Throughout the majority of its history, skateboarding has been a niche sport. In 1970s California it was originally viewed as a simple alternative activity to surfing. But over the years, skateboarding skyrocketed in popularity and became common throughout the United States and other parts of the world. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the X Games helped skateboarding blossom into the mainstream.
Many kids also started picking up skateboarding when the first installment of the popular video game series, "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater," was released in 1999. That game's legacy is so rich that a remake for modern-day consoles hit stores last fall.
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Now, decades after being viewed as somewhat of an underground sport, skateboarding will be recognized as an Olympic sport for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics, which begin on July 23. Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk is thrilled that the sport is finally being rewarded with an international stage like the Olympics.
"I think it's exciting. I think it's a testament to all of the skaters' perseverance through the years and how it has become validated in the eyes of kids and mainstream media," Hawk told CBS Sports. "To see it added to an institution like the Olympics, it shows that we're here to stay. We have been for a long time, but there were some growing pains along the way."
Street and park events will be featured during the Olympics. In street events, skaters perform a wide array of tricks that utilize commonplace outdoor items, such as benches, rails, ramps, and even stairs. The street competition will consist of two 45-second runs and five single-trick attempts. The top four of the seven scores are added together in order to determine the final overall score for each skater.
Meanwhile, park events are courses that fans may be more accustomed to. Skaters will perform tricks in a bowl of sorts and can ride from side-to-side in order to perform tricks that will get a ton of air. There will be three 45-second runs in which skaters will compete to land the best tricks and their highest-scoring run will be used as their official score.
"I think it will be one of the highlights of the Games," Hawk said of skateboarding's inclusion at the Tokyo Olympics. "I think it will inspire kids who maybe have never seen or were curious to try it to go and get skateboards. It will invigorate skateboarding into new countries who maybe never embraced it."
Hawk knows a thing of two about helping people embrace the sport. He is easily the biggest star in the history of skateboarding and put the sport on the map. The California native has earned 10 gold medals in the X Games over the years and became the first skateboarder to land a 900, which he did did during the 1999 X Games.
To him, skateboarding has the opportunity to grow exponentially in the same way that snowboarding went from being "a counter culture or misfit activity" to a highlight of the Winter Olympics. But looking back on it, it's all still a little hard for Hawk to fathom that skateboarding is where it is at now.
"I think that kids will choose to skate as readily as they choose to play baseball now in their youth," Hawk said. "When I was a kid, that wasn't the case at all. With the new generation, it's not a shock that you would see it on a big stage. But to our generation, it's still something that felt unlikely because it wasn't appreciated on that level. Now when we see it there, that's incredible."
While skateboarding has become popular all over the world, Hawk is still working to make sure the sport reaches all the corners of the world. Hawk and his long-time partner Vans have set up a non-profit campaign, Skateistan, to help support skateboarding and empower children all over the world. The campaign provides art based education for under privileged children with their skate schools in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South Africa.
"I've supported Skateistan since Day 1. They are a great organization that provide skate and educational facilities in countries like Afghanistan and Cambodia," Hawk added. "I'm a board member and Vans shoes has an initiative to give back to Skateistan through their skate custom shoes. This summer, $10 of every pair of Vans skate customs will go to Skateistan and you can help provide a safe place for kids in the most challenged areas to learn and skate."