Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Hawk carves the air

Tony Hawk was in town Saturday night, and if you are a skateboarding fan, you would have turned down an invitation from the president, the pope or the prettiest girl in school with a "Maybe next time."

Hawk and his band of extreme athletes flew, sped and flipped their way around a million-dollar ramp inside the St. Pete Times Forum as part of the Boom Boom HuckJam North America 2002 Tour.

The show was a mix of skateboarding, BMX bike riding and motocross accompanied by colored lasers and raucous rock music played by four 20-somethings with black hair who call themselves Good Charlotte.

But Hawk could have been doing inverts by himself on a half pipe in a parking lot east of Brandon and this crowd would have loved it.

"He's just the best skateboarder ever, he can do anything" said Chris Conradi, 11, who wore orange nylon pants and a black Boom Boom HuckJam shirt.

"Hucking" means launching yourself into the air; "jam" is a gathering of talent; "boom boom" refers to the music's rhythm.

Before the show began, 16-year-old John Clark sat in the nosebleed seats of section 317 with three friends. They ate cotton candy and mused about the legend himself. They'd never seen him live, only on television.

"He looks short when he skates," Clark said.

Hawk is 6 foot 3.

Would Hawk try the "900"? _ a 2{ midair rotation considered the premier move in skateboarding and one that only Hawk has made successfully.

"I heard he was going to," said Clark, outfitted in cargo pants and a loose red shirt.

Prior to the show, Hawk said he didn't know if he would perform the ultimate trick.

"I never make plans," said the San Diego native.

The crowd included teenagers and plenty of children with their parents. Some fans wore skating clothes, others polo shirts. The crowd was mostly male.

If they hadn't tried Hawk's moves on a sidewalk, they had probably tried them on a TV screen. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 is a top-selling video game.

Their vocabulary included phrases such as "going big," which means trying a difficult maneuver, and "high airs," moves that take a skater or bike rider high above the ramp.

"They're both people who've been skating for years and people who're just curious about the sport," Hawk said of his audience.

Hawk is able to draw a huge cheer from his fans simply by being introduced and waving his board high above his head.

He's credited with bringing skateboarding to mainstream America. In skating, he is bigger than Michael Jordan.

Skating is now considered a legitimate activity, Hawk said, rather than a sign of rebellion.

Wyatt Piper, 10, is a fan trying to pick up the basics of staying upright on a moving skateboard.

"I keep on trying but I can't get the hang of it yet," he said.

"I like his attitude," said 12-year-old Jesse Johnson, who has skated for three years. "He never gives up when he's trying to do a trick."

"It's his excitement," said friend Justin Nastasiak, 11. "You never know what's going to happen."