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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: October 31, 2003
Byline: Dan DeLuca


Tony Hawk touches down

The "action sports" honcho's Boom Boom HuckJam tour rolls into town.

So just what is a Boom Boom HuckJam, anyway?

"We use the term 'huck' to describe jumping in the air," Tony Hawk says. "A jam is a competition. And sometimes we fall down and go boom."

In case you're really old and totally clueless of the significance of being the first human to land a 900 on a vert ramp, Hawk is the brand-name icon of what he and his bone-breaking brethren would like to be known as not "extreme" but "action" sports.

Boom Boom HuckJam is the tour, in its second year, that bears Hawk's name that will roll into and fly around the Wachovia Center on Saturday night. And the "we" he refers to are the vert ramp skateboarders, moto Xers, and bikers who are barnstorming the country with him. The who's who list includes bespectacled skater Bob Burnquist, BMX vert hero Mat Hoffman, and moto Xers Dustin Miller, Clifford "the Flyin' Hawaiian" Adoptante, and Brian Deegan.

The latter's presence on the tour is testimony to the truth that these dudes really do fall down and go boom: Deegan replaces Carey Hart, who's having a bad year. After splitting up with girlfriend Pink, Hart broke himself into pieces during the second HuckJam tour stop in Tacoma, Wash., this month, fracturing his leg, hand and heel.

With the Warped Tour coming through town every year with a vert ramp sideshow, and fresh memories of consecutive X Games, what's different about HuckJam to motivate Philadelphians to plunk down up to $75?

"It's different because of where the emphasis is," Hawk says, calling from a tour date in New York last week. "The action — the skating, the motocross, the biking — is not a sideshow. It is the show. We have live music" — the five-man Anarchy Orchestra, playing instrumentals of punk and hard-rock hits — "but it's in the background to keep the energy driving throughout the show."

And in comparison, Hawk says, "the X Games is more scattered, and [HuckJam has] no TV taping delays. You see everything, all in a compact two hours."

Despite its name, HuckJam is an exhibition akin to an Ice Capades tour where Olympic medalists get to do their tricks free from the pressures of competition. "I honestly think you see better riding in our show," Hawk says. "Because we're not hindered by time constraints or what the judges will like."

Hawk, who grew up in San Diego and started skateboarding when he was 9, was earning enough in endorsement fees and prize money by 17 to make a living. He's now a father of three and a businessman whose varied interests generated $250 million in sales last year alone. And though he's a good decade older than most of his peers, Hawk says his skills haven't eroded. "Maybe if we do a bunch of shows in a row, I'm a little more sore than I used to be. But [getting old] hasn't hindered my skating."

He credits his rise to brand-name status to the success of Pro Skater, which debuted in 1999, and included a virtual re-creation of Philadelphia's LOVE Park as one of its courses in its second edition.

"It happened organically, because of the video game, and because I never quit. I survived two generations of skaters, and I never stopped."

Hawk, whose Tony Hawk Foundation builds skate parks in low-income areas around the country, is irked by the ruination of skating at LOVE Park, the popular name for JFK Plaza, which he calls "one of the legendary skate spots."

"The City of Philadelphia needs to do something. If it's not LOVE Park, they need to build something that's in the city, no matter what," Hawk says. He has skated LOVE Park, though street skating was never his strength: "I went through a lot of injuries, and I thought if I want to keep skating, I ought to stick with what I'm better at," he says with a laugh.

He doesn't consider the loss of LOVE a laughing matter, however. "When I was there for the first X Games [in 2001], the mayor did this presentation and proclaimed it Tony Hawk Day. Then, as soon as the X Games left, they shut down LOVE Park and didn't build a skate park the way they said they would. It's hypocritical."

Hawk's been in semiretirement from competition for years, but says that now, after winning his 10th gold medal at the X Games in Los Angeles in August, he's really done. "The schedule and the pressure is just too much," he says. "The challenge for me is to make the tour fresh every year, so we don't show up and it's the exact same deal."

To that end, in addition to its gigantic vert ramp, HuckJam now includes a 14-foot-high, 360-degree ramp that Hawk describes as "like a Hot Wheels track looped to go upside down." Gathering speed, Hawk, three other skaters, and three BMXers go heels over head in hopes of not falling and going boom.

"We think we've got it figured out," he says. "But every night, it scares us."

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