Thursday, July 14, 2005
From X to Next
By Símon Flores Paredes
A successful pro skateboarding career became a thriving business life for 1995 Extreme Games Best Trick bronze medalist and three-time X Games competitor Kareem Campbell. But with time, his commercial size outgrew a comfortable grasp. Now, with lessons learned and new perspectives, Kareem is ready to begin again.
KC - First Ave., NYC, baby.
In 1995, the X Games were known as the Extreme Games, and extreme, they were. A death rail, inhospitable transitions to wall rides, and treacherous spines populated a Street course that allowed notorious non-Street specialists like Tony Hawk (and later Andy MacDonald) to take silver medals in the event.
The Best Trick contest showcased the only pure street-style skateboarding at the Extreme Games. During his bronze medal run, NYC's Kareem Campbell popped a kickflip off the flat bank over a tall rail, in classic Reemo style, and fakie flipped into the death rail's steep bank. The death rail was seriously extreme: long, steep and with a quick setup. Jamie Thomas later 50-50 grinded that rail and won gold. "Jamie rail slid, then grinded the rail," Campbell says. "That was sick."
Founding The City of Stars
After a successful contest streak following the Games, Kareem founded City Stars and Axion Footwear. "There weren't many companies with a real skateboard feel," he says. Kareem handpicked his team, including the then-unknown Paul Rodriguez, Mike Taylor, and Devine Calloway. Solid pros like Caine Gayle and Eric Pupeki kept things tight. He was the team's mentor, taught them the ropes, and paved the way for their growth in skateboarding.
With an effervescent team of talented youngsters and a hot shoe line, Kareem quickly established himself in the industry. But his success happened too fast. "Skateboarding brings you so many highs and so many lows, you got to be prepared," he says. Soon, City Stars and Axion outgrew Kareem's control.
Breaking New Ground
Sometimes in life, you are forced to choose between staying with what you know and starting over from scratch. Campbell is doing both, by re-launching City Stars with an almost entirely new team. The only returning rider on his new roster is Javier Nuņez. Says Campbell: "Two guys are coming from out of nowhere. The team will have four ams and three pros, and everyone will have their shine hour."
Kareem assures his new team will bring the street flavor he's known for, but each rider will provide his own ingredient. Of his last team, Campbell says they raised the bar in street skating but grew too fast. In retrospect, he says he's satisfied with what they accomplished. "Look at every last one of them now," he says. "They're on top."
Obstructin' - St. Marks Style
A World All His Own
The City Stars re-launch is not the only thing keeping Kareem busy. He is developing a show with MTV and a new videogame. The MTV show, titled "My World," will focus on the lives of professional skateboarders and their daily dilemmas like the pressures of filming and coping with injuries. It will be a sharp contrast to shows like Viva la Bam. "It's our version of what skateboarding is," he says. Among others, the show will feature Chad Muska, Clyde Singleton and Terry Kennedy.
Campbell says his videogame will also offer a more realistic look at street skateboarding. "I've been in meetings for the last month, and I pulled out of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater to be able to communicate with people from my own game," he says. Comparisons to Campbell's past virtual presence are inevitable, but he says he's confident about his new interactive adventure. "People are going to compare and say Hawk is better than me, and I would never want to disrespect," he says. "But we're talking about two different games."
Kareem has had his share of skate video parts, from World Industries' groundbreaking New World Order to City Stars' refreshing skating in Street Cinema. He's also had experience behind the camera. Now, Kareem wants to take the next step and tell his story. A script based on his life is in the works. "It's being written by Buddy Johnson, who wrote some stuff for Scary Movie," says Campbell, who believes his life could inspire others. "I want to deliver my story to kids, let them know you can come from almost nothing and make it."
Still Got It
His new endeavors don't interfere with his passion: skateboarding. "I've been skating constantly, taking photos and video, taking little trips," he says. With a new team in the works and several projects on the horizon, it's easy to see why, 10 years after that Extreme Games bronze medal; Kareem Campbell is still shaping the street skateboarding scene.