'Cheat' and a 'sellout': Tony Hawk confronts ugly allegations

·3-min read
Pictured here, legendary American skateboarder Tony Hawk.
Tony Hawk says he's been hardened by the animosity against him during his career. Pic: Getty

Legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk is seemingly loved around the world.

The 52-year-old American who was a revolutionary figure in his sporting days, also has his name behind one of the most popular video game franchises on the planet.

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Worth an estimated $AUD215 million, Hawk is known and revered around the world after an incredible career that spanned more than two decades.

He was famously the first skateboarder to pull off a 900-degree aerial at the 1999 X-Games and is a key figure in the popularising and growth of the sport.

However, the American legend wasn’t always very popular in the skateboarding community.

Speaking on the Joe Rogan over the weekend, Hawk said his early days as a pro were tough, with his unorthodox methods seeing him widely mocked in the skating community.

“I was doing these tricks where I’d spin my board under my feet and do these weird sort of hand-plants and aerial tricks and things where that wasn’t the normal and it wasn’t considered the cool way to skate,” Hawk told Rogan.

“They called me a circus skater. They were like, ‘There’s Tony with his circus tricks’.

“I was an outcast in this outcast activity and it was really isolating.”

Hawk was never one of the best at grinding rails or performing kick-flips down stairs, but found his niche in the world of vert skating - where ramps were his playground.

It wasn't the most popular method of skateboarding back in Hawk's early days and he again came under for breaking convention, with a new approach that allowed him to generate more air, despite his skinny frame.

“In order to do aerials at a pool you had to reach down and grab your board and muscle it into the air and above the coping,” Hawk said.

“I learnt how to launch into the air without grabbing my board and then grabbing it at the peak. That allowed me to get the height when I was still really scrawny and weak.

Hawk’s unorthodox style led to ‘cheating’ claims

“They said that technique was cheating. They literally wrote that in Thrasher magazine. ‘Tony Hawk cheats, because he ollies into his airs and that way he can just grab his (board) wherever’.

“I was like, ‘Yes! That’s exactly it, that’s what I’m trying to do!’

“It (claims of cheating) was from a skater that I really respected too. He was quoted in the magazine and it was crushing.

“There was this old guard in skating and they didn’t like to see anything new or fringe.”

Hawk’s approach revolutionised the way people skated and what was once frowned upon, became the new norm.

He eventually went on to benefit from the popularity explosion of skateboarding and the broadcast benefits from events such as the X-Games, which turned him into a global star.

The Tony Hawk video game franchise soon followed, netting the American countless millions of dollars and leading to accusations that he was a "sell-out".

“I was doing stuff for Jeep, for McDonald’s, for Doritos, and they (critics) were like, ‘You’re just a sellout’.

“When I turned pro at aged 14 if McDonald’s had asked me to be in a commercial I would have jumped on it. Are you kidding me? I was eating McDonald’s my whole life. I still do.

“They thought I’d changed my values and I was like, ‘I haven’t changed my value system, it’s just that I’m getting these opportunities, finally. I’ve been doing this for most of my life’.”

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