by Kristy Campbell
I’ve never given much thought to the sport of skateboarding. In fact, I don’t really think I’ve ever considered skateboarding to be a sport. But my whole perception about skateboarding recently changed when I watched Tony Hawk and his buddies take to the half-pipe. Watching men my age hurl themselves through space completing what looked like near-death feats on skateboards certainly caught my attention. Watching them fall a couple of times and not cry really made me stop and focus.
I was fortunate to see a Tony Hawk skate because his new RIDE video game is being released this November and my son and I were invited to his corporate offices to demo the game and give our feedback. (So no one is thinking that I’m some impossibly uber-hip tween mom, when I first got the email, I wondered why Tony Robbins was doing a video game. I knew the email said “Hawk” but I visualized “Robbins.” A video game about motivational speaking didn’t sound like a whole lot of fun to me, let alone my 9-year old son.)
When I yelled to my son in the other room: “Hey, Mike, have you ever heard of some guy named Tony Hawk?” he came flying into my office to announce that Tony Hawk is only the most awesome skateboarder on the planet.
“Why, Mom?” His out-of-breath excitement at my question was palpable, and so I began the journey into the world of skateboarding.
First lesson: Tony Hawk is not only the most awesome skateboarder on the planet, but he is also one of the most philanthropic. He has a non-profit foundation with a mission to build skateparks in low-income neighborhoods in order to give disadvantaged kids a place to skate, as well as to help them develop self-esteem with each new trick they learn. To date, he has given over $2, 300,000 to non-profit groups and has helped to build over 390 skateparks throughout the US.
Second lesson: Tony Hawk is no slacker. I suppose I’ve always dismissed skateboarding because the kids always look so…I don’t know…slacking. It seems like they wouldn’t get out of bed if the law didn’t require them to be at school a couple of days a week. However, Hawk has kept himself busy and managed to build a small empire. He has his own line of clothing, skateboards, footwear, bedding, bikes, video games, and even vitamins.
And you know what? Kids have noticed. The Junior Achievement organization recently published a report in which they asked 1,000 teens from the ages of 12 to 17 what entrepreneur they admire the most. Steve Jobs topped the list with Oprah taking 2nd place and Tony Hawk finishing in 3rd. After reading this report, I couldn’t believe I mixed up Tony Hawk and Tony Robbins. I mean Tony Robbins doesn’t have a line of footwear. Slacker.
Third lesson: When Hawk’s childhood buddy and skateboarding partner told me that skateboarding had taught him to believe in himself no matter what, and it gave him a sense that he could accomplish anything, I looked at him standing there with his blue hair and nose ring and believed him. Here standing before me was a 40-something year old dad proud of what he is doing with his life. I thought of how many people I knew who probably couldn’t say the same thing about their own career track.
I could have left right then and with a brand-new appreciation for the sport of skateboarding. But instead, I decided to be brave and demo the new video game. My son and I had a blast and although he beat me every time, I actually caught some air a couple of times and felt quite accomplished. Tony Hawk’s RIDE has already been added to the winter wish list at my house, and I’m thrilled to have a game I can play with my boys that doesn’t involve major league baseball or rock bands.
As my son and I ended our weekend and I watched him sleep on the plane with his signed Tony Hawk skateboard under his arm, I realized that heroes for my son come in all shapes and backgrounds. I was happy to have been given a mommy smack on the head regarding my own judgment about something I thought I knew. No, skateboarding is not a crime and the kids who love this sport aren’t destined to be criminals. Thanks to guys like Tony Hawk, skateboarding has earned a place on the trophy shelf.