Tony Hawk thinks it's funny when fans don't recognize him or mistake him for other celebrities - and he says it happens 'all the time'

Tony Hawk thinks it's funny when fans don't recognize him or mistake him for other celebrities - and he says it happens 'all the time'
tony hawk 2

Don Arnold/WireImage


The name Tony Hawk has become synonymous with skateboarding. The legendary skater's face, however, often draws a blank, and he finds it hilarious.

  • Tony Hawk is the most famous skateboarder ever to live.
  • Even three decades past the peak of his professional career, he is the premier ambassador for the sport.
  • Though the name Tony Hawk is largely synonymous with skateboarding, his face often eludes strangers who approach him in public.
  • Hawk regularly Tweets about the interactions, and chuckled as he spoke with Business Insider about getting mistaken for other celebrities or not recognized in public "more often than I write about."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Tony Hawk is undoubtedly the most famous skateboarder on the planet.

During his career, Hawk won nearly every high-caliber competition in the sport and famously completed tricks that had never before been landed by another skateboarder. In addition to dominating the field, Hawk championed a billion-dollar video game franchise, started a foundation, and pursued countless business ventures, both related and unrelated to skateboarding.

For skateboarding fanatics and casual observers alike, all of these feats have made the name Tony Hawk synonymous with the sport he has helped usher into the mainstream.


The face, however, often draws a blank.

In recent years, Hawk has used his Twitter account to share many a humorous anecdote about the people he interacts with who recognize that he's famous in some capacity but fail to place him as skateboarding's premier ambassador.

"It happens actually more often than I write about, but it's usually not a really funny interaction," Hawk told Business Insider. "I think sometimes people, I assume, get excited, and they're trying to register it... so they'll just sort of say things without really giving them critical thought. I think that's usually what ends up happening where it's like 'you're, uh, T-T-Tom Brady!' Where it just comes out because they know there's some sports star whose name starts with a T. Most of the time those are the things I like to share because they're much more humorous interactions."

In addition to getting mistaken for the New England Patriots quarterback, Hawk has also been confused for disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, Tony Stark - better known as Iron Man - and countless other celebrities in everyday interactions.

When he isn't confused for other famous athletes, Hawk is often assumed to be a Tony Hawk look-alike.


"I only [tell them who I am] if they ask," Hawk added. "It feels pretentious to be like 'don't you know who I am?' I've never subscribed to that sort of attitude so. Sometimes people will be upset when they find out later. They'll be like 'why didn't you tell me?' 'Well, you didn't ask me!'"

But even those people who do come to the realization that they are in the presence of Tony Hawk: famous skateboarder often bungle the interaction anyway.

Hawk has been retired from professional competition since 1999 - the same year he became the first individual ever to land a 900 during an event. After 12 attempts, Hawk stomped the two-and-a-half rotation trick and was carried out of the halfpipe by fellow X Games competitors for achieving the unprecedented feat.

But even with his skateboarding peak dating back three decades, Hawk is still the sport's top ambassador and heavily involved in many skateboarding-adjacent ventures. His charity, aptly named the Tony Hawk Foundation, has built more than 900 skateparks across the United States but predominantly in underprivileged communities, he told Business Insider. He also runs multiple successful businesses, including Birdhouse Skateboards, Hawk Clothing, 900 Films, and the Tony Hawk Signature Series sporting goods and toys.

Thanks to the marriage of his athletic prowess and business savvy, Hawk often speaks on panels and high-profile events. In November, Hawk partnered with American Express and spoke about authenticity in business at Dreamforce in San Francisco. He said authenticity is pivotal in experiential marketing and developing a successful, enduring brand. And clearly he's been successful in doing so; his fame quite literally precedes him, as evidenced in his many eccentric interactions with strangers.


"The big misconception is that I'm somehow complaining about this," Hawk said. "I get recognized all the time, to the point where it's kind of strange. I never imagined I'd ever be famous from skateboarding. Even today, I was grocery shopping, and two different people stopped me just to say what's up and one guy congratulated me for being in the California Hall of Fame and that kind of thing I never expect or anticipate."

"But it's cool!"

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