January 10, 2023
Richard Foegele

Ken Block

Extreme Renaissance Man

When we think of traditional Internet influencers, the name Ken Block may not immediately come to mind. Although present on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, Block’s huge social media impact developed on YouTube, fuelled largely by his action-sports “Gymkhana” series.

“Gymkhana" originally referred to a place of assembly. The meaning was then altered to denote a place where skill-based contests were held.”

Growing up in Southern California and influenced by the West Coast skate surf culture led Block to co-found DC Shoes with partners Damon Way and Clayton Blehm.

One of the earliest documentary films showing the emerging skate culture is “Questionable” (1992). Jump forward a decade to watch another amazing skate film, “Dogtown and Z-Boys”.

Their footwear has been called the Nike of skate shoes. In 2004, DC Shoes was acquired by Quicksilver for $87 million.

The DC logo today

The sale of DC left Block to follow his lifelong passion, rallying. Although rallying was a somewhat obscure form of motorsport in America at the time, Block raised his profile by combining rallying, drifting and auto-test to form his own version of “Gymkhana”. It wasn’t long before the first of Block’s "Gymkhana" films emerged on YouTube … and went viral.

Despite its success, “Gymkhana 1” was really just a succession of handbrake turns and drifting -- super cool, but lacking a bit of substance. By the time followers were exposed to “Gymkhana 4” with Block roaring around the backlot of Universal Studios, the bar had been raised substantially.

At face value, it would seem that a mad man had gone wild in “Gymkhana 4”; however, behind the scenes, careful choreography and calculation were taking place, making even the most seasoned Hollywood stunt coordinator envious.

Camera rigging was a mainstay of the “Gymkhana” cinematography, in a style similar to that of director John Frankenheimer’s 1966 classic “Grand Prix”; despite several GoPro casualties, no CGI was ever used. The “Gymkhana” Series gained strength to a point where traffic was magically halted so Block could careen across the Bay Bridge, with his WRC Fiesta taking massive air throughout the City’s undulating streets in an aesthetic that rivals the chase scene from the Steve McQueen classic film “Bullitt” (1966). With every chapter of the Series, Block’s cars became crazier and locations more exotic, from sharing the cockpit with a leopard in Dubai, to tandem drifting with young rally sensation Oliver Solberg on a frozen lake in Sweden. In 2021, Block signed on with German mark Audi to help develop the brand's electric portfolio with an 800+ hp S1. The last “Gymkhana” release was set in the streets of Las Vegas, in collaboration with Audi Sport, featuring cars from the brand’s incredible motorsport heritage, including 9 time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen making a sneak cameo appearance.

Block’s passion for pure rallying was, perhaps, lesser known. He competed in both Canada and the U.S. initially. Within a couple of seasons, he took on the challenge of entering a World Rally Championship (WRC) round against the best drivers in World. Block would be the only American driver to compete in the Series, having to learn the stages from scratch on a regular basis. Top 10 finishes were commonplace for Block. He lusted for a U.S. title, but fell short in 2022 by a mere 7 points. His plan was to come back even stronger in 2023.

On January 2, 2023, Ken Block was involved in a snowmobile accident in Utah and, sadly, died from his injuries. Entrepreneur visionary, action sports hero, X Games medallist, World Rally Driver, Ken Block’s passing leaves an unfillable void.

We invite you to celebrate his life by completing today’s Ken Block trivia quiz on our Quizefy app, cementing what you may already know about him, or learning about this incredible extreme renaissance man.

Now take what you’ve learned and play today’s “Ken Block - Extreme Sportsman” Quiz of the Day:

1. Download Quizefy app.

2. 250 free gems will be instantly deposited in your name

3. Start playing immediately for free

4. Have fun and Strut Your Smart!

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About the Author

Richard is a life-long motor-racer with experience in photography, filmmaking and engineering. His friends sometimes affectionately call him "Foegepedia" for his knowledge of the sport.

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