Growing up in SoCal, I have a stereotypical notion of a skate rat. Skinny kid. Baggy clothes. Long bangs hanging in his eyes. Terrorizing ladies at the strip mall by doing crazy jumps onto the sidewalks. Cut to skate rats laughing and high-fiving the other shaggy looking teens waiting at the other end of the strip mall. Cut to old lady shaking her fist. And, scene.
Then my sister became a skate rat. Sure, this was back in the mid-80s, and so much has changed since then, but she kind of changed my perception of the skateboarding culture.
I guess you could say that my sister was the Tony Hawk of our family -- really bringing skateboarding to the masses and showing people (i.e. my dad) that skateboarding was cool and cutting-edge ... a way of life. A part of the culture. I wish my sister had Tony's entrepreneurial talent -- because then she would have retired from skating at 31, and we'd be living on some island drinking fruity drinks. Sigh.
But Tony Hawk seriously has brought skateboarding mainstream -- yet still maintained that elusive cool-factor. And he turned his interest in skateboarding as a kid, into a million-dollar industry.
Aside from his gear, apparel and gaming successes, Tony has always been committed to charities. He formed the Tony Hawk Foundation to help fund many projects that are near and dear to his heart. This weekend, he hosts Stand Up for Skate Parks (www.standupforskateparks.org) in LA, which promises to be an action-packed, star-studded affair -- all in hopes of raising money to build skate parks around the country.
Here, one of my famous (or infamous) Q&A's with Tony Hawk.
Erica Boeke: Tony, you are now retired from competition but it seems like you are traveling and skating now more than ever, tell me about that....
Tony Hawk: Not worrying about the constant competition schedule has opened up many other opportunities for me. I do many exhibitions throughout the year, as well as appearances and charity work. It has been liberating to choose my own destiny instead of worrying about my rankings all the time.
EB: Yeah, I bet ... with all this traveling and skating how do you find the time to focus on your apparel, gear and gaming...
TH: I do most of it on the road. All of this traveling gives you plenty of time on airplanes to do busy work.
EB: I do all my best work on planes. "Stewardess, hold my calls, please!" But you also are very active with the Tony Hawk Foundation, providing grants for communities to build skate parks. How do you feel skate parks positively affect kids?
TH: I think they give kids that choose to do something different a chance to shine. I also believe that skate parks can give kids a sense of self-worth and self-confidence that they may not find elsewhere.
EB: Cool. What neighborhoods/communities that now have skate parks due to your foundation are you particularly proud of?
TH: We have helped to fund over 450 projects, so it's hard to pick favorites. Compton is special to me because it is such an iconic inner city of Los Angeles, and the park is top-notch. I also like Springfield, OR, because it was our first big grant recipient to open.
EB: Tell me where you hung out as a kid, before there were lavish skate parks and such.
TH: In my neighborhood ... trying to build sketchy driveway ramps in our alleyway.
EB: Nice. Who would have thought you'd end up as an iconic skateboarder hosting your own star-studded celeb events to raise money for skate parks!? You practically invented the skate park! So you have two big events coming up: One this weekend in Beverly Hills and one in November in Las Vegas. Tell me more about what is going on ...
TH: We have family-centric events that include kids' activities, music and skate/bmx exhibitions. We also auction many special items in order to raise funds for THF. Our last two Beverly Hills fundraisers earned over $1 million each for public skate parks.
EB: Very nice! What kind of stuff are you auctioning off?
TH: Extreme trips, signed boards, rare memorabilia, all kinds of cool stuff.
EB: And who is coming that I should know about?
TH: The A-listers from the X-Games and many celebs. People like David Spade, Victoria Beckham, Benicio Del Toro, Lance Armstrong, Diddy, Mia Hamm, Jon Favreau, Jamie Lee Curtis and Pamela Anderson have shown up to previous events.
EB: Very fancy. So let's pretend we're on the red carpet ... or red skate ramp, shall we say, and I will channel my best Joan Rivers. "Tony," (Joan Rivers accent) "Who are ya wearing?"
TH: Quiksilver, always
EB: Nice. OK, now I'll be Melissa Rivers, OK? "So Tony, I hear there will be a live performance by Blink 182 at the LA event, how did you make that happen?" (Is there such thing as a Melissa Rivers accent?)
TH: Well, it took persistence. I asked each member individually before they hit the road if it would be a possibility and they all eventually agreed to it. They played our very first fundraiser in 2004, so it was only fitting for them to come back once they reunited.
EB: Very cool. So Tony, if there was one person you would want to have at your charity event who has not attended yet who would that be?
TH: My father, who passed away in 1995. He wouldn't believe that we've come this far.
EB: I'm sure he'd be so proud. Not only of this event - but I'm sure he'd also be proud of this new video game coming out soon ... tell us what is new and exciting about it?
TH: "Tony Hawk: Ride" (www.thride.com/us) will have a skateboard controller, meaning that you stand on a board that senses your every movement as you play. Your onscreen character emulates your actual movements, to feel like you're actually skating.
EB: Very cool! I hear the game features brand new technology ... and that you might be debuting it at the Wired Store (www.Wired.com/WiredStore) in NYC this holiday season. Is this true?
TH: Yes, that is in the works.
EB: So you have a busy fall, between the Stand Up for Skate parks events and the debut of your new game. What are you wishing for this holiday season?
TH: Some time to enjoy the ride.
For more information on purchasing tickets for the event call 760.477.2479 or visit the Stand Up For Skateparks website at www.standupforskateparks.org. You can also follow Tony Hawk on Twitter at twitter.com/tonyhawk.