If you don’t follow Tony Hawk on social media, you really should.
You don’t need to know the difference between an ollie and a nollie, or the importance of a 900° or know how many X Games gold medals he’s won to enjoy the musings and fan interaction by the skateboarding legend and entrepreneur.
Yes, his feed on Twitter and Instagram is heavy with skateboarding content, as well it should be, considering what a giant he has been and still is in the sport.
But you should follow him because he’s funny and engaging, which can’t be said about a whole lot of global sports superstars.
Hawk has been on Twitter since February 2009 and has 3.97 million followers.
His Twitter bio reads: Pro skater, husband, dad, videogame character, CEO, kid chauffeur, global invader, food glutton & public skatepark defender, Old AF & still skating.
His location: San Diego & world at large
His two main bits, other than skateboarding stuff, of course, are recounting hilarious encounters with TSA agents at airports who wonder if he is THE Tony Hawk (or simply wonder whatever happened to Tony Hawk), and leaving skateboards at various places around the world and then posting a photo clue, sort of a scavenger hunt for the internet era.
“I first started on Twitter not long after it was introduced. Eventually I learned how quickly information spreads on there and how you have this direct access to people who are interested in what you’re doing,” the 51-year-old Hawk said this week while back in his hometown promoting the Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival in San Diego on Nov. 22-24. He’ll be bringing back his Huckjam format accompanied by some of his favorite punk rock bands.
“The first thing I ever did there where I realized how effective it is, I stashed a skateboard on a side street on my way to my ramp, actually, and just said, ‘Hey, I left a skateboard on the street, in the cul-de-sac, go find it,’ and there was this flurry of activity, and by the time I got to my office 10 minutes later, there was someone with a picture holding it up, and all these other cars that had been arriving looking for it,” Hawk said. “I thought, this is really cool, a fun way to connect with fans, and there’s no filter. And I really enjoyed that.
“Through the years I’ve learned to sort of deal with marketing messages, campaigns, and having to live within all these rules of what is truly marketing and promotion, and this way I can just do it on my own,” Hawk added. “That’s how I started, but the whole thing of the people where I get recognized or not recognized, those are just honest interactions. I’m not provoking that. That just happens to me. I think the first time that happened to me I shared it because it was a really funny interaction where this woman saw my ID, and my ID says Anthony, which is my real name, and she’s like, ‘Oh, Hawk, like that skateboarder.’ Yeah, exactly like that. And she said, ‘Oh, I wonder what he’s up to these days,’ and I said, ‘This,’ and she stared blankly and I walked away. I thought it was a funny little thing and that kind of thing happens a lot and I’ve shared it, and that’s how that whole thing started.”
In person, Hawk is relaxed, sometimes self-effacing and totally approachable. At 6-foot-3, he stands out. He comes off the same way on Twitter.
“The spin on that is somehow that I expect people to recognize me. I don’t care,” he said. “I have no opinion. I have no preconceived notions of people knowing who I am. I just think it’s funny. And they have this connection where they know my name but maybe my face is older than they expect because they knew me when I was in my 20s and 30s, so there’s always that sort of disconnect. I just think it’s funny. It’s amusing.”
It usually involves a TSA agent. “That’s usually where the whole recognition thing is because that’s when you’re showing your ID,” he said.
Hawk will do his Twitter skateboard giveaway whenever he has time. It’s always a board he’s used.
“If I feel like I can give up my board at the time, I’ll do it,” said Hawk, who in 1999 became the first skater to land a 900° — a 2 ½-rotation aerial spin — in competition. “I was in Detroit (Sunday) and I was planning to do it on my way out and I just ran out of time. I have to carve out some time to do it because I have to chase who’s finding it and what’s happening with it. It’s fun though. I love doing that.”
Hawk said he knows “a lot of people will be looking and if I’m not saying it’s been found, they’ll go from somewhere really far away expecting to find it, so I want to squash that. I usually sign it and I’ll put a hashtag that only I’m looking for. That’s my best technique to figure out who found it for real.”
You’ll even find him proposing a skateboarding emoji on Instagram.
He retired from competing years ago but remains relevant simply because he’s Tony Hawk. Long a fixture in video games, he’s fully embraced tech. He recently released Tony Hawk’s Skate Jam for mobile, and last year took his 360° loop ramp out of storage and gave a handful of young skaters the chance to try to nail the near-impossible trick on a live virtual reality broadcast from the parking lot of his headquarters in northern San Diego County. Inside the building, he has his own halfpipe.
Hawk will get his own stage, the Huckjam Stage, at the Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival on San Diego’s waterfront the weekend before Thanksgiving. Overall, there will be seven stages and more than 80 acts over three days.
The Huckjam format features choreographed and freestyle skating with live music.
“I’m excited to bring my own flavor to this whole festival of music and art and culture and food, and I’m adding punk rock and skateboarding, which I’m very familiar with,” Hawk said.
Bands scheduled to play the Huckjam Stage are Pennywise, Suicidal Tendencies, X and Vandals, with DJ Z-Trip.
“In between those bands you’re going to see us skating with Z-Trip spinning live,” Hawk said. “We’re going to bring back the choreography and freestyle elements.
“It’s pretty cool to get to do this in San Diego,” he added. “I love any event where I get to sleep at home. It’s going to be a blast and I think there are going to be many, many more to come.”
If you’re in San Diego that weekend, be sure to check his Twitter feed. He might leave a skateboard somewhere.