Tony patiently explains to us that no, "Boom Boom Huck Jam" is not a sex move.
Tony Hawk is the Michael Jordan of skateboarding. Over a thirty-year career, he's invented multiple tricks, won many competitive titles, and helped shape the wildly popular series of video games that bears his name. Recently, Tony and skateboarding's original all-star competitive team, Bones Brigade, reconvened for Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, an affecting portrait of the group that dominated the early landscape of the sport. Anybody who spent middle school trying to learn to ollie (as this Nerve editor did) would be well-advised to watch it.
Was it strange “getting the band back together” for the film?
We have kept in touch a bit over the years, and there's always been a mutual respect and understanding for each other, so I don't feel like any of us have lost track of each other, or that there's been any sort of rifts. Mostly, it's been fun for everyone to get excited about it all over again.
The film is very male-dominated. Obviously, skateboarding is still an overwhelmingly male sport, but you've been involved in the sport for so long — have you seen that start to change?
Yeah, totally. I think the ratio of female skaters to male skaters has grown immensely in the past ten years or so. There's women-only competitions, there's the women's category in the X-Games, but you're right, in our generation, there were very, very few — only a handful who were doing it and recognized for it. But that is changing, and it's refreshing to see.
Out of the original Bones Brigade, which of you was the biggest ladies' man?
Hmm. It's Cab [Steve Cabellero]. Without giving away too much, I'd say that in terms of quality and quantity.
How has skateboarding affected your relationships? Have you ever had anyone tell you, "It's me or the board?"
Well, I've been told that I travel too much, so there is that. Touring as a skateboarder has definitely hurt my relationships in the past. But that taught me to prioritize my time, to make sure to only pick the events that are more important so I can be home. Right now, the biggest challenge in my life is making sure that I can be home with my kids.
A lot of the early skaters came from broken or unhappy home lives, and it's very clear in the film that it was important for them to have Stacey Peralta's approval as a father figure. Now that you're in that position for a lot of younger skateboarders, how does it feel?
I was a parent at a pretty young age, and I've learned a lot about leading by example from that. With my team, it's all about encouraging the kids and making sure they have opportunities that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise. I want to be a catalyst and make sure that these kids get the biggest audience available for their talent, so they can see how hard work can pay off.
You created an extreme sports event called the “Boom Boom Huck Jam.” Is that a sex move?
[Laughs] No. Hucking is like, the move that we do when we're jumping off ramps or launching over stuff. And jamming is about creating an event that isn't competitive, you know, it's more of a hanging-out, low-pressure vibe. And we wanted that kind of bad English/Japanese vibe for the name — like when you're reading Japanese food labels, and there's just something kind of off about the language. That's how we got the name.
You're a good-looking guy in a sexy sport. What were your groupies like?
You know, skateboarding was such a marginalized thing in the '80s — the only women who were around us were moms and older sisters. Also, skaters were still considered like, dirty losers. So really, when we were all at the age when girls start to become "a thing," there was no incentive for women to hang around. And now that's totally changed — like, you see skaters on TV, and you know that you can become rich and famous for skating, so there's a bigger “rock star” element to it now than there was. But I'm not bitter. [laughs]
There's a kind of fratty vibe to the early skate videos. As you guys grew older, how did that change?
We all grew up very fast. I think that as we grew older and as the team got bigger, there were definitely more opportunities to fall into groupies and drugs and things, but all of us just had the priority of skating, so that didn't tear us apart as much as you might think. I mean, everything else got pushed aside. But then we all sort of learned the hard way that you can't be on a board 24/7 — you know, kids are a full-time job, marriage is something that you need to work at. And there were no models for this — skateboarding as a career path had not been treaded. There were all kind of lessons to be learned, and to be honest, I had to continue learning, because as my career took a kind of second life in the '90s and got bigger than I ever imagined it to be, so all those early problems were just compounded.
How did transitioning from being an athlete to being a brand affect you personally?
Well, because I had lived through Bones Brigade's success, that helped me to not make the same mistakes and be more pragmatic and resigned. In the '80s I did some super-shitty product endorsements that I'm glad have been forgotten, and that taught me that I need to have control over myself and my image more, so I'm happy to have had a second go-round for that.
You've been married three times. What's the best piece of marriage advice you could give me that would also double as a skateboarding tip?
[Laughs] Let's see… Enjoy the ride. Don't let one moment mean everything.