In 1999, Tony Hawk became famous for achieving the first 900-degree, mid-air rotation on a skateboard, but the San Diego native is also proud of another SoCal-style accomplishment. “Fun fact—I was the first person to buy a [lifetime] Ambassador Pass when LEGOLAND California opened,” Hawk says. “My kids were right in that age range and they loved LEGOs. We still have it.”
In the latest episode of the California Now Podcast, the skateboarding legend chats with host Soterios Johnson about the past, present, and future of skateboarding, as well as his favorite ways to kick back around the Golden State—including riding The Dragon at LEGOLAND California.
The 12-time World Champion and founder of the Skatepark Project begins by discussing the inherently California roots of skateboarding. “There are differing accounts of who was the first one to take apart roller skates and nail them to a two-by-four to make a skateboard,” says the Encinitas resident, “but it was sort of born from surfing—they were trying to emulate surfing on the sidewalk when the waves were flat. Then, the drought in California in the 1970s was the catalyst for these surfers to skate in empty swimming pools, because they looked like waves.”
Hawk then talks about his own journey to fame after creating a unique version of the classic ollie trick. “I figured out this technique—more experienced skaters at the time said it was cheating, while others said it was like a circus act because I was twirling my board like a baton. But to me, that was my progress—it was the only way I knew how to do it.”
These days, he continues to promote skateboarding by being a commentator (like during skateboarding's Olympic debut in 2021), making a cameo on SNL, and hosting “vert” events with his own portable, half-pipe vertical ramp. “I would like to see vert skating as a discipline in the Olympics,” he says. “It's the high-flying moves, the spinning moves. I’m trying to raise the profile, and in turn, hopefully do qualifying events.”
He’s also venturing into other realms—including an in-the-works Encinitas restaurant with chef Andrew Bachelier, formerly of the Michelin-starred Jeune et Jolie in Carlsbad. During the Covid quarantine era, the two friends got inspired to create hot-chicken sandwiches. While the brick-and-mortar location is still in development, Chick & Hawk is doing pop-ups (track them on Instagram) around San Diego, featuring such signature sandwiches as the Birdman, a nod to Hawk’s nickname. “Bachelier’s sauce is what's unique about this hot chicken,” he says. “I would highly recommend chasing one of the popups. And get there early, because they run out.”
Hawk shares his other favorite places to eat and drink around San Diego County, such as the Wagyu steaks at Animae, the rolled tacos at Roberto’s, java at Lofty Coffee, and sushi at Hidden Fish. Between meals, he recommends playing at Balboa Park and, of course, skateboarding. Hawk calls Linda Vista Skateboard Park “the premier park in San Diego in terms of size and variety. Or if you're in L.A., then go to Venice Skatepark because that's always buzzing—there's always good skaters there.”
To finish the episode, Hawk takes the California Questionnaire, offering his insights on the best California song, which stereotype holds true (“yoga—it’s everywhere”), and his dream day in the Golden State. “It would be board sports–focused,” he says, starting with surfing at sunrise. “It would be in the wintertime, and at midday I’d drive up to either Mountain High or Big Bear and go snowboarding until sunset, then go to a skate park for an evening session. That would be the surf, skate, snow dream realized.”