May 8, 2017 / 11:03 AM / a year ago

How skateboard legend Tony Hawk plans for the long road ahead

    By Burt Helm
    NEW YORK, May 8 (Reuters) - When most people hear the name
Tony Hawk, they picture him whirling through a 900 on his
skateboard at ESPN's X-Games, or on the cover of the iconic
video game series, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, which has
collectively sold millions of copies.
    But Hawk, 48, is also successful off a skateboard, working
as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and investor. Over the past
three decades, he has founded Birdhouse Skateboards, the Tony
Hawk Foundation and invested in tech companies from DocuSign to
    Hawk recently spoke with Reuters about the financial lessons
he has learned over the years, from his days as a high-flying
teenage skate champion to a father of teenagers today.
    Q: Did you have any jobs before skateboarding
    A: My only real job was a paper route for a while. I turned
pro in skating when I was 14. It wasn't lucrative at the time,
but for a 14-year-old, making like $150 at a competition was a
pretty big deal. I basically saved all my earnings until I was
16, and I had enough to buy a moped. To me that was functioning
as a semi-adult.
    Q: When did your career take off? 
    A: There were bigger sponsors involved in the competitions;
the prize money was going up into the thousands. I was 16, and
suddenly making six figures a year. And when you're 16, that
seems like it's never going to end.
    Q: How did you handle that much money as a teenager?
    A: I was lucky that I had my dad to give me a dose of
reality. He said: 'You really should be putting this money away
for the future.'
    I wasn't really looking toward the future. I was just
looking at, like, I could buy a cool car, and I could take all
my friends to Hawaii, and stuff like that. He just encouraged me
to invest, so I actually bought a house in Carlsbad, California,
while I was a senior in high school.
    Looking back, I was thankful for that because in '91, '92,
everything came to a screeching halt for skating. My income was
dropping by half every month. I had this safety net in this
house. I ended up moving back to that place.
    Q: Why did you start Birdhouse Skateboards, your equipment
and apparel company, in 1992? 
    A: I sensed that my pro skate career was ending. I actually
took out a second mortgage on that house, and pooled my funds
with another former pro skater. We started a brand based on the
idea that skateboarding would come back around. That was a big
    Q: How do you invest your money today? 
    A: At first my investment strategy was pretty standard -
just mutual funds and stocks, things like that. But I've started
dabbling in startup investing. 
    I invested in Nest early on (the Internet-enabled thermostat
maker was acquired by Google           for $3.2 billion in
2014). I've invested in Blue Bottle Coffee and a brewery in San
Diego called Black Plague. Also DocuSign and a few other tech
companies. I like startups because I like being on the ground
floor of stuff, when my support matters.
    Q: The Tony Hawk Foundation has built over 550 skate parks
in low-income areas in the United States. Why skate parks?
    A: I saw how prolific skateboarding had become, but most of
the facilities were built in affluent areas. And city councils
were not including local skaters in the process of design or
construction. I remember I got invited to a few of these grand
openings of skate parks. They'd hired the lowest-bidding cement
contractors, and the design made no sense - there was a set of
stairs that ended with a wall. I thought, 'I can bridge this
    Q: What lessons do you want to pass on to your own children?
    A: You can live comfortably and be happy and not always
aspire for something bigger and better – for more. I did that
for a big part of my life, and realized that it's more fun to
embrace what you have and to enjoy those things, even if it's
not the most expensive or flashiest.

 (Editing by Lauren Young, G Crosse)
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