Tony Hawk

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Tony Hawk was nine years old when his brother changed all of our lives by giving him a blue fiberglass Bahne banana board. Before skateboarding, Hawk was a self-described nightmare. “Instead of the terrible twos, I was the terrible youth,” he said. “I was a hyper, rail thin geek on a sugar buzz. I think my mom summed it up best when she said I was ‘challenging.’” He was also so pathologically determined that his parents grew concerned. “He was so hard on himself and expected to do so many things,” his mom, Nancy, remembers. His frustration was so harsh that his parents had him psychologically evaluated at school. The results were that Tony was “gifted,” and school advisors recommended placing him advanced classes. The root of his frustrations was also uncovered: “The psychologist said he had a 12 year old mind in an 8 year old body,” Nancy recalls. “And his mind tells him he can do things his body can’t do.”

Luckily for those around him, Tony’s brother, Steve, supplied the answer to his sibling’s brain/body problem – he gave him a skateboard. Tony started goofing around on the thin Bahne board, and his body finally caught up with his brain. “When he started getting good at skating, it changed his personality,” Steve says. “He became a different guy. He wasn’t as competitive at Pac Man as he had been.” Nancy agrees. “I was just glad he was taking all his energy out on skateboarding and not on me.” But Tony was still beating himself up. If he didn’t skate his best in a contest – even if he won – he’d retreat silently to his room at home to spend hours with his trusty cat Zorro. By 12, Dogtown skateboards sponsored Tony, by 14 he was pro, and by age 16 Tony was the National Skateboard Association champion. Until he retired in 1999, he entered an estimated 103 pro contests. He won 73 of them, and placed second in 19. By far the best record in skateboarding’s history. (He even won a Tampa Pro event after a redeye flight and only three hours of sleep.)

Tony pioneered late-grab airs – which a few early grabbing pros called cheating at the time – and invented over 100 tricks, including the backside Ollie to tail, varial, frontside hurricane, rodeo flip, stalefish, Ollie 540, and that one where you fling yourself way up into the air and spin around a lot. He’s accomplished a few things off his board, too. Tony raised 2.9 million dollars for skateparks in underprivileged areas through the Tony Hawk Foundation (name changed to The Skatepark Project in 2020), wrote a New York Times bestselling autobiography and helped create a video game series with sales over a billion dollars. While he’s finally getting some gray hair, the bastard landed a 9 at a demo a few weeks ago and is still capable of throwing down a 540 in a warm up run. – Sean Mortimer

The Nine Club – Tony Hawk Interview
Transworld Skateboarding Cover - Jan. 2003. Photo by Dave Swift.
Transworld Skateboarding Cover – Jan. 2003. Photo by Dave Swift.