How Breaking a Leg Helped Tony Hawk Fix His Wellness Routine

The skating legend is still working his way back from a broken right femur

May 9, 2023 6:44 am
Tony Hawk with his skateboard.
Tony Hawk didn't think much about wellness until breaking his leg.
Rich Polk/Getty Images

As synonymous with his sport as Michael Jordan is with basketball, Muhamad Ali is with boxing and Joey Chestnut is with stuffing his face with Nathan’s hot dogs, Tony Hawk is still the face of skateboarding even though he is in his mid-50s and hasn’t won a medal at the X Games since 2003. That was 20 years ago, and he’s barely been on a board since snapping his right femur in March of last year.

Injured while attempting to pull off a 540-degree aerial rotation called a McTwist, Hawk rushed his rehabilitation process and suffered a setback in November when he damaged his leg by getting back on a board before the two pieces of his broken bone had fused together to become one. It’s only been in the past few months that Hawk, who had previously suffered injuries including a fractured pelvis, fractured skull and broken elbow to go along with plenty of concussions, has gotten back into his groove and back onto a board.

To do it, Hawk has had help from physical therapists, family members and the titanium rod that surgeons put in his leg last year. The 10-time X Games gold medalist has also gotten assistance from his watch, a CZ Smart from Citizen that allows him to do things like track his heart rate and monitor his sleep via the timepiece’s companion wellness application. Created using research pioneered by NASA and AI models built with IBM Watson, the YouQ app helped Hawk determine the best time of day for him to be active and skate because he’s most alert. An alert Hawk is a healthy Hawk — something he is prioritizing moving forward.

“When I was young, I wasn’t focused on wellness in terms of diet or even sleep. I was going and going and going. Now, I am trying to have something of a more complete plan,” Hawk tells InsideHook. “That’s changing my diet, changing my habits and trying to get more structure in my day-to-day by figuring out when it’s more optimal to be active. I figured out that midday is the best time for me. I’ve always tried to skate while my kids were in school, but the CZ Smart reinforced that and has me leaning into it more.”

Speaking with the soon-to-be 55-year-old, IH asked Hawk about his recovery, his desire to keep skating and his second career as a motivational speaker.

InsideHook: After the injury and setback, how did you motivate yourself to get back on a board?

Tony Hawk: Skating has been such a huge part of my life and has given me some incredible moments. It brings so much to me and my sense of happiness and mental health. There’s nothing else that really matches that in terms of being active. When I got hurt, it wasn’t like I was trying to get back to the top level, I just wanted to get back to a baseline of skating that I’m comfortable with and still feel proud of doing in a public setting. The first time around, I was just in denial that it wasn’t working properly. Now on the second time around, I’m definitely on my way, but I know I’m not going to be as good as I was before I got hurt. I fully accept that.

IH: It sounds like skating is basically a part of your wellness routine.

TH: Absolutely. It starts with skating and everything else falls under it. It’s not the level of skating that I would be doing in videos or at an event, but it’s good for just being active and being in motion. I’ll do that on my own in my backyard to break a sweat. I would say an hour of skating is a complete workout. It’s pretty intense. The leg injury has also given me a better sense that mental health is a big part of skating and how it can benefit you. It’s something I’ve always known, but now that I have this perspective I realize how much better I am for the mental health I receive from skateboarding.

Tony Hawk with his skateboard.
Tony Hawk is ramping up his skating after breaking his leg.

IH: Are you surprised it took you this long to suffer such a serious injury?

TH: Yes. I’ve had my share, but I am still surprised. I think about times when I was a little bit reckless in a remote area or a different country, and I can’t believe I never had anything like this happen before. Looking back on it, something was going to happen sooner than later with the way I was skating and the stuff that I thought I was capable of. I’ve learned not to keep pushing my limits the way that I was, especially when I got hurt. That definitely was a lesson by default and one I have accepted and embraced as opposed to pretending it was just a fluke accident. I can’t say I get altogether discouraged, but I definitely am frustrated with how long it’s taking me to relearn tricks I could do at any given time with my eyes closed a year ago.

IH: How have you been filling up the free time you would normally use for skating?

TH: I’m trying to spend more time with my family and be a lot more available to them, but the last year has been as busy as ever to be honest. Not with skate events, surprisingly. I do a lot of speaking engagements and those suddenly ramped up. Maybe it’s because people knew I was available.

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IH: Is public speaking scarier than attempting a crazy vertical trick?

TH: If you asked me a year ago, I would’ve said yes. Nowadays, they’re both on equal footing. It’s just practice. I took a couple of opportunities early on to do speaking gigs at tech conferences because I have friends in that industry. One asked me to do a moderated discussion and the other asked me to do my own speech. I thought it sounded like a fun challenge so I prepared and practiced. Now I’ve been doing it long enough that I can find a rhythm and pull from different themes if they have something they want to focus on.

IH: Do you picture everyone naked?

TH: No. Let’s put it that way: I just look over the crowd so it becomes one being to me. I don’t focus on anyone in particular. I suppose I got used to doing stuff on camera after all of our video game success because I was asked to do a lot of interviews. So, I think I got comfortable with that.

IH: Do you play Pro Skater a lot?

TH: Sure. If you have a game with your name on it, you better know how to get a high score. I can’t get the highest scores, but I can hold my own. My kids play too. I beat them, though.

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