Team Of The Year-Chocolate – Award

The last time I saw Keenan Milton we were in the middle of shooting his first-ever pro interview in a magazine. He walked by me at a party, and I kind of stopped him, me being a magazine staffer and all, to see if things were going well with it. In retrospect, I admit I only brought up the interview as a pretext to talk to him. He was the kind of guy you just wanted to be near. I mean, positive energy just oozed out of this guy-whether he knew you or not. I remember saying, “Call (Mike) O’Meally and finish that thing up.” We already had about three epic stills, an amazing portrait, and a money sequence that he made in two tries-the nollie back heel down the Belmont nine-enough for any interview, let alone his. He flashed this quick smile, laughed, and started walking away. As he looked back at me, he was like, “Don’t sweat it, kid. I’ll have it done by next week.”

That smile he flashed said everything about the guy. He could’ve melted an ice cap with that thing. And he probably could’ve finished that interview by the next day if he felt like it. I left the party early ’cause I had to work in the morning. The next day we got the call-he was gone. I knew him the least of anyone at the office. But something in that smile still broke my heart. I could literally still see him-standing in front of that pool in the Malibu hills-smiling. I couldn’t accept that that smile I had just seen was gone. I think most people who knew him better than I did couldn’t believe it, either. And in the end, that smile really wasn’t gone at all. It had just moved to a different place in the universe.

That universe includes the team and group of friends that Keenan influenced daily. It’s surely not my place to say so, but the Chocolate team in ’05 is pretty much a living, breathing extension of that smile. Way back in ’94, Chocolate started as a “multiethnic” sister company to Girl; and that’s what people thought it was-a “multiethnic” sister company to Girl. But in ’05, Chocolate has nothing to do with being “multiethnic,” even if the team still happens to be so. Chocolate today is about that smile. It’s about the feeling you get from riding a skateboard. And that smile is still there in every dude on the team. In addition to having pretty much the most stylish, talented, and positive heads on Earth on the team (Do I even have to name names here? Gino, Kenny, and MJ alone would have most team managers wetting their pants …), Chocolate, or “Choco” as we call it in the old country, put out a tour video that puts most two-years-in-the-making company vids to bitter shame. Why? Because you can feel the love. And sure, the amazing skating doesn’t hurt, either.

Beyond all the names, beyond one of the best logos in skateboarding, beyond the fact that the Girl/Chocolate Art Dump are essentially some of the best artists alive on Earth as I write this, beyond the personalized Bjà®rk song, beyond the Midas touch of Mr. Spike Jonze, and beyond the fact that Chris Roberts should have turned pro immediately upon the release of The Chocolate Tour in ’04. The facts pretty much stack up like this: Chocolate and Girl are companies that deeply believe in what they are doing and who they are. They are in it for the love. And, subsequently, they are in it for the long haul. Somebody on Rodeo Drive once told me, “If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.” Well, Chocolate winning Team Of The Year kind of falls into a similar category (minus the snobbery). If you have to ask, you probably wouldn’t understand. Just keep smiling and move along now.-Mackenzie Eisenhour