Hawk’s gigantic tour can’t beat ‘just skating’
July 23, 2002
So the rumor was out. Tony Hawk was coming to town. “Tony Hawk’s Gigantic Skatepark Tour,” to be exact. A traveling, made-for-TV skateboard circus designed to showcase the talents of a host of “extreme” athletes.
So-called “extreme,” I suppose, because the people in charge of naming things like this didn’t see these kinds of sports as normal. Instead of giving them an original name, they simply lumped them together with extreme skiing (another sport they knew nothing about), and the extreme sport “phenomenon” began.
In fact, skateboarding had been going on for about 20 years. Ever since the first sidewalk surfer found himself in the bottom of an empty swimming pool trying to visualize riding a concrete wave, the “sport” had been gaining momentum.
In the early ’80s, low-budget newsprint magazines and word of mouth fueled skateboarding. It was a sport for kids who hated sports, for geeks who saw someone else skateboarding and said, “I want to do that!”
At least that’s what I said. So I learned.
I rode our local ditch. I rode my friend’s back-yard ramp. I skated to school (because I had big soft wheels and actually could skate to school).
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I was a skateboarder. Or more accurately, a skater. Nobody thought I roller-skated, and Rollerblades had yet to plague the earth, so everybody knew what a skater was.
I was a skater, one of maybe three at my 1,000-student school. It was 1982 and skateboarding was at an all-time low. The boom of the ’70s had come and gone, and soccer was the next big thing.
When I was 15 I read an interview with Tony Hawk in a skateboard magazine. I was surprised to read that he was also 15, since he was so skinny he looked like he was 13. “Bony Hawk,” we called him. At that time he was already the best vertical skater in the world.
The best. Tony Hawk took a methodical approach to skateboarding. He didn’t just drop in and get loose and crazy and catch some air and scare the hell out of you. He would drop in and perform perfect, practiced, incredibly difficult routines.
He changed the sport forever. From that point on, skateboarding was about compiling a huge bag of tricks. Kids now stood and practiced tricks in their driveways instead of skating the local ditch.
But what about the loose, crazy style? Those loose, crazy people didn’t appreciate being fazed out. And many refused to be fazed out. Thus, the hatred of Tony Hawk began. Tony didn’t party. He never got in trouble. He became the embodiment of all things goody-goody.
I never doubted his skill, though I often looked to other styles for inspiration. I filled up my bag of tricks with attainable maneuvers copied from my favorite pros.
There is one trick I got from him, though. A sort of back-bending handstand maneuver. Every time I see him do it on TV I shout, “I can do that!” as my wife rolls her eyes.
So when I heard that Tony Hawk was coming to skate in Aspen I was a little freaked out. It wasn’t a scheduled demo, so I knew anyone could skate with him and the other pros. I figured I’d probably sit and watch.
I went to the park that day and skated with my friends. A couple of lesser pros were there, and a crowd had started to gather. Soon, these huge Winnebagos pulled up and a sea of children swept in around them. Some pro skateboarders I recognized from the magazines came down and started to skate with us. It was great.
A crowd started to fill in around us, and soon, surrounded by a wave of screaming kids, the Hawk swooped in.
The kids were relentlessly asking him for autographs. I felt kind of sorry for the guy because I really think he just wanted to skate the park. But every time he popped up out of the bowl he was crowded by kids right there on the deck. He told them, “I’m skating right now,” but they couldn’t control themselves (and they weren’t being controlled).
At one point he was trying to ollie over a 14-foot gap in the big bowl. He rolled in repeatedly, trying it over and over and over again, kicking his board away each time. Between tries I told him I thought he could make it; I told him about some other pros who had tried in the past and how they attacked it. He told me what he thought it would take to make it, using his fingers at arm’s length to visualize airing over the gap. Soon he landed it just as he had described.
That was pretty much all we talked about. But we skated for a while. My wife claims she got a picture of me doing my Tony Hawk trick while a stoked Tony looked on.
After a while, the Hawk bolted for the Extreme Bus and some peace and quiet, with a sea of kids in tow. The lesser-swamped pros stayed and skated for a while before the whole convoy packed up and moved on – to the Sky Bar, I think.
What a day! My friends and I got to skate with some of our idols and show our stuff for the people and cameras. Pretty much a dream come true. I’ve heard of rich people paying millions of dollars to play golf with Tiger Woods. Skating with Tony Hawk was free. Somebody would have probably made us pay if they could have, but we know what Tony and the others knew.
We were just skating.
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