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Tony Hawk: Skateboarding has ‘a lot of potential for growth’ with its olympic debut

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Professional Skateboarder Tony Hawk joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss his new documentary series with GoDaddy, and the future of sports amid COVID-19.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. We are, again, continuing our coverage here in the way that the world has changed in the one year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic. And one of the biggest impacts had been felt in the sports community. Not just one year since the NBA suspended their season back in March last year, but also the way that we've seen a lot of Americans turn to extreme outdoor sports, including skateboarding, if you want to call that extreme.

And for more on that, I want to bring on our next guest here, a man that is directly related to Tony Hawk, Tony Hawk himself, who's also now very busy with the new series cohosted here by GoDaddy, talking about entrepreneurship. And Tony, I mean, there's a lot to get in here with you because, you know, we can talk about the way that you've kind of navigated the changing entrepreneurship around Birdhouse, your skateboarding brand.

But I guess, we'll just start with kind of how sports, specifically skateboarding, has been impacted by the pandemic and what you've seen through your brand and your expertise in that area. How crazy has the last year been?

TONY HAWK: It has been a big surprise in terms of interest in sales and skateboarding. I understand it because people were stuck in one place, and they were looking for new outlets. And I feel like there is a population of people that have always been somewhat curious or interested in skateboarding, but never had the incentive, and them being stuck in one place was their incentive.

And it's something you can do on your own. You don't need a team. You can go to the skate park, and there is a community there. But at the same time, it's an individual pursuit. And so, I get it, but it was very surprising that it took a pandemic to sort of get skateboarding over the tipping point.

AKIKO FUJITA: Tony, let's talk about this GoDaddy series that you've launched. You know, many ways, extreme sports, particularly skaters, have been quite entrepreneurial over the years, whether it's on the content side or the branding side. What prompted you to try and wrap this up into a series?

TONY HAWK: Well, I felt like there are a lot of entrepreneurs in our field of action sports. And it's such a DIY attitude of what we do anyway. So to see-- to actually follow these athletes and businessmen trying to make a career out of their passion, I had just-- excuse me-- I identified with that very closely. And I thought it'd be fun to share their stories and also to lend my expertise and my experience along the way.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, people might not know a lot about that kind of expertise and all the stuff that you learned over your years in the business community through Birdhouse and your other endeavors. Talk to me about that, because I actually didn't even know that skateboarding, kind of as a concept and the excitement around it, kind of, I guess, tailed off in the early '90s before resurging later in the '90s. Talk to me about that and what you've learned over your career in business.

TONY HAWK: Well, yeah, I think skateboarding had a small boom in the '80s, I mean, for people who were in it, we thought it was the biggest thing in the world, because we were making a living doing something we never imagined having a career has. But the interest waned, the skate parks were closing. And then somewhere in the '90s, skating came back into the limelight because of X Games, because street skating had emerged. And then our video game series blew up in the late '90s, and I feel like that's when skateboarding set a foundation that was here to stay.

But I would say over the last 20 years, it has some ebbs and flows in popularity. And now we see it front and center. We see it in so much of pop culture, in marketing, and now in the Olympics. And so, I sense that skateboarding will be something that kids choose to do as readily as they choose any team mainstream sports.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, I know, Akiko has a question on the Olympics that she'll want to sneak in here. But before I let her do that, you mentioned the video game. And "Tony Hawk Pro Skater" is forever, I think, one of the greatest video games and will forever be, in my mind, as one of the first that I really enjoyed. Now sold more than $1.4 billion in terms of games from that release back in '99.

But I guess, if I can ask you one more business question tied to all that and the success you've seen, we always like asking people who have had a career in that, kind of their biggest maybe lesson or takeaway. I know you talk about a lot of it in the GoDaddy series, but maybe your biggest mistake that you'd go back and change in your career.

TONY HAWK: I think the biggest mistake I made-- well, just in terms of financially or trying to start a business was getting into something that was way beyond my expertise. We tried to start a high end denim brand in the early 2000s. And the designs were great. The artist that we got was really well respected. But it just was way beyond what we knew how to do and ended up costing us quite a bit to try to fund it, to try to keep it going. And who knew back then that nobody wanted to spend $200 on jeans?

AKIKO FUJITA: Tony, you've had to wait an extra year for the big debut of skateboarding as an Olympic sport. But I'm curious as you look to Tokyo, what do you make of the prospects of the US team, number one, and where does this elevate the sport? It's already such a global sport, but to be included in the Olympics, what particular-- what specifically do you think that means?

TONY HAWK: I think it has a lot of potential for the growth of skateboarding internationally. I think that in the places where you see it, especially in, obviously, in northern America, in South America, Australia, and in a lot of Europe, skateboarding has already set its place there. But now that we're going to have this international stage, I think that we're going to see it in more unlikely places, places like Africa and in China, in Thailand and places like that. So, that's exciting to me.

You know, I have a bit of a mixed feeling, obviously, about the Olympics because I feel like we were never looking for their validation. And if anything, they need our cool factor for their summer games to bring in a younger viewership. So I have that sort of cavalier attitude. But at the same time, I see the benefits of it. And I'm excited that these places where people have been discouraged from skating will now be embraced for it.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, it's interesting you mention that because it does change the way that the Olympics can try to brand itself, to your point. Who do you think has the inside track here? If we're talking about who is a gold medal favorite, which countries are you looking at?

TONY HAWK: Oh, wow. I think-- well, I think the US, obviously, has a very good team. We've got Nyjah Huston on the street side, who is a technical wizard. And other countries, I think-- oh, that's a good question. There are a couple of really good skaters from France and Australia. Shane O'Neill is one of them, Aurélien Giraud. And I don't know-- it's going to be exciting.

I think that the fun thing about it is when it's actually, you see it on TV. There are plenty of people that watch skateboarding, and they think skateboarding is just people trying and failing stuff over and over. And when you see the level of competitors that they will have, you'll see that these tricks that seem impossible are only possible in video games that they have consistently and they could do it in competition.

ZACK GUZMAN: All right, Tony Hawk, once again, thanks again for coming back on. Everyone can catch him in that GoDaddy series, "Go Forth," for more entrepreneurship tips, as well as, I just got to say, everyone out there, it's a phenomenal follow on Twitter. Tony Hawk, I've enjoyed the jokes you've been making out there, too. Thanks again--

TONY HAWK: Thank you very much.

ZACK GUZMAN: --Tony Hawk.