Tony Hawk has parlayed teenage excellence in the operation of a skateboard into a profile career as the most recognized athlete in the history of the extreme sports.
Among other physical achievements, Hawk was the first skateboarder to execute a 720° rotation during a trick. He followed this trick with the development of a 900° rotational maneuver that he first demonstrated at the X Games in 1999.
Hawk was a professional skateboarder in the then lucrative California pro circuit at age 14. At age 16, he was regarded as the very best skateboarder in the world. As a professional skateboarder, Hawk has won more events than any other athlete. Hawk' meteoric rise to professional acclaim coincided with the worldwide boom in skateboarding in the 1980s. He also became skateboarding's most recognizable symbol; he was used in the marketing campaign by the shoe manufacturer Airwalk among other commercial linkages to his skating skills.
The first skateboards were pieces or plywood attached to roller skates. As the tricks attempted by skateboarders became more involved, the composition of the equipment included fiber glass and composite materials, with sophisticated wheels. The physical principles that govern skateboard jumps and tricks has never changed.
As with other extreme sports, skateboarding becomes more dangerous when the force of gravity and the corresponding speed of the skateboarder are more pronounced. Hawk achieved his considerable reputation through successfully navigating dangerous half pipe layouts that cause the skateboarder to be sent several feet above the surface of the half pipe at high speeds, often upside down.
Skateboarding suffered through a decline in popularity in the early 1990s. Hawk helped precipitate the revival of skateboarding in the late 1990s with the introduction of a PlayStation home entertainment video game, entitled Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, a product that served to introduce Hawk and his high flying acrobatic talents to a new generation of young people. Hawk achieved the distinction of gaining name recognition among an audience who never saw him compete at the height of his professional powers in the late 1980s.
Pro Skater has been released in a number of successive versions. Hawk has become a fixture in the television commercial medium, where his skateboarding is used as a backdrop to the advertisement. Hawk's line of skateboards, known as Birdhouse boards, and his line of proprietary skateboard clothing are also symbols of his commercial appeal.