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Columbia Missourian

Tony Hawk and Twitter bring skate tour to Columbia

By Nick Friedman
October 17, 2009 | 7:50 p.m. CDT
Professional skateboarder Tony Hawk came to Columbia on Saturday to demonstrate skateboarding tricks and publicize the release of his new video game, “Ride.” Shakespeare’s Pizza sponsored the event and threw in free pizza for the public.

COLUMBIA — Retired professional skateboarder Tony Hawk gave a skateboarding demonstration Saturday in Cosmopolitan Park as part of a tour announced on Twitter.

Hawk, along with his Birdhouse skate team, is experimenting with an underground style of promotion. He gives hints to the locations of his demonstrations in the form of Tweets, which his followers must then decode. His hint for today’s demonstration asked fans where they could still find Nixon in office, referring to Gov. Jay Nixon.

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The decision to bring the tour to Columbia spawned from a desire to perform in a central U.S. location. “We scoped out a few places,” Hawk said. “Columbia was sort of the most welcoming of doing an event in their town and accommodating this sort of scene.”

“I think it’s so cool the way he did all this through Twitter,” said Karen Ramey, Columbia Parks and Recreation superintendent. “We were kind of told to keep it quiet and not really announce it.”

Hawk developed this unconventional tour style on his last tour in Australia. With only a few announced exhibitions, he decided to leak the rest on his Twitter account. The response was so positive that he decided to use the technique in the U.S.

“I just decided this was sort of the best way to tour,” Hawk said. “This sort of renegade style and not do a lot of big hoopla announced exhibitions because it's way more intimate, way more interactive, this way.”

Hawk, along with his son Riley and the Birdhouse skate team, performed an hour-long street demonstration in Cosmo’s skate park before moving the show to his personal 14-foot half-pipe where Hawk could fully display his skills. At 41, Hawk showed no signs of slowing down. He pulled out a few of his signature tricks and performed a set of tricks as a salute to the ’80s.

Young skateboarders in attendance were thrilled to see the renowned skater perform in their park. Children chased him from place to place, and chanted demands for tricks.

“I had no idea this was happening until yesterday,” said Trevor Jolley, 13, of Columbia. “I want to see him skate; I’ve never seen someone skate a vert ramp that big.”

After retiring from professional skateboarding in 1999, Hawk has continued to be a household name. His video game series, “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” has enjoyed steady popularity, as well as his clothing line and skateboard company.

Most recently, Hawk is concentrating on his new interactive skateboarding video game, “Tony Hawk Ride,” in which users stand on a board and use it to control a player in the game.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I just felt the technology wasn’t ready,”  Hawk said. “It is a big risk in terms of parting so far from our previous series, but I feel that’s where video games are now– they’re interactive.”

Hawk said the fans enjoy the new style of promotion because they can feel like they are in on the secret. As the tour moves toward the East Coast, it will take a more traditional approach. “The rest of the time that we’re on this tour, it’s going to be more obvious where we’re going to be," Hawk said. "But this one just felt right; it’s a college town so obviously people get it.”