The Last Word: Tony Hawk

What's the best advice you ever received?
My old coach said, "Don't listen to the haters." In the beginning of my career, I'd be written up in magazines, like: "He's just a joke. He does circus tricks." But, based on my coach's vote of confidence, I stopped listening to them. Later, when I started getting bigger endorsements, I was the first one to be called a sellout. I just stopped listening to that noise, because it didn't affect who I was.

What advice would you give the younger you?
Lose the pink and the neon, because those pictures will come back to haunt you.

There were a lot of party casualties in the early skate scene. How did you avoid those pitfalls?
I was never willing to compromise my skating for the party. All I wanted to do was keep learning new stuff. It wasn't as if I got to the top of the competitive ladder and was like, "That's it, I've done it. I've won." That was almost incidental to getting better. But some of the skaters of my generation got caught up in the party aspect of it and lost sight of what got them there.

Did you picture yourself as a skater dad?
The life is so youth-oriented, it keeps me young. And that obviously relates to how I approach parenting – doing things that are more fun with my kids; not just being the role-model guy all the time. You definitely have to set some boundaries, but I also want to participate with my kids and to have fun.

How did your parents feel about you skating?
They were very supportive. I was lucky. I played baseball, and the year my dad was appointed president of the Little League was the year that I quit. That was an awkward conversation.

What's the worst injury you've ever had?
Well, breaking my pelvis 10 years ago made me pause. I was doing one of those loop ramps, like a Hot Wheels track, and as I approached, I remember thinking, "Damn it, I don't have enough speed." I ended up off the wall and broke my pelvis and my thumb, and fractured my skull – it was a bad day. I woke up as they were putting me in the ambulance. It took about a year of training to get my confidence and my tricks back.

Your foundation builds skate parks in poor neighborhoods. Have you met any kids who said, "This place saved my life"?
Yeah. All the time. One of my favorite things is going to the parks unannounced and skating with the locals. Usually people just sit down and expect me to, like, defy gravity or do tricks like in video games. It turns into a scene eventually, but it's just fun to be skating with the kids instead of for them.

Who were your heroes growing up?
I was a huge fan of Evel Knievel, obviously, mostly because we liked to watch him crash as much as we liked to watch him succeed. Years later, I got to shoot photos with him at his house. He towed me on my skateboard behind his motorcycle. It was awesome. He was the grouchiest dude I ever met, but he was supercool to me. I loved the do-it-yourself aspect to what he did – the fact that he created challenges and then people would follow him and document it. His tricks became events. I just thought it was cool that he was breaking the rules.

Is there a book or movie that you keep going back to?
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I just like the message – to take chances and be adventurous – and I really like how it was done. And The Big Lebowski, for sure. I know every line.

You're now on video games. Is it weird to see avatars of yourself?
The weird part is just to have any sort of celebrity. When we started, no one was trying to be rich or famous – those dreams didn't exist. That's the thing: I get paid ridiculous amounts to do something I'd do for free any day.