Tony Hawk: Puzzles, Skateboards, And Trivia Pro-skateboarder Tony Hawk discusses how he fell in love with the sport, life at the top of the skating world, and his new video game. Then, he plays "This, That or The Other" against Adam Lambert.
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Tony Hawk: Puzzles, Skateboards, And Trivia

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Tony Hawk: Puzzles, Skateboards, And Trivia

Tony Hawk: Puzzles, Skateboards, And Trivia

Tony Hawk: Puzzles, Skateboards, And Trivia

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/679118114/679139755" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Tony Hawk appears on Ask Me Another at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego, California. Mike Katzif/NPR hide caption

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Mike Katzif/NPR

Tony Hawk appears on Ask Me Another at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego, California.

Mike Katzif/NPR

Tony Hawk's first visit to a skatepark proved to be a life-altering occasion as a child. "I literally saw people flying out of these empty swimming pools, and that was my moment," he told Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another, at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego. "That was my epiphany: 'I wanna fly like those guys." That desire to fly would eventually lead Hawk to become one of the most talented and influential professional skateboarders of all time, and transcend the sport and push its popularity into the mainstream with his groundbreaking tricks.

While skateboarding was still somewhat of a niche thing in the late 1970s, Hawk said it wasn't that hard a sell to his parents. Born and raised in San Diego, and the youngest of four children, Hawk said they just wanted him to stay busy. "Most of my friends, their parents didn't want them skating," he recalled. "In the early '80s, it was considered more of a negative influence on kids, but my dad was the den father giving everyone rides to the skate park. It was pretty cool."

Adam Lambert and Tony Hawk face off in a round of This, That or the Other on Ask Me Another at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego, California. Mike Katzif/NPR hide caption

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Mike Katzif/NPR

Adam Lambert and Tony Hawk face off in a round of This, That or the Other on Ask Me Another at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego, California.

Mike Katzif/NPR

As Hawk moved up in the skating world. he placed first in more than 70 percent of the pro skating competitions he participated in — all before the age of 25. Still, as he continued to earn a number of awards in national and international competitions, and later, at the X-Games, he wasn't interested in keeping many of his trophies. "I just didn't like resting on those accolades. I would see people with all their trophies behind them and it just looked obnoxious to me," he said. Instead, Hawk would give them away. "I saw what joy it gave people when I would hand them my trophies that I won, that was way cooler."

In 2020, some pro skaters will have the chance to snag a different type of award: a gold, silver or bronze medal at the next Summer Olympics in Tokyo. "I think it's an exciting opportunity for skateboarding, to raise the awareness of skating for international recognition...I [also] feel like the Olympics needs skateboarding's 'cool factor' more than skateboarding needs their validation."

Now at age 50, Hawk won't be competing in 2020, but he still skates regularly — though, he admitted, he has to work at it a bit more than in the past. "I used to take it for granted: wake up late, get hurt, 'Ah, I'll skate again tomorrow, it'll be fine.' And now it's like, 'Oh, you're so old.'"

Aside from 'shredding the gnar' in real life, Hawk also has the opportunity to flash his competitive side virtually. His series of video games began nearly 20 years ago with the 1999 release of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater — and continues today on mobile. "I'm good at it," Hawk reflected of his own gaming skills, "but I can already see the scores people are posting, like, 'Ugh, I need to practice more.' If you have a game with your name on it, you've got to be on point."

For his Ask Me Another challenge, Tony Hawk competed against American Idol runner-up and current Queen frontman Adam Lambert in a special edition of "This, That or The Other": Skateboard trick, Adam Lambert song, or character from the Tchaikovsky Ballet, The Nutcracker.

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