Tony Hawk released a video part last week. People outside of skateboarding might not think anything of it when told of it. Many skateboarders, especially younger ones, might not think much of it after viewing it. After all, skateboarding has progressed so much. The technical aspect of it has risen exponentially and the diversity of influences of tricks within each individual skater has also expanded, as skateboarders now have access to so much history via YouTube, instagram, as well as the newer crop of podcasts that interview older skateboarders, who tell their story and impart history that curious skaters will go back and watch. The truth of it though, is that Tony’s part is actually insane for a few reasons.
He’s 55 years old. Younger people may not quite grasp how impressive that is. Being (and staying) great at something as you get older, obviously gets more difficult. It’s about commitment and momentum. You have to still love what you do. You have to commit to keeping your body strong and flexible by doing work off the board. You have to commit to doing all the maintenance of upkeep of your tricks, because when you stop doing them, they do go away. This is something that all skateboarders come to understand right from the beginning. It just gets annoyingly worse as we age.
He just came off a super gnarly leg break. Anyone that skates or plays sports knows that injuries can be major set backs. They sometimes take a year or more to come back from. Now, add that to the fact that he’s 55. I don’t mean to harp on that, it does get tiresome, but I mention it for a reason. Injuries in general can really impact an athlete’s potential. Look at Grant Hill, Derek Rose, Tiger Woods etc. These people had long careers (Tiger and Rose still going) but never retained their pre injury abilities. Injuries to people late in their careers often hasten the end of (or completely end) said career. There are lists of people in that situation…Larry Bird, Kobe, Bo Jackson…etc. Those people were in their 30’s. Now imagine being 55. Devastating.
When you take breaks from activities when you’re older, the body changes much quicker than it does as a teenager or in your 20’s, and it regresses farther back. This is why what Michael Jordan did was so ridiculous. People don’t think about it, but he retired (meaning completely stopped playing basketball) twice. Think of how fast the talent in a league progresses. Yeah, he was so good, he could step away for a few years, and come right back in…after regressing….twice. With no PED’S mind you…his body just started to naturally break down with nagging injuries when he hit 40. Think about that. THAT’S how much better and ahead of everyone he was. Meanwhile, Tony had to take that break at age 54. Brutal.
As an aside here, the only thing worth noting is that in competitive sports like basketball, your opponents play a large factor in whether or not you can stay on the court. In skateboarding, you skate largely on your own terms, and against yourself. You can age gracefully, stay active, not take unwarranted risks, take a few days off when needed, and even progress and learn new tricks. Now when you talk about competition in the various skateboarding leagues, yes, you will eventually age out because you can’t keep up with the pace of progression from the younger incoming skaters. This however, does not mean the end of progression or evolution if they don’t want it to.
Back to Tony, he is coming back from injury to a sport that is inherently much more dangerous than most. The fear…the coordination and balance and the ability to shift your weight. That alone by the way, is an underrated battle that all older athletes face, especially skateboarders. It’s also one of the things that goes aways first. Tony still somehow looks like a cat. He looks light on his feet. The fear alone in skateboarding as you get older is a substantial hurdle, albeit sometimes necessary to keep one sane and from blowing themselves to pieces attempting something stupid…but a hurdle nonetheless. Add an injury to that fear, where you don’t even trust your body…that can be crippling.
Tony charged back into skateboarding in a way that I personally find almost unbelievable and definitely inspiring. He came back so quickly that his leg hadn’t even healed, and he was skating on a leg that was still broken, only held by the rod they implanted. Yikes. He went straight at the fear and the physical setback and came through it. I don’t think i’e ever seen anything like it. I know what it’s like, as I’ve dealt with possible career ending injuries on saxophone, and pretty recently, a serious knee injury. The mental aspect of it is worse than the physical sometimes.
Even though he says it’s his last part, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him. There will probably be more footage. When you watch him skate, you can see there’s more in the tank both emotionally and physically. Yes, there weren’t the spinning airs that we’re all used to seeing, but his airs didn’t look stiff either. Compare him to the other vert skaters in his age group or even a little behind him. He’s still skating at the same level in a lot of ways, and in some ways, he’s actually still pushing them, because he’s still learning tricks…even after such a set back.
Like Jordan, THAT’S how far ahead of everyone else he was. He could take that set back, and still come back with some low key gnarly tricks on a ramp that a lot of skaters wouldn’t even drop in on, and me myself..well… I don’t even like standing next to things that big. They make me nervous. He is skating it in all ways…coming in from tricks switch etc. Unparalleled at his age and for the sport/life that is skateboarding. There only vert guys I see really close to the level are Bucky Lasek (51), Andy McDonald (50), and Lance Mountain (59). If Bucky and Andy stay healthy and active, they could possibly still skate as well as Hawk does, as both of those guys still have most their tricks…even the airs, as Tony did pre injury. At this point though, because of the injury, they’re probably a little more tech in the airs than Tony at this point. Meanwhile Lance has lost some of the skills obviously, it happens, but he may be the most impressive as he is literally still charging pools and blasting airs from time to time at the age of 59.
So keep these things in mind when you see the video. As I’ve said personally, I think we’ll see more of Tony, skateboarding is simply too much of a part of who he is. For all the shit he (and the other bones brigade members for that matter) took, he is still more of a true skateboarder than most the skaters that threw stones.. That being said, he’s given more to skateboarding than most, and if he walked away from the board, no one would have anything to say. He will have left it all on the table. He is and has been a true embassador.
Enjoy the video.