The Smartest Thing Tony Hawk Ever Did? Not Let a Nearly Genius-Level IQ Keep Him From Becoming a Skateboarder

The pro boarder is proof positive that even "highly gifted" guys get their teeth knocked out every once in a while.

Photograph courtesy of Dale May


Photograph courtesy of Dale May

Mr. Hawk, did anyone ever tell you that you were wasting your time with skateboarding?

Sure, in high school a teacher told me that if I continued to not follow the rules I was never going to make it anywhere.

As a kid you were tested with an IQ of 144. Did you feel any different knowing that you were supposed to be smart?

No, they just put me into what's called the GATE program for people who are more advanced and more gifted and luckily I did have some camaraderie in that. I had a couple of friends who were in the same program.

How does a highly intelligent kid in the '80s get so obsessed with skateboarding?

I was skating with friends in my neighborhood and then eventually I was invited to go to the skate park with one of them. When I saw people flying all around—literally flying in and out of bowls—that's when I knew I wanted to do it. I wanted to figure out how I could get there and how I could fly.

How long was it before you got injured for the first time?

When I was around eleven or twelve, my board got hung up on the top of a bowl and I got a concussion and I knocked my teeth out. That was the first time that I got seriously injured and I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and my parents briefly doubted [me].

What was their reaction?

My dad made me get a new helmet. (Laughs)

What was the most painful injury you ever had?

A broken pelvis. When you break your pelvis you can't do a whole lot. It took me about six weeks to be able to get out of bed. Anything you do that shakes your body is painful all over. You can't cough, you can't sneeze, and going to the bathroom is impossible. It sucks.

How old were you when that happened?

I was about 33. It was a rough time and it took me a long time to get back to skating at the level I was skating because I had a lot of confidence issues. I couldn't trust myself anymore.

That was two years after you landed your first 900, at the time the biggest trick anybody had ever done on a skateboard. In 2012 the first 1080 was done by twelve-year-old Tom Schaar. What does that say about the future of skateboarding?

It basically explains how much support there is for skateboarding now. The fact that a guy like Tom has those kinds of facilities and training grounds and interest and support to do this kind of thing is amazing. We didn't have huge ramps, we didn't have foam pits and stuff like that. So that really shows you how far we have come in the sport and it definitely shows you the future.

Read more of The Talks with Tony Hawk.

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Also on The Talks:

Curtis '50 CENT' Jackson: "Money is Freedom"

James Franco: "I Always Do My Homework"

Leonardo Di Caprio: "I Am a Lot Calmer Now"

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