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Tony Hawk: Pro Skater


I used to skateboard. Even so, I’ll admit that Tony Hawk has never really been my favorite skater. I did, however,  read his autobiography “Hawk: Occupation: Skateboarder.” And truthfully, something about Tony Hawk’s success always inspired me. Now, a little bit older, a little bit wiser, I can see what it is that I secretly admired so much:

Tony Hawk was able to make a fortune–an absolute fortune– by doing something he loved. Granted, he was really really good at it. But at the time, skateboarding was a lot less mainstream than it is today. And while some die-hard skaters might blame Mr. Hawk for “exploiting” the sport, or bringing it into the mainstream, he really was the first person who was able to take the relatively obscure pastime and make a lucrative living off of it.

Today, skateboarding is a 4.8 billion dollar industry. But it wasn’t always that way. Back in Hawk’s high school years, relatively few people knew or cared about the sport. But there was definitely an underground scene, with competitions, and prize money available to those with enough skill.   Needless to say, Hawk had enough skill. In fact, he won so many skateboarding competitions that, by the time he was a senior in high school, he bought his own house.

Despite that, the skateboard industry still wasn’t much of an industry at all. When Hawk decided to start his company in 1992, many believed the “fad” was on its way out for good. Hawk didn’t, and neither did his friend and business partner, Per Welinder. Both of them took out second mortgages on their homes, putting up 40,000 dollars each, and started their own skateboard company, Birdhouse.

But, even as a business owner, the astronomical athlete didn’t exactly become a finicky micro-manager. He quickly realized that he could do more good winning competitions like ESPN’s then newly formed “X-Games.” By making a name for himself,  he simultaneously increased recognition of his brand, Birdhouse.

If being known as “the greatest skateboarder” wasn’t enough to make him a household name, a series of skateboarding video games with his name on it certainly were. I fondly remember the day Tony Hawk Pro Skater came out for Play Station. I spent over 48 hours, during a three day period, playing the game. And I wasn’t alone. The game and its many sequels have accrued more than 1.6 billion dollars in sales in the last ten years.

How much of that went to Tony Hawk, I couldn’t say. But, Forbes has Hawk pegged as “the world’s highest-paid action sports athlete.” Whatever an “action sports” athlete is.

Last year, he earned about 12 million dollars.

And to think that, when it all started, no one really thought you could make any money from such a goofy little “non-sport.”

If you want to know more, I highly recommend you read Entrepreneur’s recent interview with Mr. Hawk, and their look at his newest– and riskiest– video game yet.



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