Reader’s Poll – Best Vert Skater: Tony Hawk

by Joel Patterson

At last year’s Triple Crown finals in Huntington Beach, California, Tony Hawk skated in his last professional contest, announcing after the event his official retirement from the tedious competition circuit for good. After fifteen-plus years and two generations of competing, he’d decided to get out while still ahead, which is how all the great ones with vision do it.

He couldn’t have picked a better moment to peace out, either. His skating was nothing short of amazing that weekend in early October, and his win capped a hectic year, in which he appeared on television more than Fidel Castro, starred in Birdhouse’s The End, had his name attached to the best-selling skateboard video game of all time, and pulled the 900 in the presence of hundreds of thousands of TV viewers, not to mention becoming a father for the second time.

Having grown tired of an overcrowded contest schedule, Tony’s retirement isn’t the standard one in which the retiree reads Louis L’Amour novels and eats dinner at 4:45¿actually the 32 year old is as busy as ever, if not busier. So it’s no surprise that he received substantially more votes than anyone else in the Best Vert Skater category of our Readers’ Poll.

We caught up with Tony at home in Carlsbad, California¿where he was editing photos for an upcoming autobiography he’s co-writing that’s due out in August 2000¿to interview him about his quasi-retirement.

At the end of 1999 you announced that you were retiring from skating contests, what prompted that?

Well, I decided I didn’t want to compete after the last Vans Triple Crown event, because I felt like that was the best I’d skated all year, and I didn’t really want to compete after ’99.

Why not?

I was just tired of having to skate so conservatively just to do well. I wanted to be able to be spontaneous, and I also wanted to pursue other events. A lot of things were falling on competition days, and I’d always have to give priority to the contests. So I wanted to free up my schedule and be choosier with what I participated in.

I know you entered that MTV contest that took place after the Vans Finals, so are you still skating in contests when you feel like it?

No. What happened was, I was driving home from the Vans event, and I realized I’d already committed to the MTV event later on that month. So I kind of screwed up in that respect. It just depends, though. You know, if it’s something like MTV, and it’s totally different, then that would be fun for me to do. Another example would be that long-jump contest¿I really wanted to enter that, but I got hurt. Stuff that’s totally different and challenging I’ll still do.

Are you doing the X-Games this year?

No.

Are you going to appear there?

I’m gonna do some on-air stuff with ESPN, and I might do doubles with Andy, but not the regular event.

Do you miss contests?

I like always being challenged to come up with new stuff and be consistent with it, but after watching the last contest in Louisville, I’m glad I wasn’t there! Laughs.

Why’s that?

The skating was so heavy. I mean, Bob Burnquist and Bucky Lasek are taking vert skating to a whole new level, and I wouldn’t want to be in the mix there. You’d have to do the absolute hardest stuff you possibly could to win.

Do you think it’s easier to win a pro vert contest now that you aren’t entering them anymore?

As far as the top guys go, I wouldn’t say so. At any given contest it could have been any of us. The tricks these guys are throwing in their runs now wouldn’t have even been considered a year ago. It’s crazy how it just keeps progressing, and I love watching it and still being a part of it in some respects, but I just don’t want to go to all those contests all the time.

How often are you skating now?

About four or five times a week. I’m actually skating more now than I was a year ago.

Do you think all the skateparks that’ve been built in the last few years mightt help produce another generation of vert skaters?

I can only hope so. It seems like there’s a new breed of young vert skaters coming into skating, but there is a really wide gap between the guys who are doing it professionally now and the brand-new kids coming up.

What do you attribute vert’s TV success to?

Vert skating is really visually exciting, and street skating takes a lot of technical expertise to appreciate. So vert skating is the non-skaters’ choice for what they want to watch. Skating’s in a unique situation right now¿it has a huge following of people who don’t skate. You walk up to people on the street and they know what a 540 is, or a kickflip. It’s crazy.