Still Tony’s world

Smiling all the way, Tony Hawk won the big contests, stuck the big tricks, and turned it all into a mult-million dollar empire on urethane wheels.

Hawk is a winner off the board as much as he ever was on it. Approaching 40, he has retired from competition but still rolls with the best and still has a bag of tricks any rider would envy.

‘I’m having just as much as I always did. My drive now isn’t to be competitive or try to outdo myself; it’s to see and take part in the sport’s explosion. To see something like this [Black Pearl opening] and experience it is great. If you had said this was going to happen in the Cayman Islands ten years ago, no one would have believed you. It’s great to be a part of it. I still love skating but at the same time, I love the many opportunities skating presents too.’

Those opportunities keep coming for the guy who is possibly the most popular figure in American youth culture today. His video games fly off the shelves and he has earned broad respect as a legitimate, worldclass athlete, not necessarily an easy feat considering skateboarding’s traditional image as a mere kid’s hobby.

Skateboarding in the US has seen dramatic highs and lows over the last 30 years. More than once it has been declared a dead fad. This latest boom shows signs of permanence, however. Among children and teens, Hawk’s popularity outpolls the best athletes in the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball. Hawk is convinced that, this time, skateboarding is entrenched for the long run.

‘In the US more kids skateboard than play Little League,’ he said. ‘If baseball is here to stay, then so is skateboarding.’

Hawk was impressed after a steamy afternoon session at Grand Cayman’s Black Pearl Skateboard and Surf Park Saturday. He says the park is a winner and can become a magnet for the world’s pros.

‘I think the Cayman Islands has the potential to host major competitions,’ he said. ‘The key would be a vert ramp and they say one is coming, so it shouldn’t be a problem. The biggest challenge is coordinating everyone and getting them here. But I don’t think that it will be much of a problem trying to talk people into coming to the Cayman Islands as opposed to, say, Cleveland.’

The endless summer. Rising salaries and more endorsement opportunities, as well as improved nutrition and training, have led to longer careers for pro athletes. These days, for example, top sprinters are often 30-something, unheard of 30 years ago. Some Major League pitchers are still delivering heat well into their 40s. So what about skateboarding? How long can a worldclass skater roll?

‘I don’t know how long I can keep going,’ Hawk says. ‘I’m pushing that every day now. I’ll let you know when I’m done.’