Corona native Billy Marks is among the five professional skateboard and BMX athletes who mentor young action sports up and comers in "Next X," a new TV series that premiered Monday on Disney XD, Disney XD.com and Disney XD mobile platforms.
Disney XD partnered with ESPN to bring some of the world's top "X" athletes to the training facility, Camp Woodward West in San Bernardino to film the eight episode that will air Mondays at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
At the end of the series the next "X"ahtlete will be chosen from among the participants and the show will culminate in August with a 30-minute TV and online special at ESPN's X Games 15.
Marks partnered with 11-year-old Micah Wu, an amateur skateboarder from Kentucky who recently competed in the King of the Groms contest in Minneapolis.
"I was really excited to hear I'd be working with Billy," Wu said in a phone interview. "They were all pros and really good, so I would have been happy with any of them."
During the week at Camp Woodward West, each amateur athlete worked with their professional mentor to perfect one trick that had been eluding them.
In addition to Billy Marks, pro skateboarders Chris Cole and Lincoln Ueda mentored 12-year-old Mitchie Brusco from Washington and 9-year-old Tom Schaar from Malibu. BMX professionals Scotty Cranmer and Van Homan mentored 11-year-old Ian Bradley from New Hampshire and 11-year-old Matty Canmer from New Jersey.
"I learned a tuck knee," Wu said of his training with Marks. "You grab your board while in the air with your left hand and you kind of just tuck your knees."
At the end of the camp week, each amateur athlete got a 60 second showcase to show off their new move.
"We got a 60 second run by ourselves and we'd try to land the trick we'd been working on," he said.
"We wanted to provide a show that would be fun and serve as inspiration as well," said Douglas Ross, executive producer. "And, we wanted to send some positive messages about how to be an athlete."
Before filming began, it was decided that everything needed to be very realistic or kids wouldn't be interested. The network also wanted to be sure the storytelling was done in a very responsible way.
"It's not cool to get hurt or cut people off," Ross said. "But we knew we needed to show the real falls and scrapes because that's a big part of the sport.
We decided to include them, but made sure it wasn't presented in a heroic or cool way and we showed them getting back up, brushing off and saying, 'I'm OK.'"
It was also deemed important that everything looked authentic. "We specifically chose crew members that are action sports enthusiasts," he said. "We use a lot of point-of-view cameras so the viewers can experience what they see and how they feel as they go through the skate park."
To choose the up and comers Disney XD and ESPN tracked down 40 or 50 potentials. They looked at ages and tried to find a good mix of people. Family support and school schedules also played a part in the final decision.
"You never know who will be TV friendly either," Ross said. "We really lucked out with these five boys."