BILLINGS — The world’s most popular skater, Tony Hawk, was in Billings Thursday, speaking at the Billings Chamber of Commerce breakfast.
Some Billings skaters had the opportunity to meet their idol.
“Growing up, like I always looked up to Tony Hawk cause he’s like this absolute legend that can do all these crazy tricks. He just inspires me to like go out and skate and try new stuff,” 15-year-old Jace Kelley said after the breakfast at the Billings Skate Park.
For Hawk, it was a chance to return to his roots.
“I actually have history to Billings. Both of my parents are from here,” Hawk said.
As the keynote speaker at the breakfast, he spoke of his journey and how he first got into skating.
“And I went to the skate park, and I literally saw people flying out of swimming pools, and my life changed,” Hawk said.
Hawk’s foundation, The SkatePark Project, helps build skate parks in underserved communities. He’s helped build more than 900 skate parks nationwide, including three in Montana. The Billings Skate Park opened in 2004.
“I felt like a lot of kids choose to skateboard but are largely told they can’t skate on public property,” Hawk said.
Grace Hagstrom, 16, has been skating for about a year now.
“Super inspiring especially as a female skater because we don’t have very many in Billings,” Hagstrom said.
The sport has seen a big surge in popularity during the pandemic.
“Skateboarding had a great boom during COVID surprisingly 'cuz people found themselves in one place and wanted to learn a new skill, and skateboarding provided that because you could do it outdoors. You could also stay away from people but do it together in a sense,” Hawk said.
He had a message for people everywhere when it comes to following your dreams.
“My message is to do what you love, and believe in yourself, stay the course,” Hawk said.
And these skaters will never forget the day they met Tony Hawk.
“I actually got him to autograph my wrist, and I went over to Rise Again and got it tattooed on me,” said 29-year-old Zaine Saur.
Watch the full interview below: