By LIM MAY LEE
LEGENDARY skateboarder Tony Hawk, also known as the Birdman, showed off some of the killer moves that have made him a huge cultural icon at the Kiara skate park in Mont Kiara.
Hawk was in Malaysia to conduct a skateboarding workshop for children, in conjunction with the Laureus World Sports Awards 2014 last week.
Surrounded by children who were undoubtedly dying of excitement for the privilege to skate with their idol, Hawk glided effortlessly, but took a few spills, too. Don’t worry, no damage was done!
What is your secret to success?
My only secret is that I never quit. If I had stopped skating for a long period of time, it would be really hard to get back into it, but I never stop.
How do you feel about being an inspiration to skateboarders all over the world?
I never set out to be an inspiration. I just want to keep getting better, and drive my inspiration, but I’m happy if people are inspired by that. If I can help promote skateboarding at all, to people who have never appreciated it, then I would definitely want to do that.
Did you ever expect to become such a cultural icon?
When I started out, skateboarding wasn’t popular at all, so I wasn’t expecting much of anything. I was very young, and as it got bigger, I still didn’t think it was a global thing … it was just something I enjoyed doing. It was more California-based, but then I realised it was much bigger than I thought it would be. I never thought I’d be a spokesperson or ambassador for skateboarding, but I’m glad people trust me with that.
Do you look back and feel proud?
I’m proud of how far I’ve come, still being a skateboarder at my age – professional and contemporary – and I’m proud to be recognised as a skateboarder.
Who was a big influence on you when you started out?
Steve Caballero was a huge influence on me, especially when I was young, because he was small and he learned to fly at an early age. (In a separate interview, Hawk mentioned that he identified with Caballero because he was also small when he was a child. However, Hawk is a very tall adult now! A message of hope for short teenagers, perhaps?)
What is your favourite move?
I like doing FS 540s, the one with the one and a half spin, because you can do different variations of it on most terrains, and people like to see it!
Your son Riley is also a pro skateboarder. Is he better than you?
Riley is better than I am, in lots of ways! His style is more street, so that means more stairs, rails, and ledges, which is not something I grew up doing. I grew up in skate parks, so yeah there’s plenty of stuff he can do that I can’t.
Do you think he feels the pressure of being your son?
I think that’s why he chose a different path. He doesn’t compete, but he uses a lot of video and photo coverage to make a name for himself.
You build skate parks for underprivileged kids. How do these parks help them?
The underprivileged community gets into skateboarding as much as any other sport, but they don’t have the facilities. They are mostly told not to do it, and I feel like if they finally find something they love, but they are told not to do it, what does it teach them about self-confidence and their self esteem? So, I try to provide this type of facility for them to go to where they are looked after, and someone believes in them. To be honest, these skate parks get used more than any other facility in those towns.
You’ve seen one of the skate parks here in Malaysia. What do you think the skateboarding community in Malaysia needs?
Well, definitely more facilities will help, and groups to empower the skaters themselves to be holding their own events, and not be looking towards other countries and cultures to grow it here. Just do it from the ground up. It takes grassroots effort. If there’s a skate shop here, have that shop put on events, (so they can) take pride in their own skate culture here.
How do you think we can popularise skateboarding in South East Asia, especially in these parts?
By taking pride in the local scene and the skaters here, and not looking to other established countries to be the ones to “iconify” skateboarding. It should be someone from here, someone that the Malaysians can be proud of.
As the ambassador for Laureus, are there any community development projects that you’d like to see, especially in a country like Malaysia?
Yeah, Laureus Sport for Good foundation has supported projects in South East Asia, but I really think we should step it up in Malaysia. The Laureus World Sports Awards will plant the seeds, and it should inspire Sport For Good to take up more projects in Malaysia and work more closely with some sort of skate project.
How would you like to be remembered?
I just want people to remember me as an innovative skateboarder, that’s all I ever wanted to be.
You said landing the 900 (a 900° aerial spin that Hawk managed to execute after ten failed attempts) was the best day of your life. Is that still true?
It was the best day of my skate career, and it changed my life in a lot of ways. But there are way more important things in life, especially with children.
So, what’s the new best day?
The best day of my life is today, and the fact that I still get to do it for a living. I still get to travel the world – I’ve never been to Malaysia before – and now I’m here promoting skateboarding. Each day is the best day.