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Tony Hawk: From Father of Skateboarding to Skateboarding Dad

Zach Thompson breaks down Tony Hawk’s career.

Syndication: Brevard Craig Rubadoux/FLORIDA TODAY

In the 1970s, skateboarding was just a niche activity that was seen as a fringy counter-culture diversion that not many people participated in or appreciated. Over the past 50 years, the sport has grown into an industry worth an estimated $2.0 billion, and in 2020, it was elevated to an Olympic sport. The man whose life coincides with the growth of the sport and whose work has put him in the forefront of all things skating has become one of the most recognizable names across all sports — Tony Hawk. As we celebrate the arrival of Hawk’s NFT at the DraftKings Marketplace, let’s take a look at the highlights of his storied career and how he became such a legend.

Hawk was born and raised in California, but he struggled with what was called at the time “hyperactivity.” He was often frustrated by traditional sports, but he gravitated to skateboarding, where he could push himself to do increasingly difficult tricks and push the boundaries of the sport to new heights both literally and figuratively. He did not struggle in school, though, thanks an IQ of 144. He became a professional skateboarder at the age of 14 and quickly became widely accepted as the best in the world. Ultimately, he was a world champion for 12 straight years and claimed 10 X Games gold medals as part of his 64 professional victories stretching from 1983 to 2003.

Hawk was never content just to be the best in the world but wanted to always push the sport to new levels. That started with his iconic quest to land a “900,” a jump off a vertical ramp featuring the completion of two-and-a-half mid-air revolutions. Hawk’s quest to become the first to land the trick took over X Games V, and the event even opted to extend the time of his run to allow him to continue to attempt the difficult maneuver. After 11 failed attempts including several close calls, Hawk managed to land the trick. He had famously made a wishlist of tricks no one else could do, and the 900 was the final trick on that list. He has since done it several other times including exactly 17 years after his first successful attempt on June 27, 2016, at age 48, when Hawk posted what he said would be his final 900.

In 1999, the same year he landed the 900 for the first time, his iconic video game “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skateralso debuted. The game arrived on the original PlayStation console before being ported to every other major platform and was one of the most successful video games of all time, receiving critical acclaim and selling 350,000 units in the first three months after release.

The video game went a long way in helping to popularize the sport of skateboarding and familiarized players with the top talent and most common terminology, language and tricks. Hawk’s 900 even made the original game, and the animation was based on the video footage of the trick he landed earlier that year. The game was so wildly successful that there have been 18 follow-up titles with 10 main-series titles, four spin-off titles, and four repackages, including the re-release of the first two Pro Skater games in 2020 for current platforms.

Alongside his gaming and skating career, Hawk flourished as an entrepreneur. He launched his now-iconic Birdhouse Skateboards brand early in his career, which produces skateboard decks and wheels, in addition to a wide range of clothing and accessories. He also owns Hawk Apparel Company, and recently he collaborated with Liquid Death Mountain Water to produce 100 limited edition skateboards that were decorated with paint that included some of the skater’s blood. The release of the boards was extremely successful, and they sold out in only 20 minutes.

Hawk’s name and likeness have been so recognizable since the release of his video games, he became a popular guest star across multiple music videos, films and television shows. He played himself on an episode of The Simpsons in addition to playing a murder victim on CSI: Miami. He even made appearances on Hell’s Kitchen, Celebrity Wheel of Fortune and as the Elephant during the third season of The Masked Singer. In 2012, he launched his RIDE Channel on YouTube which was led by a show called “Tony’s Strange Life,” which featured interviews, lifestyle reports and skits that spanned multiple genres and topics.

In the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, skateboarding made its Olympic debut. While Hawk didn’t compete since he was 53 years old, he did get to bask in the glow of the growth of the sport and was a key part of NBC’s coverage of the event. He spent a lot of time at the Olympic skate park casually hanging out and chatting with the athletes and posting great content on social media. He said, “As a kid that was mostly lambasted for my interest in skateboarding, I never imagined it would be part of the Olympic Games.”

Hawk has also done great work in the community through his Tony Hawk Foundation, which was created to help deal with the lack of legal and safe skate parks in many major cities in America. The foundation supports disadvantaged communities and at-risk children through the creation of free, quality skateparks that provide safe and inspiring venues for skaters. In 2020, it was renamed The Skatepark Project since Skateparks are its primary focus. In its 19-year history, the foundation reports that it has awarded over $10 million to more than 600 public skatepark projects spanning all 50 States, and also funding parks in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa.

Recently, Hawk’s children have been making headlines, allowing Hawk to become a true “skateboarding dad” in addition to his role as one of the founding fathers of the sport. His son Riley is a professional skater, and his daughter Kadence Clover Hawk is also a skater, who went viral in a video with her dad when she learned to overcome her fear of “dropping in” to a skate ramp. Hawk’s social media presence has helped him stay popular, and he has posted multiple videos of people coming up to him at skate parks and telling him he looks a little bit like Tony Hawk.

The graceful aging and evolution of Hawk into a lovable and recognizable legend of the sport has been impressive in its own way. The name “Tony Hawk” is still the most recognizable in the sport, and it will be exciting to see what the superstar is involved with next.