It’s no exaggeration to say that, for people of a certain generation at least, Tony Hawk is skateboarding. During his heyday, the 51-year old elevated the art of rolling about on some wood to such an extent that he, more than any other skater, became seen as the man most responsible for transforming a subculture into a billion dollar industry. Like David Beckham with football, Hawk became the consumer-friendly face of his sport’s unprecedented shift; taking the pastime to places and people it had never gone before.
“If you found skating, especially in the 80s, you did it because it sort of identified you as being different”
Hawk – skateboarding. Skateboarding – Hawk. The two of them are inextricably linked; etched into our collective conscience to such an extent that for the casual observer it can be hard to know where the person of our imagination ends and the sport begins. He is, in the words of fictional anchorman Ron Burgundy, “kind of a big deal.” And, what’s more, he’s talking to me on the phone right now – his slightly awkward Californian lilt unmistakable even with a crackly, time-delayed, connection between us.
“If you found skating, especially in the 80s, you did it because it sort of identified you as being different,” he tells me while discussing the inclusion of skateboarding at Tokyo 2020, “But the Olympics were not something we were ever striving for. And nor was it a great priority. We had our own version of the Olympic Games because we had these huge events that got a lot of attention and which were highly revered in our outcast culture.”