Chairman of the Board

Tony Hawk Airs on the Side of Commercialism

The HuckJam represents a seismic shift in the pop-culture paradigm. For the first time, action sports are a big enough draw to launch an arena tour. And with not just any band, but big ones. Social Distortion are set for the HuckJam's Jersey and Long Island stops, bands such as Devo and CKY at others. The Offspring, a four-time platinum neo-punk band, are also one of the HuckJam's supporting acts. Who's the bigger punk rock star, Offspring frontman Dexter Holland or skateboard savant Tony Hawk?

"[Action-sports] athletes have more in common with punk rock musicians than Kobe Bryant," says Guerinot. "I think they would find the aesthetic and market closer to Mike Ness [of Social Distortion] than Shaquille O'Neal. It's remarkably similar to dealing with a band."

The punk rock aesthetic of skateboarding is what attracted another Owl's Head skater, Marcus, age 33. "Most of the people I worshiped were skaters," says Marcus. "They were mostly people that had a real punk personality. Christian Hosoi was one, and Tony Alva, of course."

Big wheels: the Huckjam Stars pre-show
photo: Amy Pierce
Big wheels: the Huckjam Stars pre-show

Tony Hawk's another thing altogether to skaters like Marcus. "It's interesting how he has built a business out of skateboarding," Marcus says. "I was always gravitating toward people that kept their street cred. Not that they stayed poor or didn't make money. It's sort of an image thing. I don't know anything about Tony Hawk other than what I said. I think he's ESPN, not the kind of person that I would watch, even if I were into watching sports on ESPN."

It's early October, and 34-year-old Tony Hawk, all 6' 2", 170 pounds of him, is seated on a futon in a dressing room at the Compaq Center in downtown San Jose, California. The HuckJam is getting ready to perform the third show of its 22-stop tour that night. Clad in his uniform—a T-shirt and shorts—Hawk stretches out his long legs, revealing an occupational hazard—scabby, raw-pink shins. They look as if he had vigorously rubbed a cheese grater against his skin.

Scattered amid the skateboards, helmets, pads, and thick-soled skate shoes that litter the dressing-room floor are the other athletes on the Boom Boom HuckJam Tour. Pro skater Bucky Lasek eats grapes while watching college football on ESPN, bike-stunt legend Mat Hoffman dons a red T-shirt, and freestyle motocross madmen Mike Cinqmars and Carey Hart clomp around in their heavy boots and suits festooned with sponsors' logos before settling down on futons to chill out before the show.

All that talent has assembled in one place because they believe in Hawk's ability to pull off something totally new. When asked why he joined up, Lasek says sardonically of Hawk, "I do whatever he tells me. I'm his slave."

Hawk has been skating professionally for 20 years, through the sport's constant boom and bust cycles, and he's been the top vert skater for about two-thirds of that time. Today, he is a multimillionaire with his own video-game franchise, plus skateboard and production companies. His annual income has been estimated at $10 million.

He is also the father of three boys, and he lives in a large house in a gated community in Carlsbad, California. And finally, he lacks a badass attitude and any visible tattoos. All of which contribute to make Hawk an icon to skateboard fans and, more importantly, to their wallet-wielding parents.

Most skaters grasp the vibe about Hawk. Says 15-year-old Luis Orozco, who attended the San Jose show, "Younger kids are coming to this event because Tony Hawk is a good father figure. He's not a punky skater that parents hate."

Skateboarding and action sports are riding a big wave that is about to crash and shift the sands of American sports culture. According to American Sports Data Inc., as reported in Sports Illustrated, more people under age 18 skateboarded (10.6 million) than played baseball (8.2 million) during 2001. Still, the seats on the HuckJam tour won't be filled solely by skaters.

"It used to be that if you were a skateboard fan, you were a skateboarder," says pro skater Andy MacDonald, a featured rider in the HuckJam. "That's certainly not the case anymore. I talk to people all the time that have never stepped on a skateboard in their lives—be it parents or kids who are just into the lifestyle who don't have any desire to skateboard, but love playing the video games, but love wearing the clothes, the shoes, that whole lifestyle and listening to the music."

Hawk felt the rising tide during skate-park tours in the past couple of years. "It has evolved from six guys in a van, traveling with portable ramp stuff, going to the existing skate parks," he tells the Voice. "In the last few years we've seen the crowds start to outgrow the capacity of the skate parks. The next step was to travel with our own park and do it in an arena, and also to do it in a show format where we had some choreography.

"I want to do stuff like this, rather than doing all these random demos at a state fair or half-time show or whatever it is. We have a tour, we have a crew. This way we're not compromising how we do it for the sake of other promoters' ideas of what a skate or BMX show should be."

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