Thursday, November 1, 2007 Updated: October 9, 3:33 PM ET
By Mark Kariya EXPN.com
The normal image of a successful kid from Southern California's Orange County probably mimics the one seen on a TV show with the same name. You knowthe clean-cut lifeguard type who's equally comfortable at the beach or at a black-tie dinner.
The surge of voltage that set it off.
But the real O.C. isn't that homogenized. It's got characters as well as character, and some of those characters happen to be rather talented action sports athletes like Kyle Loza. If you saw Loza walking down the street, he'd probably strike you as a young musician (which he also happens to be), not an athlete. He's built more like a jockey than a stick-and-ball jock, but the tattoos, piercings and clothes say no to that guess, too.
Instead, Loza is one of the elite in freestyle motocross, among the handful of athletes who's earned an X Games gold medal in Moto X Best Trick, which he did at his X Games debut this past summer.
Not bad for someone who began dabbling in freestyle just five years ago.
Dirt bikes provided Loza with one of his first jobs: "I worked at this track called Saddleback [Park]; it was right down the street from my parents' house."
Pray for stoke.
To satisfy his natural desire to do things out of the normeven by motocross standardsLoza began to crave big air, and when he couldn't find what he wanted at the local tracks, he says, "I started building jumps and stuff down the street off to the side of this business complex where there was just this dirt lot. We'd go up there and build jumps and get kicked out every day. Then we found the key to this fence that the gardeners left and kind of made a little [track] back there."
Coincidentally, he remembers, "I guess when I started riding was that whole 'Crusty Demons of Dirt'-era thing, when all those [videos] were coming out."
Put two and two together, and you have a budding freestyler who today has a full motocross track and freestyle course (complete with foam pit) in a local gravel pit that he has unhindered access to. "I try to ride every day unless I'm traveling," he says.
But Loza's one of those rare individuals who's blessed with talent in many areas, and his interests include other creative outlets. "I've been playing music since I was five," he relates. Loza plays guitar, bass, drums, piano and even singsa veritable one-man band. "I definitely want to pursue that or start my own tattoo shop or something."
Indeed, one look at Loza proves his affinity for ink. "My aunt's a professional artist and she's always, since I was little, taught me how to draw and stuff. I started getting tattoos when I was 15," he laughs. "I'm really into that.
Coming soon to bookstores near you: The Joy Of Tattooing by Kyle Loza.
"The guys that were tattooing me were working at this shop that was sponsoring me, and they gave me $250 worth of free tattoos a month. So they were teaching me; I'd watch and learn."
That would eventually lead to another job opportunity: "I broke my leg one time and I didn't have any way to make any money and I was broke. I was like, 'Why don't you start tattooing?' They helped me get all the stuff I needed and I started tattooing my friends."
And while one doesn't normally associate tattoos with someone who attends church, Loza says he's been a Christian since he was four. "I was raised in a Christian home and everything," he notes. "We've been going to Saddleback [Valley Community Church] since it opened." That association has also had an added benefit: "Our whole family is friends with the pastor, and that's how [the church] gave us permission to ride on the land [where my tracks are]."
In addition, Loza is a member of Riders 4 Christ. "Ninety percent of the demos I do is Riders 4 Christ stuff," he says. "We do jump shows all over the U.S. It's like me, Jimmie McGuire, Dan Norris, Greg Hartmanwe'll ride and then give testimonies."
S is for style.
Of course, it's not easy to be both a freestyle showman and a Christian. As Loza has discovered, "It's really hard. I've messed up a bunch of times, but God forgives."
True, but Kyle would never forgive himself for slacking. To that end, he is already working on tricks for X Games 14, though he's used to that kind of prep. After all, he practiced his winning Volt for a solid year before unleashing it at X. "Everyone was telling me to work on flips, but I felt like I had to work on [the Volt] just because it was different. There was more potential with it, being the only one doing it kind of thing."
For X Games 14, Loza reveals, "I've been trying to nail something down because I've got to come out with something crazy for next year's X Games."
That, we've got to see.