Tony Hawk was just 9 years old when his older brother gave him a blue fiberglass skateboard, chipped and scratched from years of use. Little did he know when he stepped onto it and rolled down an alley behind the family’s house in San Diego, that he would go on to become the most famous skateboarder of all time. However, Tony Hawk wasn’t the only young man who would have his life forever altered by the sport. A chain of events was set in motion when in the early 1980s, Stacy Peralta assembled a team of the sports most talented young athletes that would change the face and reach of the sport forever. Comprised of Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, Tommy Guerrero, Mike McGill and Rodney Mullen — the Bones Brigade, would go on to become the most competitively dominant skateboard team in history. Now an accomplished director, Stacy Peralta has come full circle and has brought his dynamic and captivating style of documentary filmmaking back to the place were it all began. His critically acclaimed documentary film, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, encapsulates the story of modern skateboarding, the formative years of the legends behind the sport and the struggles they encountered along the way. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Tony Hawk to discuss the making of the film, the impact of the documentary on the members of the Bones Brigade and much more!
Without question, your time in the Bones Brigade was a huge part of your life. What were you thoughts on hearing that this documentary was going to be made?
I was excited and I was relieved that it was Stacy [Peralta] who would be doing it because he knows the story and his films speak for themselves. I was happy that he chose to tell our story more from the heart.
Where you surprised that it took so long to bring it to bring the unique story of the Bones Brigade to the screen?
Yeah, I was. Especially considering that the Dogtown story was done such a relatively long time ago and there has been this gap of understanding of how we got from these guys skating in backyard swimming pools to the modern version of skateboarding which we see today. I feel like our team and our generation were the ones most qualified to tell that story.
Did you have any reservations about the project going into it?
Not really. If anything, most of us in the Bones Brigade knew that Powell-Peralta could do their own thing and there was some concern that the story could be twisted somehow, considering who was funding the project! Although, I didn’t worry about that because I know Stacy has too much integrity to skew it.
For those who may not be fully in-tune with the story of the Bones Brigade, what does Stacy Peralta mean to the group and you in particular?
He was our coach and our mentor. In a lot of ways, he was our father figure. He is one who put the team together and had the original vision to bring all of this talent together and promote it in a way that was much different from what anyone had done before. Without him, I don’t think that any of us would be as successful as we are.
It is very cool to see his rich history of the sport and the team come together in one place. Tell us a little about the interview process.
Basically, he had a meeting with all of us. We all met at LAX at that strange center restaurant thing and said “I want to do this project. Are you OK with it? Are you all onboard to do this with me?” It was important to him to make sure we were all on the same page. He also explained the reasons he was choosing to do it now. We all agreed and he said “Ok. Let’s start scheduling this!” Not long after that, he started scheduling the interviews. I remember there was about three to four days of interviews, not just with us but with other people who were influential during that era. He went over those interviews and made a rough cut of how thought the movie would go, the cadence of it. From there, he scheduled a second round of interviews to fill in the blanks.
Did this project awaken any memories from that period in your life that you had long since forgotten?
Yeah, definitely! It took me back to those times and brought up a lot of stuff. I have managed to have a second career since that era with the popularity of skating, X-Games and video games. The 80s were a bit of a blur for me! The industry has gotten so much bigger since then, so it was fun to think back on those formative years and relive it in a way. We formed a strong connection at a young age and we knew, even at the time, we were part of something special but we didn’t realize the impact it would have on other people our age. It’s funny looking back because the competitions we thought meant everything and weighed so much on us emotionally, now they don’t seem trivial but they don’t as major now as they did back then. it was a very strenuous time in our lives because we were so young and going through things that we never could of imagined!
How different is the final version of the film from what you might have expected going into the project?
The biggest surprise in the film to me was hearing the stories from my fellow team riders and not realizing what they were going through as well. We were all doing this together and having a blast doing it but none of us knew about the hardships of the others and the struggles of maintaining and pushing through it. It was very enlightening to hear that from everyone, especially from Rodney [Mullen]. Rodney was always very reserved. When you saw him, he was always more about the skating and not about his hardships.
What was it like seeing this film for the first time with an audience and with the rest of the Bones Brigade?
It was the same — enlightening! I think all of us had a better understanding of each other after seeing the film. It was interesting in hearing what the audiences thought because so much of it was what we had lived through and took for granted. To hear the audiences react to certain things that seemed like just a part of life to us, because it was our life, was really interesting.
Having gone through the history again and seeing the retelling the story, what sticks out to you as the biggest lesson learned from that period of your life?
I think it was perseverance — the fact that we continued to do this when people told us it provided no future, it wasn’t a career and let us overcome so many naysayers, even just in regard to style. I guess the biggest message or lesson we can offer is to do what you love doing and never give up your passion. If you are doing what you love, it doesn’t really matter what happens in the end.
What is the relationship between you and the rest of the guys in the Bones Brigade today? Did this project bring you closer together?
It definitely has! We have all reconnected in a much bigger way. Whenever we are in each other’s towns, we are definitely making a bigger efforts to see each other. A lot of us have attended the screening together which has been a lot of fun. I literally got a text from Steve Caballero saying he was going to be in town over the weekend and he wants to skate my ramp. It’s really cool because that kinda stuff didn’t happen a year ago!
Do you think this film helped to dispel any misconceptions about the Bones Brigade or skateboarding as a whole?
To be totally honest, I think it is really cool that the film is giving a whole new generation an understanding of how modern skateboarding was developed. There are so many misconceptions from the kids nowadays. They will ask me “Why do you skate vert?” or “Why do you skate street?”. That was some of the questions we would get asked and the answer is — there was no choice! [laughs] I think it’ll help enlighten kids nowadays as to what their roots are. Some of them make a lot of false assumptions about how we started skating or how we became successful. Not knowing, they assume that it was always the way that it is today and you always had the opportunity to be successful and make a career out of skateboarding. I think we helped create that and this film really provides a great look at the history of the sport.
You touched on having multiple phases of your career both in the sport itself and beyond. To what do you attribute your longevity?
It really comes down to the desire to keep improving my skills. That is really what has brought me so far, along with the desire to create new challenges for myself, not just in skating but business-wise and personally. I love to try new things and explore new territory, so that has really been the key for me. I really thrive on competition.
What other irons do you have in the fire at the moment?
One of the biggest things I have going is my foundation, The Tony Hawk Foundation. It creates public skate parks in low income areas. It is very close to my heart. I woke a lot with them to help communities get facilities. You can learn more at www.tonyhawkfoundation.org. When it comes to the video games, clothing and skateboards, I am always expanding and trying to figure out new ways to spread the word on skateboarding.
Where do you see skateboarding heading in the future? Where do you hope to see it expand?
I think you are going to see skateboarding expanding much more globally. That is where I see the most deficiency, in places like Asia and some parts of Europe where skating is just starting to get recognized. I feel like there will be more of a global movement and with the advent of the new X-Games, where there are doing six X-Games throughout the year all over the world, that will certainly help grow the sport in other areas.
Is there anything that you would do differently or turn back the clock and try to reattempt in your career if you had the opportunity?
Ha! [laughs] No. I think the only thing I would probably want to erase is my worst injury, which was a broken pelvis and fractured skull that happened about eight years ago. I could have definitely done without that, that would have been nice! [laughs]
We appreciate your time today, Tony! It’s been a pleasure. Anything you want to say to your fans before we let ya run?
It’s just an honor to still be here doing this! Thanks for the support!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.