In Tony Hawk’s book Occupation: Skateboarder he mentions that when his very first pro model was released in 1982 it wasn’t exactly a top seller. Hell, if anything, it was a bottom dweller. To add insult to injury the market for skateboards back then was nonexistent at best, so to not have a remotely popular model translated to mere pennies on the royalty dollar—more precisely, 85 cents, the whopping sum total of which Tony claimed to represent one of his earliest royalty check payments as a paid professional skateboarder.
Crappy industry economics aside, a number of other factors contributed to this less than enthusiastic reception for his first pro model. For starters, Tony had yet to really make his mark on the contest scene (at least outside of his Del Mar playpen), and it was still a good year or two before Powell-Peralta would release the landmark Bones Brigade Video Show, which would truly expose Tony’s early aerial antics to the world at large. Product-wise, the board was on the small side; a mini-model masquerading as a full-size to fit Tony’s then stick figure build. The graphic was also a bit too on the nose—or beak, if you will, to be even more on the nose—and would it really have been so hard to center the damn thing so the brand name wasn’t listing at such an obvious angle? (Still can’t believe George let that slide to the noticeable degree it did…) So it wasn’t long before the original fine feathered hawk illustration was replaced by V. Courtlandt Johnson’s more iconic and popular “Screaming Chicken Skull” in 1983.
Two decades after his first model was released though, Tony Hawk was being hailed as nothing less than the “Michael Jordan of skateboarding” by the mainstream media and an unskated version of his “rookie” pro model was publicly sold on eBay at the eyebrow-arching price of $6,000.00 (the detailed back story of which can be found in The Disposable Skateboard Bible).
Naturally such a high profile and rare deck would eventually be bootlegged, and bootlegged it most certainly was, but not necessarily under the usual circumstances in which forgeries are generally created, e.g. fraudulent monetary gain. Admittedly, when I first found out about this and many other rare boards being reproduced I was a tad bothered by it all. I mean, it’s fine when everyone involved with such underground operations keeps the boards within a knowledgeable inner circle and out of the hands of idiots, but eventually most everyone either tires of not having the “real deal” or simply needs to cash out for practical life matters. And in the latter instance it has been proven time and time again that these bootlegs are usually the first thing to be sold from anyone’s collection. Thus these replicas pass from hand to hand until years later the history behind them is muddled at best and some bright-eyed dimwit earnestly believes they’ve just scored a relatively cheap, rare board. Or, worst case scenario, some shady-eyed shyster tries to pass them off as originals*. Whatever the matter, here’s some descriptive insight into the story behind the 17 or so “Phony Hawk” boards now in existence.
Apparently, it all started in 1998, long before any of the companies in skateboarding were hip to the burgeoning collector market. The term “reissue” was still several years off from being coined and Bulldog Skates had yet to make its big pig impact on old school revivalists. It was a very tight-knit collector scene then and from three of these networked individuals came the idea to reproduce a few classic, old boards for personal enjoyment, many of which had not yet surfaced. For instance, when the first Hawk board was being considered for replication there was only one semi-used one to be found in the hands of a collector (this was still a good year or two off from the prominent emergence of the blue $6,000 NOS Hawk). Allegedly, full-size photocopies of this one board were made and the graphic was painstakingly traced and recreated. Not an easy task to do well, nor a cheap one at that considering the cost involved to procure a limited quantity of custom, finished blanks.
The very first batch of Tony Hawk reproductions consisted of approximately seven decks: four in a bright yellow stain, one white dip, and two others in orange and yellow that were custom coated in a metallic flake paint to simulate the pearlescent look of the original Powell-Peralta board lacquers. This batch of boards can be easily distinguished by a totally flat, non-concave, 8-ply construction with wheel wells that tended to be too narrow, deep, and oftentimes crooked. Another Hawk was then created from a barely used first edition Hawk Skull that was sanded down, repainted red, and re-screened with the original bird graphic (apparently this one can be identified via a wood blemish that shows through on the bottom).
One last batch of Hawks was later produced that supposedly consisted of nine final boards deemed to be of impeccable quality: two red, two yellow, two blue, one purple, and two in white that were specially screened with the original two-color screen job (one bird in blue the other in purple; unfortunately I could not find an example of either). These decks are perhaps the closest to the original, but the screened graphics are virtually flawless, with unusually clean, crisp lines, and the lacquers used to coat the boards are richer, thicker, glossier, and darker than those produced by Powell-Peralta in the early ’80s (to get really picky there are also two minute indentations—one on the nose and one on the tail—where the decks appear to have been clamped during the painting process). A few of these boards also have a tell-tale silver Oval Dragon top graphic—a colorway never used by Powell—but there are several others with the traditional yellow or red screen.
What’s funny—or perhaps not so funny—is that sometime in 2000 or 2001, someone listed for sale on eBay what were purported to be five authentic NOS Powell-Peralta blanks from the early ’80s in a dark blue finish, the shape of which was described as being most similar to the first Tony Hawk model. Always wondered what became of those boards…
* This did in fact happen on eBay circa 2003 when some kook took what appeared to be a blue crayon, scuffed up one of the original yellow stained Hawk replicas, and tried to pass it off as an authentic used board. Needless to say he was called out pretty quick and the auction was pulled.