Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk talks Olympics, skate culture, being a father, and influence on the sport
Tony Hawk joined the Vans Park Series broadcast team in April 2019.
- Regarded as one of the most influential skateboarders of all-time, Hawk not only impacted the sport with his tricks, but also with his business endeavors.
- Hawk spoke to Business Insider about skateboarding coming to the Olympics, being a father, his business, and more.
Tony Hawk never left the world of skateboarding, but now he'll be involved in a different way.
In April 2019, Hawk was announced as the official broadcast commentator of the 2019 Vans Park Series, the premier park terrain skateboarding tour in the world, alongside Chris Cote.The series, founded in 2016, is dedicated to growing participation and promoting the culture of skateboarding.
The 51-year-old is arguably one of the most influential skateboarders of all-time, especially in vert skateboarding, and can still impress on a board.
He has also utilized his brand to take on business endeavors while being a father to four kids.
Hawk spoke to Business Insider to discuss the Vans Park Series, skateboarding making its Olympic debut, being a businessman and father, and more.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Alexandra Licata: The Vans Park Series is one of the largest competitions skaters will partake in before heading to the Olympics. How do you feel it helps them prepare for performing on a world stage?Tony Hawk: I think the variety of courses, the international flavor and the number of international competitors that are a part of Vans Park Series is great preparation for something like the Olympics because nobody knows what the park is going to be like. So, if you're well rounded, you can skate this park or you could skate the one in Sao Paulo or Montreal well, then you're on your way to being ready for such a big event.
Licata: You were one of the first pioneers that made skateboarding as popular as it is and have been one of the most influential skaters to date. What does it mean to see the sport finally be in the spotlight of the Olympics?
Hawk: I think it's long overdue and I think it's going to be great to see the new generation of skaters be recognized on that level and to have that sort of opportunity that generations past never got. At the same time, I don't think it's the end-all to skateboarding's popularity or to skateboarding's journey.
If anything, it's more that the Olympics needs this youth cool factor in their programming and they're going to get it with skateboarding in the summer games the way that they got it with snowboarding in the winter games. To me, that's what it's all about.
Licata: In the conversations leading up to it being part of the games, you were a big proponent in the sport's potential on a stage like the Olympics. What were some of your arguments on why it could be successful?
Hawk: Mostly because I think it's more irreverent than all their other sports and there is a bigger youth population that skates, that's interested in skating. If nothing else it's going to get kids interested in skating from unlikely areas, from unlikely countries.
Licata: There's a very specific culture that surrounds skateboarding, and it's unlike any sport that revolves around fashion, music, independence, etc. You've lived through the stages of the sport being criticized and not as well received. How have you seen that evolve over the years and gain its reputation back?Hawk: I think through perseverance and through proof of determination with skaters who pushed through even when there were no skateparks left. They took to the streets; they learned how to make the streets their urban landscape skatepark.
[Skateboarding] continued to progress, continued to make up new tricks, make up new techniques, go bigger, go further, and all of that with very little validation and no financial gain. So, to have done that and to create such a movement that now it's in the spotlight, and now people can be compensated for it, is proof that skateboarders will persevere.
Licata: One of the most difficult tricks you've ever performed was the 900. Skaters are reinventing the sport every day by finding new and more difficult tricks to compete with. As someone who was developing new tricks and a different style of the sport, what goes into creating something new to put you above the rest?
Hawk: It's the idea that you can reach something that hasn't been done before, that you can push a limit. It's something that I learned early on because skateboarding was such a blank canvas that I started doing these little tricks realizing there are things that nobody had ever done before and even though I was considered a novelty and circus skater, I really enjoyed that aspect of it.
I could just create these moves, and then as I got older, and as I got more advanced in my skating, I could create moves that were more impressive and spin. So, I created 720 in 1975, and it took 14 years to figure out how to do a 900.
Licata: Your son Riley followed in your footsteps with skateboarding and has similarly developed his own out-of-the-box way of skating, creating a name for himself outside of being "Tony Hawk's son." What has that been like for you not only as a dad, but as a member of the skating community?
Hawk: It's been fun. It's been fun to see him break out and create his own scene and his own style. Early on he was discouraged from skating because he didn't like that my name was always associated with him and that pulled him away from skating for a little bit but he came back to it because all of his peers and his close friends were still into it and he truly was talented for his age and forged ahead and created his own style and didn't do my style of skating, which is more vert. I'm really proud of him because he figured out how to be unique.
Hawk: Just through trial and error. She comes from me already having raised almost five children so I kind of know how to gauge it because I went through all the different styles and personalities and how to get them to overcome their own fears. So, through experience.
Licata: There have been a lot of projects you've taken on outside of skateboarding, but one of the main ones has been investing in the sport, especially with Birdhouse, where you really utilized your celebrity to form a brand. What has taking on the business side of things been like?
Hawk: I like it. It's a challenge. I like that I have the experience and I am still very much vetted in skateboarding so that I understand what works with a skate company and how to navigate team wishes and I enjoy it. It's always a new challenge. I never thought I'd be a businessman per se, but I learned a lot through trial and error and through the ups and downs of skateboarding.
Licata: Even at 51, you're still able to perform impressive tricks. You've had some difficult injuries along the way, including one that happened almost a decade ago when you fractured your pelvis. How did those injuries reframe your mindset as someone with a family?
Hawk: It makes you realize your mortality and what is the value of the risks you're taking. I was definitely much more careless in my youth, and I paid the price through some big injuries so these days I've reached the comfort zone where I can still skate well, I can play the hits of the tricks that I'm known for, but not have to push the limits of risk and danger in order to be relevant.
Licata: What would you like to see for skateboarding going forward?Hawk: More skateparks, more support for women in skating, and more countries getting into it.
Licata: What advice would you give to the young skaters who are trying to make it to the Olympics and reach success in the sport?
Hawk: Learn to skate all types of terrain. Don't just focus on one type of thing or one type of trick if you're really trying to be a competitor. Also, keep challenging yourself. Even if you learn something new, that you never thought you'd be able to do, think about what's next.