By Kyle Magin
At 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 18, Tony Hawk and his Birdhouse Skateboards posse are scheduled to ride in a demonstration at Woodward Tahoe at Boreal Mountain. You probably know him from his years of professional skateboarding, his Tony Hawk Pro Skater video game series or as that other famous boarder from Carlsbad, Calif. Hawk took some time to chat with TQ about skateboarding, snowboarding (he’s been riding since the sport’s early days) and life as a video game character/tycoon and dad.
Tahoe Quarterly: Tony, can you talk a little bit about the advances in skateboarding technology from your start in the sport to today? How different is a Birdhouse deck from this year from the boards you started out riding?
Tony Hawk: The biggest change has been in size and shape of the deck itself. They went from being very skinny, to wide and clunky and now to something that resembles a short popsicle stick. The current shapes are much more maneuverable, allowing us to flip them quickly and catch them with our feet.
TQ: On that same line, serious attention is being paid to athlete training, maybe moreso than in the past. Here in Tahoe we just saw the opening of the Woodward Center, where riders in a few different sports can dial tricks over foam pits rather than parking lots, outdoor stakeparks or the snowboard parks. It seems like the training expertise and facilities available to young action sports athletes is more on par with traditional sports than ever before in terms of quality. In your opinion, are these centers and training techniques producing better skaters, or can kids get just as much out of skating the way you came up?
TH: It allows kids to learn faster, and in a more controlled / safer environment. I could have only dreamed of these facilities when I was younger because they would have allowed me to try more difficult and dangerous moves without the consequences I endured. But I think the feeling is the same now as it was then.
TQ: The progression in skateboarding is insane, with guys landing 1080s now. Does the progression ever surprise you, or do you view it as natural?
TH: It’s exactly what has drawn me to skating all along; constant evolution and the idea that you can always improve your skills.
TQ: Given the winter/summer sports nature of Tahoe, I hear snowboarders in particular talk about how much skateboarding influences their riding style and prepares them for their sport. Does the crossover work the other way? Do skateboarders take cues from snowboarding or other board sports?
TH: Yes, I think that the entire “MegaRamp” movement is inspired by snowboarding, and many of the spins being tested are ones that are already established in snow.
TQ: How are you on a snowboard? You and Shaun White are both Carlsbad guys, do you ever get out with him on the slopes?
TH: I have been snowboarding since 1982. I’m okay, but more into speedruns and powder. I get plenty of airtime in my skateboard life. But I have been riding with Shaun a few times and he is hard to keep up with.
TQ: There was talk about skateboarding being added for the London Olympics, but nothing came of it. Do you see a place for skateboarding at the Olympic level? Do you think it would be right for the sport?
TH: I don’t think it will change skateboarding at all, but it will help to draw in a younger viewership of the Summer Games (like snowboarding has done for the Winter Games). In other words, people under 50 might actually tune in for more than a highlight reel.
TQ: The new Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD comes out in July. Can you tell us a little bit about developing it?
TH: It’s something I have been pushing Activision to do for a few years and I am happy to see it finally come to fruition. Our first game was released on (original Playstation) and the technology has come a long ways since then. It is amazing to see those same levels, characters and tricks come to life using the current consoles. I think people will be very surprised.
TQ: Is the video game Tony equivalent of how you ride now, or is it a younger version of you?
TH: I’m still riding about the same, so it is how I look today.
TQ: How often do you still skate? Can you still land a 900?
TH: Almost every day, and I can still do it with the right ramp and circumstances—which was always the case.
TQ: Is skating still your main athletic outlet? Have you picked up any other sports that challenge you in the same way?
TH: Yes, skating is my main form of exercise and it is always challenging. I surf and snowboard as hobbies though.
TQ: Do you ever see yourself retiring? It seems like you have a lot of irons in the fire—you’re a dad, you’ve got your charity work, your work with Birdhouse, the game, and I’m sure plenty more. Is there a part of you that just wants to hang out?
TH: I have learned to manage my time better, and devote more to my family. I will only “retire”—meaning not skating for public display—if my skills start fading.
TQ: What do you do when you get an off day?
TH: Hang out with my kids, go to the beach / movies and plan ahead.
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