Tony Hawk is not the same as other athletes. Not because he’s a pro skater, or has a game named after him, or has created multiple tricks, or is in many ways considered the father of the sport becoming mainstream. Rather, the difference stems from the way he carries himself.
Every athlete has a certain level of competitiveness in them, one where they feel that they can do anything they put their mind to. It’s part of what makes them the all-time greats that they are. However, when speaking to Hawk before an Pacifico event where he needed to set a high score in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2, he didn’t give a response that you expect from an athlete with his kinds of credentials.
“I can tell you right now, there will be plenty of people watching that will be like, ‘I can get 10 times the score. What is the deal?’ and that is because they have a lot more time than I do to play it,” Hawk told Uproxx. “And I applaud them. I’m not making excuses. I totally applaud them. Yes, they are better than me. I’ve seen the best players, like I mean literally the best players in the world. I would never get to their level no matter how much time I spent on it.”
This is the person Hawk is, someone who is comfortable with himself in a way that is rare for even the most famous of athletes. This is how someone like him can so freely laugh at the idea of people not recognizing him, an experience that has become common enough to be a regular feature on his Twitter account. Make no mistake, people know who Tony Hawk is, these are just small little snippets into funny moments of his life.
“I think the misconception is that somehow I’m never recognized and I’m always complaining about it and that’s not at all why I share those stories.” said Hawk. “Those are just the ones usually, after the fact that I realized how funny they were or how ridiculous it was and so they’re all true. I guess that’s the bottom line is like you can follow me around for at least two days and you can follow me around for a couple of days and at least one or two times that sort of thing will happen.”
It’s the partial recognition, the idea that he looks like Tony Hawk, but isn’t him that is especially funny. Maybe it’s that fans of a certain age remember a younger Tony Hawk, the one who made history with a 900 in competition, or that younger fans know him chiefly from the video game that bears his name. Hawk said he’d been practicing for the event and was going to need that practice because there are people that live and die with the Pro Skater franchise. People have been waiting for ages for the franchise to return, one that, according to Hawk, was sort of a congruence of events.
“I would say I was the one who planted the seed.” said Hawk. “I was having lunch with the president of Activision, who I’ve known for a long time. We were about to do a 20th-anniversary concert celebration and the concert benefited my skate park foundation, The Skate Park Project. And so I have lunch with him only because I needed to get his blessing to use the name of the game in the event. He was talking about how they’ve had good luck with other remasters and reboots of other franchises. And I said you have no idea how many people ask me. ‘When are you going to remaster the first game?’ And that was it. That’s exactly how it started.”
There have, of course, been attempts to revive the franchise before the remaster of the originals. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 and Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD are two notable attempts that didn’t work out, but something about Pro Skater 1+2 is different. It’s the feeling of the game. The developers nailed it perfectly. While it doesn’t play the exact same way as the original two games, it makes the player feel like it does. The first time someone drops into Warehouse it feels like they’re being teleported back to when the original game came out.
That feeling that the Pro Skater franchise has is so incredibly important. Games like Pro Skater are entirely reliant on feeling and flow. It’s why a trophy exists for getting 10 million points, because when the game flows together perfectly, and if the player is skilled enough, then they can hit that 10 million mark. It’s a feeling that Hawk, a member of the one million club himself, strived to achieve when providing his input into the game.
“In the past, I was very involved because I had to give the developers a crash course in skateboarding and skateboard culture and tricks and everything else,” Hawk says. “So those first four years I was hands-on the whole time. I didn’t have to be so much in the later games because they already understood it and then this time around it was more about capturing that actual gameplay from the first two. So the input I had beyond say trick names and things like that was more about the feeling of the tricks and how they react and how they look in the air because there was still a lot of work, but we did have a great foundation to start from.
Trick names in particular are something that Hawk had quite an impact on in Pro Skater 1+2. He played a role in the change of the “Mute grab” now known as the “Weddle Grab.” The reason for the change was because the trick creator, Chris Weddle, was deaf and not mute. It had always bothered Weddle, and with the Pro Skater series being where so many people learn trick names from, then why not change it?
“I didn’t have some great master plan,” said Hawk. “I realized, especially when we release this new remastered version of the first two games, that I could affect change because a lot of people know the skate names of tricks through our video games. And so if there was ever a change to be made that would be a huge catalyst for it. … I didn’t think like I was taking some great stance. It was more like I wanted Chris to be excited about it.”
For Hawk, it was never about making a statement or being seen as someone trying to make a change in the culture of skateboarding. He just felt it was the right thing to do and he did it, a personality trait that fits right into the culture of skateboarding as a whole these days. The sport is more diverse than ever, and you can see it across the many new skaters that Vicarious Visions and Hawk worked to put into Pro Skater 1+2.
“[Skateboarding culture] has evolved greatly in terms of well for one acceptance and two just how diverse it is and how inclusive it is,” said Hawk. “I think that’s probably the biggest change. It was always a place for outcasts but these days it’s much more of a level playing field. Anyone can participate, everyone’s welcome, and you’re only judged on your style of skating. You know what I mean? You’re not judged on your race or your background or your nationality. It’s more like, ‘let’s see what you got,’ and I love that. I’ve loved that and I loved that about skateboarding all along. But the fact that now there are more parks than ever. There is more opportunity than ever. It’s more diverse than ever because of that.”
Tony Hawk has been the face of skating culture for so long that it’s not surprising that with an ambassador such as himself, who tries to be welcoming and carries himself not too seriously, that this is where skateboarding has come. It’s become a place that everyone can be. For many, it’s a home. A place they can be themselves. Hawk is still extremely connected with the sport today. He’s a regular on the broadcast at X-Games events and he still skates all the time. Even at 52, he can still hit a 720. For him, skateboarding is his daily exercise. While the average person may go for a run he’s out there skating.
Hawk never did hit a million during his event for Pacifico. He topped out at 871,000, but there was a moment during it where that classic competitive spark came back. The producer’s off-camera told him that he had time for one more run. He told them he would do two more, but those runs didn’t meet his satisfaction. Then, just like when he was attempting the 900 back in 1999, he gave himself one more run. That competitive spirit never does go away. Hawk just carries it differently. He carries it like a skater.