Back in 1982 a twelve-year-old kid who was about as thin as the pen he was holding sat at a table in sunny Del Mar, California. Two boxes stared up at him as he filled out a skateboard-contest registration form. The one he was used to marking entered him in the amateur contest, the other-the more alien one-was for the big boys. The professionals. He scratched a hesitant X in the pro box, handed the form in, and the rest is history. He went on to win a few contests and invent some tricks that revolutionized skateboarding, such as the “Sack Tap” and that other one where he spins around a lot.
It’s weird to think that Tony Hawk has been pro longer than today’s average skater has been alive. Besides the bragging right of calling out the little punks with “I’ve been pro since before you were an itch in your daddies’ pants!” comes the veneration of having a trade-show party dedicated to you. At the last ASR Trade Expo, Birdhouse threw a surprise party for its most famous rider (and co-owner), celebrating two decades of professionalism. When skate-industry got sloppy drunk and heaved in the Long Beach Convention Center parking lot (I counted four puddles of creamed corn), they did it in Hawk’s honor.
Bryan Ridgeway, a longtime friend and brand manager for Flip, Fury, Baker, and The Firm, remembered the exact day it all started. “He looked sickly and weak until I saw him roll around the keyhole (at Del Mar) and launch into a nice backside air and a vast array of other tricks,” Ridge said. “His helmet made his head look huge on his scrawny body.”
John Hampton was the Birdhouse man who organized the bands, video clips, sushi, beer, and ice cream. The most amazing thing was that he managed to keep it a secret from his boss. “I only knew that there was a Birdhouse party going on,” Hawk says. “But I thought it was going to be much smaller-like in one of the hotel ballrooms. I now realize there were a few slipups by people who didn’t know it was supposed to be a secret, but I didn’t pick up on them enough to figure it out.”
When Hawk walked in, fresh from winning the ASR doubles contest with Bucky Lasek, he was surprised to see some old friends who had been missing in action. “It was a shock to see Chris Black and Tom Green there,” he says. “But I was most surprised by the Peter And The Test Tube Babies ‘reunion.'” Birdhouse flew them and the Adicts in from England, as they’re two of Hawk’s favorite bands from the 1980s. Once the music started, it turned into a respectable trade-show party. Chairs were thrown, and Brian Schaefer traded tabletop body slams with a girl who could more than hold her own. But it was all in the name of fun, the furniture was plastic, and nobody lost an eye.
Hawk, who had a constant crowd around him, had to take refuge backstage midway through the party. “There were still a few people trying to talk business with me, wanting to sell new products, at the party,” he says. “You can have a party outside of the trade show, but you can’t take the trade show outside of the party.”
Hampton had figured there’d be some die-hard businesspeople bending Hawk’s ear, and he organized an after-hours party in a hotel conference room with a pool table, booze, more food, and another band. Infamous musician/skate-photographer O (Otis Bartholameu) and his band fluf played so loud that people were forced to take refuge in the hallway. But that didn’t stop Hawk from taking the stage to belt out a few tunes. O, who may be the most sarcastic person in the skate world and has known Hawk for most of his pro career, sang backup. “Tony Hawk is gay … ” could be heard underneath Hawk’s screaming lyrics, echoing through the hallways of the hotel. You can never say that skaters don’t know how to honor the heroes of their sport.