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 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!"
TSA agent (staring intently): I'm trying to figure out who you look like before checking your ID.- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) August 21, 2018
TSA: that cyclist Armstrong!
Nearby agent: that ain't Lance Armstrong
Me: he's right
TSA: oh you look like that skateboarder (checks ID). Same last name too! Crazy!
guy at restaurant: "you famous?"- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) August 17, 2017
me: I think that depends on who you ask
him: "anyone ever tell you that you look like Tom Brady?"
Guy asks for a picture with me, woman nearby says "I don't know who you are"- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) October 27, 2018
me: I don't expect you to
her: what do you do?
me: I'm a pro skateboarder
her: are you from Huntington Beach?
me: no, I'm from San Diego
her: so you're not that guy with red hair that won the Olympics?
In NYC, guy cutting meat at deli looks up with confusion:- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) June 13, 2019
"you freaked me out, I thought you were that guy from the movie Ghost"
me: Patrick Swayze?
him: "No, his friend that betrays him"
Guy approaches me while standing in line at coffee shop in Cancún.- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) April 3, 2019
Him: my friend says you are a famous person. Is that true?
Me: that depends on your definition of fame
Him: will you show up on Google if I search your name?
Him (typing into phone): you are Tony Stark?
In Athens, Greece at a Cure concert, walk up to bar to order drinks.- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) July 17, 2019
Guy next to me: "you gotta get in the back of that long line to buy drink tokens"
me: ok thanks
him: hey, you're American!
me: I am
him: I know you but I don't KNOW you
me: It happens
him: is your name Kelly?
To clarify: my legal name is Anthony- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) June 21, 2018
TSA agent checks my ID, looks at me, looks at ID, looks back at me quizzically and loudly says
"Tony Hawk's my favorite skater"
Me: I'll tell him.
Guy at grocery store:- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) July 14, 2018
"you ever get mistaken for Tony Hawk... or are you Tony Hawk?
guy on escalator: Hey are you Tony Hawk?- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) June 12, 2018
him: you still skate?
me: yes, quite often
him: but you're not that recognizable!
me: I'm not sure what that means... but you recognized me, so here we are
him: [blank stare]
- escalator ends -
Went to a convenience store on my way to skate, approaching counter with water & Advil (I'm old), clerk sees me: "you look like someone"- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) June 19, 2019
me: oh yeah?
him: "what's your name?"
him: "last name?"
him: "you are him?"
him: "no charge, but you owe me a selfie"
At Disneyland with kids, waiting in line for churros. Girl in front of me: "you look like Tony Hawks"- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) June 15, 2019
me: Is that good?
her, nonplussed: "I guess so"
Approaching ticket counter, agent looks up and exclaims "I know you... you're a famous... person... or sports guy... skateboarder! And your name is..." (glances at my ticket)- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) August 24, 2019
me: close enough
her: my son would love a picture with you
me: Is he here?
Kid at skatepark:- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) July 29, 2019
"Are you Tony Hawk?"
me: I am
him: "no you're not"
me: ok, I'm not
him: "but are you, FOR REAL?"
me: I am, for real
him: I thought you'd look younger
me: ME TOO
Guy in crowded elevator (not the one I got stuck in): "Have we worked together?"- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) December 12, 2019
Me: I don't think so
Him (loudly): "SKATEBOARDER!"
Me: yes, I am one
Him: "We are honored to be in your presence"
Me: That's excessive, but thanks
[awkward glances until doors open]
Meeting a friend for dinner, parking lot full, found a spot a few blocks away and skated to restaurant. Guy at crosswalk: "are you Tony Hawk?"- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) July 25, 2019
him: "I can do a kickflip"
him: "I wish you had your camera crew so I could show you"
me: I'm off the clock
TSA agent (checking my ID): "Hawk, like that skateboarder Tony Hawk!"- Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) March 21, 2017
Her: "Cool, I wonder what he's up to these days"
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