It is very rare to come across a person who’s had such a significant influence in the life of millions of people and a whole culture to the point that he has become an icon.
It is even rarer—not to mention, refreshing—to meet this person and realize that there is no façade, no pretenses, no act… Tony Hawk is a nice guy. It is easy to see why he appeals to such a wide demographic, embraced by the skateboarding sub-culture and mainstream, old and young alike, by the wealthy and the common man.
Although Hawk is no longer competing, he remains very much a skateboarding icon, whose likeness and influence have served as a marketing tool for expanding the popularity of the sport. However, more than anything, he is an ambassador of skateboarding, inspiring generations of followers and skateboarders to pursue the sport and continue to push the limitations of what’s humanly possible with a narrow-wheeled platform.
Who do you think is the future of skateboarding, and who is really coming up and going to have a big impact?
I’d say as far as street skating, Nyjah Houston. I think he’s 11 now and has already won some of the biggest events, so I don’t know if he’s up-and-coming or already here. Also, a couple of guys on my amateur team David Loy and Justin Figueroa—those guys are blowing doors.
What can you say about your son’s progress in skateboarding? Many people have lauded his skills and see him as a potential superstar.
He has had an amazing talent for it since he was very young, but he is just now gaining a sense of confidence that allows him to go bigger with his hard tricks. He did very well in the biggest amateur competition series (Damn Am) last year, so his future is looking bright.
Let’s talk about how skateboarding went from being underground to mainstream. How has the commercialization of skateboarding changed the culture and the sport?
I think the biggest difference now is that kids will get into skating thinking it’ll bring them fame and fortune. In my day, that wasn’t the case. I’m not going to say all kids, but some are more about success than the fun.
What about the Olympics? Will we ever see skateboarding in the Olympics?
I think firstly, it’ll take the IOC getting a clue about what people want to see on TV and will have a lot of participation. However, it would take a unity of the skateboarding community globally, and that’s a big order. It’s hard to bring everyone together for a cause like that. The IOC needs to see organizations that have been around for a long time and can sanction something that big. Ultimately, I think the Olympics needs the skateboarding more than skateboarding needs the Olympics. Over the last three Olympics, snowboarding has become famous.
The popularity of skateboarding even transcended into video games, and your series has been one of the favorites. How involved are you in the development of your videogames? Do you think the games have helped the sport?
I’m there every step of the way. I play as it’s being developed through the year: riders, locations, tricks, music. It’s pretty exciting. Now, we have these new consoles (X-box 360, PS3, Wii) to play with, and we’re beginning to explore what’s possible with that technology. It’s more about what we can do to make it more realistic with the new systems.
In terms of recognition and creating a new fan base, they have turned video game players into fans of skateboarding. You have people that don’t want to skate themselves, but are watching it and following it, and that’s important for the longevity of skateboarding in general.