Photo: Mike Echort
Tony Hawk has been a household name in the skateboarding game since I was a little tyke. Back then, he was just the tall, lanky guy with the surfer cut in Animal Chin, but now even my parents know the “birdman.” Over the years Hawk has done it all. He has invented over a dozen tricks, including airwalks, madonnas, varial gay twists and landed the first ever 900. He has won over seventy contests and scored repeated gold medals at the X-games. He created his own video game, which was released in its tenth installment this year. He started board company, Birdhouse, and even sported a mohawk with a milk moustache (if memory serves me correctly). Even after being out of the professional game for about nine years he has remained prominent in the industry. This year Hawk was recognized as the “Athlete of the Year” at the annual X-Dance Film Festival for his charity work, an award that has traditionally been given to athletes who are still competing.
In 2002 Hawk established the Tony Hawk Foundation, an organization dedicated to building skate parks to give kids a safe and legal place to skate. “When I turned pro there were maybe ten skate parks and they were located in the worst locations,” Hawk said. Hawk accredits skate parks as vital to his progression in the sport and as a safe haven during his youth.
“It’s important, if you’re in the position, to give back to whatever inspires you,” Hawk said. Hawk contributed a large sum of his own money to start the foundation. Since its inception, his organization has raised over $2 million dollars to build over 300 public skate parks in impoverished areas, giving millions of skaters a safe outlet in which to further the sport.
On top of his foundation contribution, Tony and a diverse group of professional athletes travel countrywide on a secret skate park tour. This past year saw the likes of Andrew Reynolds, Ryan Sheckler, Bam Margera, Mike Vallely, David Loy, Mike Camillo, and even Tony’s son Riley Hawk. These unannounced visits allow them “to skate with the kids, and not for them,” Hawk said, thus connecting with the real fans of the sport (the skaters and bikers themselves) and not just those that have seen his face on TV or a Totino’s Pizza Rolls box. These park sessions are filmed and released on DVD. 2008 marked year three of the Secret Skate Park Tour video.
With the help of more personal films, like Secret Skate Park Tour, and events like X-Dance, it is inevitable that skateboarding will become more accepted by the mainstream. This might seem like a bad thing, but the opportunity to ride a skateboard for a living (and a healthy one at that) is a dream come true.