Leave it to the “ambassador of action sports,” a skateboarding impresario of sorts, to curate the first-ever action sports and music tour that gives the athletes head billing. He's the lanky, egret-like skate terror who went “searching for animal chin” and wound up wearing a milk-endorsing moustache. Now, Tony Hawk is doing what any semi-young millionaire skate rat would do: using his clout for an event of grandiose daydreams.
Hawk has joined with fellow “stars” from the spheres of skateboarding, BMX, and motocross-plus various rock bands-to transform U.S. arenas into a one-of-a-kind experience known as the “Boom Boom Huck Jam.”
The event showcases the talents of skateboarders Hawk, Andy Macdonald, Bucky Lasek, Lincoln Ueda, Brian Howard and Sergie Ventura. Sharing the double half-pipe and super-ramp with the skaters will be BMX riders Mat Hoffman, Dave Mirra, Kevin Robinson and John Parker. Soaring above the ramps and dangerously close to the ceiling's infrastructure will be motocross riders Carey Hart, Clifford Adoptante, Mike Cinqmars, Ronnie Faisst and Dustin Miller.
Giving the athletes diversion and breathers will be a roving cast of street sport-friendly bands like the Offspring, Social Distortion, Face to Face, Good Charlotte, CKY, and the aptly-named DJ Aero. The San Diego show is one of only two dates blessed with a performance from mechanical electro-legends, Devo.
On the “jock” side, the elaborate, choreographed performances take place on a custom, portable ramp system constructed from steel and European Birch.
“The ramps fill an arena floor,” Hawk explained from the tour bus in Portland. “There's a half-pipe, two motocross jumps that go over the entire half-pipe, a 30-foot high roll-in [that the skaters and BMX riders] use to jump a 30-foot gap. The motocross riders will [use another ramp to] jump a 60-foot gap. The show also features one of the most elaborate lighting systems ever done for a tour because we cover the entire arena floor [as] opposed to just one side.”
An outer oval track surrounds the two motocross jumps, allowing riders to gain speed and slow down as they launch over the vert ramp. Inside the moto track are the two, full-size vert ramps that are separated by the 30-foot gap. Between the two vert ramps runs the 60-foot gap. Between the trick segments, the lighting extravaganza begins, replete with Cirque de Soleil-type carnies.
After a lifetime of making his name in competitions, Hawk wanted to free the Huck Jam of trophy-seeking motivation. He suggests the riders raise the bar further in non-competitive situations because the atmosphere is relaxed. Each of the athletes will ride in choreographed routines by sport, as individuals, and in a combination of all three.
The whole event smacks of a play-up on the “artistic” aspects of the three sports. When the sports first gained notoriety, their hard-riding, street-tough image both confused and intrigued the sporting world. Somewhere along the way, however, came the “extreme” label, which conjured images of shirtless, aggressive, Gen-Xers bungee jumping while shouting expletives. Most of these athletes now prefer to call what they do “action” sports.
That suits Hawk just fine, as does his current undertaking.
“The crowd response has been insane. We're able to do a tour that has a lot of professionals behind it” he says. “People who really know how to make it work and make it run smoothly... [That] we can get 8,000 to 10,000 people a night in an arena to watch what we do is amazing.”
Many feel Hawk is responsible for the success of skateboarding itself, but he refuses to take credit .
“I don't really think of it in those terms,” he demurs. “I think the top pros these days all handle themselves really well and represent the sport well.”
Yet it's undeniable that without Hawk, skateboarding would not have enjoyed the mainstream acceptance required to flourish on a national level. He's a widely emulated spokeman for his sport, much like what Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan are to theirs. With Huck Jam, he's proving that action sports can be the focus, not the diversion.
“Boom Boom Huck Jam is showing that we can have our sports be the focus of a tour instead of being a sideshow to some other kind of tour,” he says. “I don't really know if there is a next level for the sport. It's huge, well received and considered legitimate already. It's a matter of getting more fair compensation to the pros in terms of competitions, earnings and appearance fees.”
A few years from now, young action sports pros might just be able to thank Huck Jam for helping them pay the rent.