Tony Hawk creates safe skate parks for at-risk teenagers

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Meet Tony Hawk, the skateboarding pioneer who has helped shape a defining element of today’s youth subculture.

Tony Hawk creates safe skate parks for at-risk teenagers

Meet Tony Hawk, the skateboarding pioneer who has helped shape a defining element of today’s youth subculture.

Market research and consumer insight studies have long tried to understand and hence, define each generation. The millennials — those born between 1980 and 1994 — are often portrayed as apathetic, disinterested, tuned-out and selfish. An article in The Economist went as far as to say “Gen Y are spoiled, narcissistic layabouts that can’t spell and waste too much time on instant messaging and Facebook.” These assessments are upheld by stereotypes and media portrayal, but today’s youth are far more complex than a simple buzz line. Today’s youth culture is made up of a myriad of subcultures, trends and social media phenomena that their parents’ generation has yet to discover.

Skateboarding was likely born in the 1950’s when surfers in California needed an alternative to surfing when the waves were flat, and decided to “surf concrete.” By the 1990’s skateboarding had evolved into an anti-establishment youth subculture, defined by its fashion and lingo. Skateboarding didn’t have a favorable reputation and was associated with “troublemakers” and “miscreants.”

Today, with the increased popularity of skateboarding competitions (such as the X-Games), video games (check out Skate), and the emergence of skate parks, skateboarding is a mainstream sport. Retail companies like Hurley, Vans, and RVCA are making millions of dollars by marketing the skateboarding lifestyle. But, for the last 30 years, one name has defined all things skateboarding: Tony Hawk.

The youngest of four kids, Hawk was given quite a bit of latitude by his parents to roam free, so at age 10, he boarded his first skateboard. Four years later, he turned “pro” and was consistently taking home the $150 first place prize. Before long, Hawk was earning six figures and purchased his first home while still in high school. Hawk was on his way to altering the notion that skateboarding was just about funky hairstyles and edgy graphics. It was a lifestyle.

Tony Hawk@tonyhawk
Tony Hawk Foundation @THF

Hawk wears many hats today. According to his Twitter page, he is a “professional skateboarder, dad, video game character, CEO, kid chauffeur, global hopscotcher, food glutton and public skate park defender.” Hawk has dominated the action sports scene with his fearlessness.

At the 1999 X-Games, Hawk made history by becoming the first skater to land a “900”, a skateboard trick of two-and-a-half mid-air revolutions.

Wearing his public-skate-park-defender hat in 2002, Hawk established The Tony Hawk Foundation. Devoted to creating safe, legal places for kids to skate, Hawk’s foundation has donated more than $5 million to nearly 500 skate park projects throughout the United States, especially in low-income gang-ridden neighborhoods.