While attending the PokerStars Players Championship, here at the Atlantis Hotel and Resort in the Bahamas, I had the pleasure of interviewing skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.
Over the course of our brief conversation, Tony shared what he loved most about the game of poker, described the great work done by the Tony Hawk Foundation in low-income areas around the world, and spoke about what he’d like his legacy to be. It was a short, but sweet conversation and I hope you enjoy watching this interview as much as I took joy in speaking with a true legend in his field.
A full transcript follows the interview below.
Tony Hawk Interview Transcript
Robbie Strazynski here with Tony Hawk, the number one name in all of skateboarding, even today. How are you doing today?
Oh, good, thank you.
Wonderful. Well, I know that you first learned poker from your friend’s father back in 2007, in order to appear on Celebrity Poker Showdown and know a little what you’re doing. So you’ve got I guess a little bit over a decade of experience in playing in charity poker events and in events like these at the PSPC. What have you come to enjoy most about the game of poker over the years?
Wow. I love the constant challenge. I love that you can never truly be a master. And it’s just like skating. Skating, you continue to learn new techniques or you continue to learn nuances that change your style and make you a better skater, but you can’t necessarily master everything.
And I do feel that way in poker. There’s so many levels to it, and there’s so many styles of it that you can come in and you can be a good player, but you’re not going to dominate, necessarily.
Right. Well, you know from dominating, obviously…
Well, it’s a little more subjective on that end. But truly, I’m fascinated with it. And the patience it takes, that’s not necessarily my strong suit.
So you want to get it in there with the kings and hope they hold.
If I’ve got something good, I want to go in hard, yeah.
Alright, I hear that, sure. It’s funny, for over 15 years now, everyone knows Chris Moneymaker, they know he sparked the big poker boom, and in a sense, everyone knows: Moneymaker, perfect name for poker. By the same token, “Hawk,” it’s a pretty good name for skateboarding. To what extent — and I don’t know if you’ve given any thought to it — do you that think the name Tony Hawk has helped propel you to the level of notoriety you have in the world?
I’ve never thought much about it because–
That’s why I asked.
Because my name, I was so… people loved to make fun of my name when I was in high school.
Really? No kidding!
‘Cause there’s some other names that rhyme with “Hawk” that aren’t so friendly.
And so, to me, it didn’t seem like it was some blessing, especially when I was, you know, in those formative years. But yeah, it lends itself–
It didn’t hurt.
And I have maybe gone overboard with the hawk graphics on skateboards at this point in my life; there’s probably hundreds of different variations of it, but at the same time, like, yeah, I’m thankful.
Again, it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Also, over these 15 years that poker has been just in the mainstream consciousness, everyone has become familiar with the names: Negreanu, Moneymaker, Phil Hellmuth, all the big names. And until today, you’ve been around for a very long time, people still think of Tony Hawk as the number one big name. Obviously, a prerequisite for becoming well known is succeeding in competitions, being excellent, etc. What does it take, though, for someone who’s already doing that to get to that next level of notoriety in the mainstream? There are other big names as well that are coming up in skateboarding, in poker. What do you think is that secret sauce that gets somebody who is already a professional, who is already doing well, to the next level?
I think there has to be some sort of crossover moment. For me it was video games, for sure; my name became synonymous with skating video games. And I’m thankful for that, because it helped to raise the awareness of skating, it helped to gain more interest in skating. I think that next year, you’re going to hear some new names, if you don’t know skating already, through the Olympics. Skating is in the Tokyo Games in 2020, and so you’re going to hear guys like Nyjah Huston and Pedro Barros, and you’re going to know those names going forward, because they’re going to dominate.
Well, I guess, from poker as well, it would need some sort of a crossover moment…
Yeah, I think that for poker it seemed like it started to get on network television, and you saw these names that were always doing well, and that’s kind of the moment where they became household names.
Right. We can’t let an entire interview go by without talking about the Tony Hawk Foundation, which you started in 2002. That’s very important work that you do, but perhaps the poker audience here at Cardplayer Lifestyle generally doesn’t know about it.
Generally, when I do these events, that’s what I’m raising money for. We do public skating parks in low-income areas; we’ve been doing it for 16 years now and helped to fund over 700 projects.
For the United States, or the world?
Mostly in low-income areas. We have some international outreach programs through Skateistan, and that’s a group that started a skate program in Afghanistan, and they’ve expanded into Cambodia and to South Africa, which we funded.
And, like I said, with the Olympics coming and the sort of global recognition that is happening, I think that the skate parks are going to be much more abundant.
Probably very fulfilling for you as well.
Yeah. And, selfishly, I get more places to skate.
Well, you’re 50 years old now, and you’ve obviously been the world’s most well-known skater by far for all of these years. Your accomplishments are secure, everyone knows the trophies you’ve got in your trophy case. What do you want your legacy to be?
I don’t think of it in such lofty terms. Selfishly, or my pride says I just want people to know me as a good skater. But I hope that someone who helped to raise the awareness and the acceptance of skateboarding in general. That would be something I’d be most proud of.
That’s beautiful, and there’s a lot to learn from that. So, again, thank you very much, Tony Hawk, for joining us here on Cardplayer Lifestyle.
Thanks for having me.