Tony Hawk on Olympic Skateboarding and Looking Up to Michael Jordan

Tony Hawk has seen many changes in skating since he first picked up a board: The launch of the X Games, the rise of sponsorships and, now, skaters making their debut at the Olympics. To some, adding skateboarding to such a traditional athletic event is at odds with the skating world’s counterculture roots. Hawk isn’t one of them. As we found out during our recent interview with the skateboarding legend, he sees the Tokyo Olympics as just another opportunity for skating to reach even more people around the world.

“More people will discover skating through the Olympics,” Hawk tells Men’s Journal, “They’ll discover it’s one of the most unique activities-sports-arts, they’ll ever see.“

And that’s a good thing. It also doesn’t mean skating is going to lose its edge.

“More people will be inspired to go hop fences and skate in schoolyards and get kicked out of places,” he adds. “I embrace all of that.”

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In Hawk’s view, skating is one of the most accessible sports out there (“all you need is a skateboard”), and it has some important life lessons to offer, too. Flying through the air on a board with wheels takes guts, and learning tricks requires lots of patient repetition. Growing up, Hawk struggled in team sports until he discovered skateboarding, which gave him a vital outlet.

“Skating will teach you a sense of self confidence and the value of perseverance,” he says. “It gave me a sense of belonging and identity when I felt like I didn’t belong.”

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Of course, skating isn’t the only thing Hawk has been successful at; he’s an accomplished businessman, too. The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video game series, launched way back in 1999, cemented his status as the biggest name in skateboarding, and he’s gone on to launch numerous other business venture since then. Looking back on his career, Hawk pointed to another iconic athlete as inspiration: Michael Jordan.

“He’s the standard by which all others are measured,” Hawk says. “He paved the way.”

Although the halfpipe might seem a long way from the boardroom, Hawk’s skateboarding experience has also been invaluable in the business world.

“In businesses there are many risks,” he says. “I’ve had success and I’ve had failure, but I know you just get back up and try again, and that’s what I’ve learned from skateboarding.”

One of Hawk’s more recent ventures is a new campaign with Great Clips highlighting the easy haircut scheduling on the Great Clips app—and this one was extra special because he got to work with his daughter Kady. The two shot a commercial together, and despite Hawk’s star power, it’s safe to say she stole the show.

“It was really cool doing it with my daughter and seeing her personality shine through,” he says. “It was really more about her.”

Check out both of our interviews with Hawk in the videos above.

Tony Hawk skates during an exhibition before the Skateboard Vert competition at the X Games Austin on June 5, 2014 at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro/Corbis via Getty Images)

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