“I don’t know how long this is going to last, but I’m not going to quit.”
Many documentaries about athletes will show a tailored man or woman, sitting in front of a camera, answering flattering questions about the stats of their career. They deserve it, too. For all the work they put in, why shouldn’t they sit in a comfortable chair as people in their profession speak highly about them? But the first things they usually show in those documentaries is a brief highlight of said career, or a monumental moment. That’s not the style in Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off. We begin at the end. Tony Hawk, the famous skateboarder, now a 50something year-old man, will not quit until he lands a particular trick. Bang! Bang! Bang! He hits the hard wood or slides down the surface of the ramp. One moment in particular, Hawk lets out a scream as his head smashes into wood. He lays there as the wheels of his skateboard spin wildly.
Hawk got his start skating up and down the California coast to 80s beats, skating in and out of unfilled swimming pools. The now aged Hawk skating in an indoor skatepark must feel a little on the luxurious side compared to his younger days. Though other sports have seen its share of blood, sweat, and tears, there’s something grittier about the world of skateboarding. The kids with long hair, listening to rock bands, with bloody limbs from falling on concrete. It doesn’t call everyone, but it called Hawk. In need of an outlet, mostly due to his exorbitant amount of energy, he focused his time on skateboarding—eventually getting admittance into the infamous skateboarding group: Bones Brigade. He continued to prove himself time and again with tricks of his own or by adding flourishes to existing ones. Some skaters, however, thought he was too young for the sport, and that his new way of skating was silly. He didn’t mind the criticism, put wheels to the pavement, and kept skateboarding.
Jones interviewed Hawk before on his show Off Camera with Sam Jones (which if you haven’t seen it I do recommend it because there are some great interviews with various celebrities) and hits at some points that are included here in the documentary. I’m glad, however, that Jones decided to take a full-length approach to unearthing the so-called “Birdman.” It wasn’t all smooth sailing. In fact, for a while there, and during that lull when there wasn’t much interest in skateboarding, Hawk almost lost everything. However, he kept going; he kept pushing. Eventually Hawk’s dream took flight, probably more than he had ever imagined, by becoming the most famous skateboarder to ever live. Until the Wheels Fall Off took me back to the late 1990s—early 2000s, when I would try to do tricks on my little Teck Deck skateboards or play “Tony Hawk’s: Pro Skater” on my PlayStation 2. Until the Wheels Fall Off is a brilliant documentary, not just for skateboarders, but for anyone who grew up around that time and witnessed Hawk’s greatness.
A few days before Until the Wheels Fall Off premiered at South by Southwest, Hawk took a serious spill—breaking his femur. Is this the poetic ending that Jones needs for his documentary—a loving goodbye to the great skateboarder? Hawk believes otherwise as his Twitter account says he will be up and ready to skate sometime in May. At least, that’s his plan. Hawk in his young 50 years, his body torn from all the bumps and bruises, refuses to quit even after what some would call a “career-ending injury.”. The wheels may be interchangeable on his body-like skateboard, but they haven’t quite fallen off just yet.
Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off
Directed by: Sam Jones