Go Away With … Tony Hawk

Photo credit: Rebecca Joelson

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
April 5, 2011

When Tony Hawk started skateboarding, he never dreamed that the sport would grow to what it is today — or that his name would become synonymous with skateboarding to so many people around the world. “I just always loved it and still have such a passion for it,” says the laid-back 42-year-old champ. “I remember when no one really cared about it at all. And now you have all these amazing skate parks across the U.S. and in places like Beijing.” The San Diego resident also has become a brand name, thanks to his popular line of videogames. His latest is “Tony Hawk: Shred.” Keep up to date with Hawk at his website www.tonyhawk.com.

Q. Where’s the one place you enjoy going to where you don’t worry about the cost?

A. I’m very lucky that I travel a lot on someone else’s dime because I’m invited to make an appearance or do something for work. But sometimes that can get a little tiring, too. Japan is the one place I will go to just to have fun. I pay my own way and have a wonderful time. I love everything about that country — the culture, food, smell. … Japan doesn’t have a huge skate scene, so I never get recognized there and when I do, it’s usually by American tourists.

Q. When dining out, do you prefer gourmet or hole-in-the wall restaurants?

A. I like both, but I do enjoy trying new and interesting places that I can’t find anywhere else. Food is one of my favorite things about traveling. I tried blowfish in Tokyo, which was very good. But if you didn’t know it was blowfish, you wouldn’t really know that it was that different. And I love spicy foods, so when I was in Bangkok I was in heaven trying out all the various restaurants. I saw this one street noodle vendor and the food smelled so good that I tried it to see what it tasted like. It was awesome … until I had to run back to the hotel to use the restroom. I’d do it again though!

Q. When you have a couple free days, where do you go?

A. New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas, for sure.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?

A. I just started staying at The Redbury in Los Angeles. They have vinyl record collections in the rooms, which is sweet. The last time I was in Tokyo I stayed at the Peninsula Hotel. Everyone goes to the Park Hyatt, but I prefer the Peninsula.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. I always have my laptop, my phone, a portable speaker and a skateboard.

Q. What cities are the most skateboard-friendly?

A. I went to a grand opening of a skate facility in Beijing last year that easily was one of the best places I’ve ever skated. I had never been to China before so that was amazing seeing the Great Wall. In a lot of places I go to, skateboarding is literally a foreign concept to them so they don’t know what to make of it at first. I was riding around in a mall area in Beijing — something that would get you arrested in the U.S. And in Beijing it was a curiosity.

The largest outdoor cement skate park is in the Cayman Islands. Winnipeg, Canada, has some really good skate parks, and Germany actually has some really great public parks, too. The U.S. is building new parks, which is great. And I have a foundation that helps fund them in low-income areas. It’s really fun to see all this happening. Skateboarding is such a great sport.

Q. Tell me about one of your philanthropic trips.

A. I went to Sierra Leone on a charity visit and I took some of the local kids for a ride in a bombed-out school. We skated down what used to be the hallway. They didn’t know what skateboarding was so they called it roller boogie. That was the only link they had to it.

Q. What are your favorite cities?

A. Sydney; New York; Bangkok, Thailand; and Osaka, Japan.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. Iceland. I’m going to try to make it there this year.

Q. What trip stands out because it was so different?

A. When skating was at its low point, I wanted to go to Lyon, France, for an exhibition. They were going to pay me and some other skateboarders $300 each to attend. They somehow screwed up the flights so that we would’ve had to have flown back home before we even got to participate. We ended up on a train to Paris, paid $100 to change our flight and then didn’t have enough money to sleep in a hotel. So we went to the local skating area — they didn’t have skating parks back then, it was just an area where the kids skateboarded — and started asking people in broken French if we could stay at their houses. And one kid took us home! We woke up in the morning and they made crepes for us before we headed to the airport. It’s an awesome memory but back then it was a challenge. I remember lots of things like that. When I’m staying at a great hotel or flying to some awesome place, I never take that for granted. I never think I deserve that kind of luxury. It’s a treat and an opportunity each and every time.

© 2011 JAE-HA KIM

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