on the art, we chose Rafael Calazans Pierri, aka HighRaff, a São Paulo-based street artist who skateboards and has been actively involved with the action-sports community for years. He decorates the streets with his beautiful, bright layers of colored paint, geometric patterns and a great flow of internal energy.
Raff and Sheets met last year on our home turf of Colorado, when Raff was commissioned by the City of Denver to create a mural in the Denver International Airport. It's been a great honor to have one of the most recognizable street artists from Brazil involved with us in Foz.
For the athletes, we hoped to achieve a mix of riders who were friends -- all pros or top ams -- and who represented the Brazil scene well. Here's the lineup of BMX riders and skateboarders that Marcelo Ribeiro and André Jesus from Dream BMX and I posse'd together:
+ Douglas Leite (aka Doguete) is a very powerful BMX rider from São Paulo. He placed fifth in the GoPro BMX Big Air final on Friday.
+ Pedro Barros, a legend of Brazilian skateboarding, represents his country on an international level and hosts open sessions in his backyard bowl all the time. Barros will compete in the Men's Skateboard Park final on Sunday.
+ André Jesus is one of the three best park riders in Brazil and rode the MegaRamp in 2012. He just returned from a season at Camp Woodward.
+ Henrique Castro is one of the more stylish Brazilian riders. He's capable of riding any kind of obstacle, doing bar spins and street tricks.
+ Carlos Cavet, from the south of Brazil, is known as a flow rider capable of going big on any kind of ramp.
+ Ricardo Fernandez (aka Dexter) is a real cool and friendly pro skateboarder. He participated in "Brazil MTV House" a month ago, doing crazy tricks and having fun.
+ Mitch Schmidt is an American am from Milwaukee, Wisc., with ridiculous street-skating style and transition skills. He rides for So-Gnar and will help build the Ford ramps at all four summer X Games events in 2013.
Last but not least is the final tie-in to the local Brazilian culture: the Foz Skate Association (FSA). They are a small, poorly funded group of great people who absolutely love skateboarding. We stopped over at their headquarters to check out the place and see what kinds of ramps they had to ride at their facility, which was not outfitted with much.
We approached the association with an invitation to let some of their skaters session our ramp at the X Games; to a lot of these kids, the chance to meet, shred with and learn from the pros skating and riding in the demos is a major deal. So, instead of tearing down the ramp on the last day of the event, Ford, SFM and So-Gnar will offer it to the FSA as a gift to improve the quality of the ramps the kids ride on a daily basis.
When FSA staff got wind of our decision, they freaked out with cheers, hugs, high fives and smiles. Being able to donate our creation to the local community of Foz has been one of my favorite experiences of 2013. We can't thank the culture of Brazil enough for all the support, help, kindness, great energy and welcoming arms for us throughout this great experience.