If gravity didn’t come to die at the Davenport Skatepark Saturday, it looked a little sick after skateboard legend Tony Hawk and his Birdhouse team got done thrilling a crowd of several hundred.
Mr. Hawk, 46, is one of the most accomplished and influential skateboarders of all time, with nine X Games gold medals, 12 National Skateboard Association world championships, and several movie appearances. He retired from active competition more than a decade ago, but stays active promoting the sport and the Birdhouse Skateboards brand he co-founded in 1992, as well as other sponsors.
“Obviously it shows how far skating has come in the mainstream culture,” Mr. Hawk said before the exhibition of the turnout gathered around the expansive park. With the River Roots Live festival just a few blocks away, even moody afternoon skies couldn’t dampen a festive downtown atmosphere.
“We have a really diverse mix of styles (on the Birdhouse Team) and it’s exciting to bring that to towns that maybe haven’t seen all of it,” Mr. Hawk said. “Any type of terrain, we have an expert at it.”
Terrain styles can include deep bowls, pools, bird ramps, benches, ledges, stairs, and handrails, he explained. Mr. Hawk and his team managed a few 360 flips after skating up the park’s deep bowls, and a time or two Mr. Hawk bailed off of the skateboard in midair, perhaps demonstrating the way that’s safely done with a no-harm-done landing.
And there were ledge tricks, kick flips, backside 360s, ollies …
“That’s where you do this,” helpfully explained audience member Greycin Sarazin, 5, of Bettendorf, demonstrating the kick to the board’s tail that initiates a launch, a fundamental move. Greycin is a Davenport Skatepark regular and a daily X Games watcher, his mother Gabbie said.
“I’ve never met a 5-year old so obsessed with skateboarding,” she said. “He’s taught me all the terms. He knows all the tricks.”
For skateboarder Jeremy Lough, 16, of Muscatine, seeing the pros perform is motivation. “You want to do it.”
And Mr. Hawk “is a legend,” said Chad Meyer, 19, of Peoria, after chatting and posing for photos with Mr. Hawk during a preshow invitation-only meet-and-greet at The River’s Edge facility next to the skatepark.
Mr. Meyer and three friends earned their invitation to that event after Davenport Parks & Recreation personnel spotted them picking up trash from the skatepark grounds at 3 a.m. Saturday, after the lights had gone out.
“We had nowhere to go,” Mr. Meyer said. “We just started picking up bottles. The parks people are really nice.”
The drive from Peoria is worth it just for the park, the young men said. There’s nothing in Peoria like it, though they are part of a fundraising effort to change that.
“We still need $340,000,” said Joe Harper, 20. “This (Davenport) park is like heaven for us. We don’t have anything close to it.”
For Birdhouse team member Kevin Staab, also part of the meet-and-greet, meeting dedicated young skaters like that is part of the fun of the team’s tour.
“It’s exciting to come to a new place and ride a new park, and skate with local skaters,” said Mr. Staab. “It’s always fun to promote skateboarding in a positive way.”
Mr. Hawk and the Birdhouse team received no appearance fee and came to promote the sports and the Birdhouse brand, said Daniel Sheridan, performing arts supervisor for Davenport Parks & Rec.
Photos by Paul Colletti Courtesy of The Dispatch