Famed skater Tony Hawk might be best known for pulling off mind-blowing skateboarding tricks, including the first 900, but he’s also a businessman, philanthropist and spokesperson. In addition to his own line of clothing and footwear, he oversees the Tony Hawk Foundation, which helps to build public skate parks in urban and low-income communities. He’s also currently a brand ambassador for Mini USA. We sat down with the Birdman in San Francisco to learn what he’s been up to and to get some thoughts on his life and career.
Q: What’s your main focus right now and how has it changed?
A: My priority is still skating, I still actively skate quite a bit, but the opportunities and the business has changed. And so, like doing stuff with Mini, that’s how things have evolved, we work together and really create fun ideas, it’s more challenging for me, instead of just about skating or tricks or competition. That’s what I really enjoy now, that sort of the challenge.
A: I drive a Mini Countryman. I have four kids so they fit. I love it because it sets you apart. It’s like being a skater, by default it makes you different. But that’s what I’ve always loved about skating.
Q: Many people talk about the first 900 as your biggest accomplishment. What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment in life?
A: It’s more about making a career out of skating, because that just wasn’t really an option when I was growing up. And being able to do it through my adult life and being more widely accepted, more legitimate, I think that’s the biggest accomplishment for me.
Q: Who has had the biggest influence on your life?
A: My family for sure, they were always very supportive, and my dad embraced skateboarding when most parents did not want their kids skating at all. And then I had my first sponsor, Stacy Peralta, that really recognized that I had some sort of talent. He helped me gain a lot of confidence because I was made fun of a lot as a kid, the way I skated, it wasn’t the cool way, so to speak. But he took me and gave me a lot of boost, he gave me support, and he’s the reason I was able to keep doing it.
Q: Is there anything in your life that you haven’t done yet that you really want to do?
A: Everything’s a nice surprise these days, I just take it as it comes. To be able to do this at my age, and still be relevant and professional and innovative, to me that’s living the dream and creating it as I go. There’s still tricks I want to do, but they’re more like small personal goals, not like the massive ground-breaking moves.
Q: Like what?
A: Front foot impossible backsiders … if you’re going to push me on it.
Q: Is there anything you would have done differently? What would you change?
A: I’ve learned so much from my missteps. I learned what not to do and I had to live through them to figure out the right way to do it. In the ‘80s I definitely made some mistakes, like with product endorsements and allowing people to use my name without having any control over it. But because I did that, I learned later on that I have to keep that control. There are definitely a couple of products out there that I wish hadn’t happened. And I’m still thankful there was no YouTube at the time, let’s put it that way.
Q: Do you have a mantra or life philosophy?
A: For me, it’s keep challenging myself, keep learning.