The Eric Koston Experience
Last Wednesday I arrived at the Redbury Hotel in Hollywood, Calif. because of a mysterious invitation I received from Nike on behalf of skateboarder Eric Koston. I met up with about eight writers, bloggers and sneakerheads along with Nike's skateboarding marketing team, to begin our two-day adventure billed as the "Koston 2 Experience." Within a short walk from the hotel we entered the Montalban Theater which is a combination retail space, design center and event venue.
The day started with a Q & A with Koston and shoe designer Shawn Carboy, moderated by Nike marketing specialist Mark Goldman. I had interviewed Koston in February about his time at Nike, how he was enjoying the "swoosh" and the athletes he's meet while riding for Nike, so it was great to hear talk about Tiger Woods and Kyrie Irving (guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers) being featured in the commercial for his new shoe.
Koston also spoke about his "Nike Bespoke Destroyer Jacket," which pays homage to all of his favorite skate spots in Los Angeles along with patches of his wife's image and the names of his two children. Bespoke is another word for made-to-order, and the Destroyer is a $500 varsity jacket specifically engineered to handle nasty weather and still look good. Nike athletes Manny Pacquiao, Lebron James and Paul Rodriguez all have them. Beginning last December, Nike Sportswear opened customization to the public by appointment for just under $800. I was blown away when Goldman said, "You too will get to design your own Bespoke Destroyer today."
After the Q & A we were allowed to examine the Koston 2 shoe and had some one-on-one time with Koston and Carboy. "You broke the story!" exclaimed Koston about our previous interview. Our time at the Montalban was basically a rehash of our interview from months before.
Why was the color pink was so prevalent in the marketing of this shoe, I ask. "We started by illustrating in pink and Carboy was reminding me that I did a Koston 6 in pink [for éS], because I wanted to make a loud, crazy colorway. In skateboarding everyone uses the same colors: a black shoe with a white sole. They're all carbon copies and pink is going to either be hated or loved, so I said, 'Why not?' considering it's something I've done before," Koston explained.
Carboy, a soft-spoken northwester, with mustache in tow, looks more like a fisherman than a skateboarding shoe designer. He explained how the different sport departments at Nike borrow ideas from one another, resulting in the golf inspired Koston 2.
"It actually started when Nike Golf came to us after we did the Koston 1 and asked about some of the things we used, like the sock liner. They actually ended up making a shoe called the Swingtip. What they did was use the same last (a form to design a shoe around) as the Koston 1 and they actually took our sock liner."
Everyone uses the same colors: a black shoe with a white sole. They're all carbon copies and pink is going to either be hated or loved, so I said, 'Why not?'Eric Koston
Once I finished designing my Destroyer jacket we left the Montalban for dinner at one of Koston's favorite restaurants on Melrose -- Osteria Mamma. My pizza was great but nothing compared to seeing SI swimsuit model Molly Sims who was also dining there.
The second day of our Koston experience began with coffee at LA's Intelligentsia and a skate session at Stoner Park -- catered by In-N-Out Burger, a Los Angeles institution.
Stoner Park is one of the best built public skateparks in LA, and on any given day you'll find professionals there like Guy Mariano, Daewon Song and more skating there. This day Joey Brezinski was cruising around and dropping hammers -- it's no wonder why he wins so many Red Bull Manny Mania contests, the guy's good. Stoner is the best place in Los Angeles to see pros skate in an outdoor, relaxed atmosphere, free from the stresses of competitions, obligations and the grind of being a pro skater. Nike SB team riders Sean Malto and Shane O'Neill showed up having fun, being friendly and ripping the ledges.
Next we went to a driving range in Griffith Park where Koston was shagging balls with his Girl Skateboards teammate Brandon Biebel. I'm not exaggerating when I say that Biebel and Koston are nuts about golf -- they try to walk the greens as often as their schedules allow. Both were really helpful and encouraging about the right way to swing a golf club -- Koston has a more refined, finessed swing, whereas Biebel just crushes the ball. His drives give the ball a velocity like hitting a fastball out of the park at Dodger Stadium.
The good life continued at the Standard Hotel in downtown, where we sipped cocktails at the rooftop restaurant during a classic California sunset. The Standard has been featured in countless television shows and movies, and is known as the hangout for the famous, wealthy and good-looking Hollywood types. With its waterbeds, swimming pool and great views, it's an iconic LA landmark.
My two-day experience culminated at Nike's 6th and Mill skatepark, where they turned the obstacles into a mini golf course and the party got started in true rockstar fashion. The Black Outs, (Djs and twin brothers Atiba and Ako Jefferson), rocked the iPads while the warehouse started filling in with a who's who of skateboarding royalty. On one wall there were screens playing Koston's past video parts, and another had chocolate bars with Koston's name on them. There was a live mouse in a cage representing his "Mouse" video part and a tank with a goldfish for his "Goldfish" part. I even saw a chart displaying every trick he's ever done on video tape -- unbelievable. Even the open bar had two signature Koston cocktails: an "Old Froston," and a "Los Angeles Mule." There was a photo booth setup where you could recreate the last scene from the Koston 2 commercial -- where he catches the baby.
As the night wound down a limo took us back to the Redbury and my Koston Experience was reluctantly over. Considering I had no idea what I was getting myself into, my two days of all things Koston were truly unforgettable. Now when's my Jay-Z experience?!