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"I haven't won the finals in a long time," says Tony Hawk, tired and catching his breath after his final run at the Oct. 1-3 Vans World Championships of Skateboarding at Huntington State Beach. "I'm not having as much fun competing. I think I'm done."
Not quite done. A moment later, he slides down the vert ramp to the Van Doren family to collect a fat first-place check for $15,000.
Most guys in their 30s are shopping at Home Depot, mowing the lawn, and shuttling the kids to and from soccer games. Not the 31-year-old Hawk, who has made skateboarding the focus of his life for the past 17 years. While Hawk was tearing up his final run—busting 720s and 540s over the channel for a crowd of enthusiastic skate fans—his more arthritic contemporaries had just finished the Masters Competition. Not a lot has changed for them. They are grown men with grown men's concerns—except they're more likely to miss work on Monday because of a broken arm. Mike Smith was carried out of the bottom of the 65-foot "soul bowl" through the Plexiglas portal, but he still walked away with third place. Along with Smith, the Masters Competition paid homage to some of the pioneers of the sport, including Steve Caballero (who walked away with first place honors), Jeff Grosso (second place), Lance Mountain and Mike Folmer. Except for Caballero (who still skates professionally), they work on the industry side of things or in less glamorous pursuits like laying hardwood flooring and cleaning carpets.
"I'm a weekend warrior now," explains Grosso, who walked away with some Home Depot spending cash. "It's nice to get a pat on the back. I just skate to keep my sanity. My career is pretty much over, but it's nice to still be skating with the same guys from 10 and 15 years ago. Watching what the younger guys can do is amazing."
What's even more amazing is that Hawk—ripe enough for the Masters competition—still competes with younger skaters. But it's getting harder. And he has companies to run. He owns 50 percent of Birdhouse, the second largest skateboard and apparel company in the world (annual sales exceed $10 million), and Hawk Kids, a new clothing company he co-owns with his family.
He could feed his family for life by marketing his name and image alone. He's frickin' Tony Hawk. He has already pulled the loop: two-and-half rotations in succession in midair, a.k.a. the 900, the kind of classic maneuver that landed him not in the hospital but in one of Annie Liebowitz's milk ads and a Gap commercial. His Birdhouse skate movie, The End—a kind of MTV music video meets feature film—was last year's highest selling skate video. He has a Sony PlayStation game with his name and image as the selling point. Skaters like to say that Michael Jordan is the Tony Hawk of the basketball world. And now he's the champ again.
In a recent Transworld Skateboarding interview, Hawk said he'd like to spend more time with his family, as well as exit the sport on top—his goal, he said, was "to not live off a previous reputation." He doesn't need to. He's made a smooth transition into Tony Hawk, businessman.
I met with Hawk over lunch to chat about his new life.OC Weekly:When I talked to you at the Vans Triple Crown right before they announced the winners, you hinted that you would retire. Are you? Tony Hawk:Yes. I'm going to keep skating; I just don't want to keep competing. It's not really as fun anymore. Chasing these events just for the sake of placing well and being seen—I just don't want to do that anymore. It's getting harder to get motivated for contests. Compared to most professional athlete's careers, yours has been long at 17 years.
In most other sports, it's hard to make a living if you don't compete, but with skating, there's plenty who don't. Some of the most popular skaters, like Chad Muska, Jamie Thomas, those guys never enter contests. That's what I want to do—skate demos and try to be progressive but without going to so many events.It has to be hard when people expect you to win every time.
Even if you skate well and finish second, you've lost. That's not really what it's about. I'm skating at an MTV thing next weekend in Vegas. They're building a gigantic ramp—way bigger than anything else—to set the height world record.Are they trying to break Danny Way's record?
Well, everyone knows he has it, but it wasn't on tape. But Danny's going to be there. Now's his chance to set the record officially. They're going to have highest air and best trick. I was invited to participate in both. I'd rather be doing stuff like that than competing. I don't see it as a contest, but more like seeing what all the guys can do. As far as X Games and all that, I'm finished.Are you tired of being in the spotlight?
In a lot of ways, yeah, but I'm also getting tired of the hectic schedule. I do get a lot of opportunities to do other things besides the contests within the same time frame. And I'd rather do some of the things that I've held off on.How many contests have you competed in this year?