Hes Frickin Tony Hawk!

Skatings poster boy comes in for a soft landing

Last year, 10; this year, maybe 7 or 8. The busiest year was 1997: I was doing all kinds of things—every weekend. I went to Europe four or five times over the summer; only two of them were competitions. There's so much else I can do. I'd liken it to ice skaters when they retire from competition: they can still tour and do showcases.

You're clean-cut compared with many old-school skaters who are much more rough around the edges—not exactly poster boys for parents looking for role models. You've helped to legitimize the sport for people who have not yet been exposed to skateboarding.

I think if the interest is there, the skating will always be progressive. The guys that are skating right now are pushing it more than ever. I don't worry about people losing interest.

There's much more parental support from today's parents. At most skate parks—community or the big ones like Vans—you see many parents sitting and watching, taking their kids to skate like any soccer parent would.

That shows the growing acceptance and people's views on it—how they perceive it. They see it on TV. The guys that are doing it competitively are a good bunch of guys: they care about the sport; they're not in it for the money.

It seems like there has been a big shift in the sport since the 1980s and early 1990s, when there was still much more of an outlaw, us-against-society type of mentality. The ads that used to run with ways to kill yourself are a good example. There was such an attempt to shock people. Now, there's a much more positive vibe throughout the industry.

It's still unorthodox as far as legitimate sports are concerned. No other sport would let you keep trying something over and over until you get it right after your run is finished because people want to see it. In that respect, that's what I've always loved about it. It's not cut and dry with a strict regimen. So, it's still a little rough around the edges, but at the same time, it's athletic. Kids dig it. They like that they can do it at their own pace. That's why I didn't want to play baseball or basketball. I quit the Little League team and started skating, even though no one else was [laughs].

Many people have not and still don't recognize skateboarding as a legitimate show of athleticism. But it is so technical, not to mention dangerous. It seems like lately, though, with the increase in exposure, people who know nothing about skateboarding are able to watch you pull the 900 and be amazed. They can appreciate how much ability it takes.

Kids that they see out on the streets are just starting. The pros are all in their 20s. So there's somewhat of a misconception. But it shows that it can be done at a variety of ages, and that age limit is being pushed farther and farther.

What do you think of the advances in production of skate contests ?

As far as the big contests like the Gravity Games and X Games, I feel like the amount of prize money doesn't truly reflect what it's worth for them to have us there. Gravity Games was pumping up the fact that it was the biggest prize money ever—the prize money was $5,000 more than the X Games for first place, which was $18,000. On the grand scale of things, that whole thing was a major sporting event on NBC. In comparison with other sporting events, like those on major networks, the first-place money would be more like six figures. But the standard was set so long ago.

Yeah, compared to the $400 you won in 1982, that's a lot.

Yeah, and it's a good living. I'm not complaining about that. But at the same time, for the amount of interest they get in it, they could be paying more.

When you think of what advertisers alone are paying to tap into this huge market, the people skating and actually bringing in those advertising dollars aren't getting anywhere near that. It seems kind of condescending.

If you look at surfing, that sport has had big sponsors all throughout the '80s. And I don't think surfing is nearly as popular as skateboarding, but their prize money is way better because they've had sponsors for a while—like Chrysler and OP—at all these giant events. They don't even realize it's not as popular as skating. But it's because they know they can push us aside.

What do you see happening in skating in the next 10 years?

I don't know about the growth being as rapid as it has been. But I think it's here to stay. It will still keep growing in popularity. The foundation is set.

Do you think the sport has become too saturated with pros?

There're not too many newcomers right now. There definitely has been in the past. Someone starting right now has to be really good to get a company's attention.

There used to be just a few big companies; then there was an influx of skaters starting their own companies.
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