Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Hawk has seen highs and lows

Skateboarding star survived financial fall

By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer


When: Friday-June 1.

Where: Sawyer Point.

Admission: Free for spectators; $8 for any skateboarder, biker or skater who wishes to use the skatepark Friday and June 1.

Schedule: Click here.

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Nobody understands the financial instability of action sports more than the king of skateboarding himself.

Tony Hawk, the most recognized name in skateboarding and its highest-paid athlete, owned two homes by age 19 and earned about $100,000 annually. By 1991, a national dip in skateboarding interest and outrageously expensive liability coverage for skateparks made him a pauper.

Hawk, who is traveling and communicated to the Enquirer by e-mail, thought his pro career was over. According to his Web site, his then-wife Cindy was the family breadwinner as a manicurist and Hawk was given a daily $5 food allowance.

"...I wasn't about to leave the skateboarding industry. I started editing skate videos for other companies to subsidize my (dwindling) income," Hawk wrote.

Five years after his income plummeted, Hawk's skateboard company, Birdhouse Projects, took off. He launched a line of children's clothing and in 1999 helped spawn the first of many Tony Hawk's Pro Skater video games. Hawk now has eight sponsors, including McDonald's.

Hawk wouldn't disclose how much he made last year. ASA Events founder Mark Shays said he wouldn't be surprised if, based on sponsorships and video games, Hawk's income reached eight figures.

"I think the majority of it comes from video games," Shays said. "But he's constantly putting money back in the sport through things like the Boom Boom HuckJam."

The Boom Boom HuckJam is a tour Hawk created for skateboarders, BMX riders and Motocross.

Hawk, whose name is copyrighted in nearly every country, has been cautious with money after his initial losses.

Though he no longer competes, the 36-year-old is still active in the sport, from demos to endorsements to the Tony Hawk Foundation, which helps fund public skate parks nationwide.

For anyone trying to break into the sport, Hawk had two suggestions: "Get an education so that you have something to fall back on, and keep challenging yourself to stay motivated."


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