Aaron “JAWS” Homoki” and Clint Walker Kildare Street Dublin
Thursday Oct 31st 2013 - Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel bustles with laminate toting conference delegates. The city is hosting a Web Summit conference with visitors from all over the world. One of the keynote Speakers at the event is no less than skateboard legend Tony Hawk. Tony, never one to miss an opportunity, has tacked onto his visit a surprise skate demo and has brought two of his best team riders with him to add additional stoke for the locals.
Clint Walker Crooked Grind Kildare Street Dublin
In the bar sat at the table are JJ Rolfe (Director / Cameraman) and Rich Gilligan (Photographer). We are joined by the Birdhouse guys, Team Manager Jerome and two professional skaters, Aaron "Jaws" Homoki and Clint Walker. Whilst Tony has been here a few days these three guys have just flown in a few hours earlier and are bleary eyed. In a post-nap state they are glued to their smartphones checking emails. I am equally glued to mine but am keeping tabs on the usual Irish adversary, the weather. Accuweather tells me it's not raining. Good news indeed were it not for the fact that the large bay windows facing St Stephens Green elegantly frame the familiar sight of driving rain and grey dark skies over the city.
Simultaneously several miles away Irish skaters young and old are in the bowl at Bushy park skatepark trying in vain to mop up the water. Messages are coming in thick and fast. There are essentially two types. "Is this happening?" and "Man this is *not* going to happen". Conversation at the table turns to anti rain measures as Clint casually explains (in some detail) how he has used kitty litter in the past with great success.
I call Mike Keane at the SOFD indoor skatepark in North Dublin as a backup. Tony appears - he has decided that it is too late to change venue and so the plan is a "meet and greet" at Bushy Park followed by a possible session at SOFD. It's time to leave and we're in two people carriers heading across town to Bushy Park skatepark.
We arrive to a damp skate park albeit filled with enthusiastic skaters. As planned in lieu of actually skating a prolonged autograph session kicks off. Signing and selfies are order of the day.
“Minty” Forehead Hawk Autograph
Tony Hawk in Bushy Park
People are stoked to meet the guys but there is a palpable disappointment that we won't see them skate. As it starts to wind down Tony gives word to leave and SOFD looks like it is indeed on the cards for a session. Finally a bit of the 'ol skateboarding.We arrive at SOFD and Tony cruises around the park warming up waiting for the other guys to arrive. Before long he focuses his attention on the vert(ical) wall in the corner launching effortlessly up the top and grinding frontside. This is greeted with the familiar smack of boards on the metal ramp coping as the locals revel at the prospect of the impending session. Jaws and Clint arrive with Rich and JJ. Rich sets up as NOB (Videographer) arrives ready to film the event for Birdhouse.
The session builds as more local rippers arrive - Gav Coughlan, Gary Kavanagh and Wayne G from Boarderco. An injured Keith Walsh watches from the wings. Highpoints are Tony's repeated frontside airs on the vert wall. Clint cruises around doing street tricks and getting a feel for the place before busting out body varials down the stairset. Jaws half breaks his board on but bends it back into place before eyeing up the vert wall himself. This leads to the clear high point of the demo.
Tony Hawk Frontside Air Vert Wall SOFD
Pause for a History lesson. We have come full circle somewhat. What follows is a throwback to an infamous Top Hat event organised by the godfather of Irish skating, Clive Rowen, back in 1989. At that event Tony Hawk attempted a 540 degree "McTwist" on a five foot quarter pipe repeatedly bailing. When he finally threw it down successfully the place exploded. Fast forward back to Halloween 2013 and this time it is Jaws doing the very same thing - bailing flailing spinning McTwists one after another on the vert wall. This time Tony is offering advice and they carefully survey the ramp and the landing. The emphasis is not just making the trick but also to try and avoid slamming into the street ledges nearby straight after. When it finally goes down it is a thing of beauty, his baseball cap flying off mid flight as he lands it cleanly. The place erupts with boards slammed and knuckles bumped in respect. This is what we wanted to see, world class skating. Just a pity it didn't go down in Bushy to the larger crowd.
After that it's time for more smartphone photos and sharpied decks before Tony signs one last board, this time his own, and hands it to a grateful Mike Keane. And with that the Birdman takes his leave and we make our way back to the hotel. The intention was always clear and honest. It was essentially "Look I am in town and while I am there I want to stoke out the locals. For this demo can we make sure it's not just the key people in the scene but the kids too?" Same with his people at Birdhouse. How can we do more? I know - we'll send more skaters. Build more hype". It worked. And the other guys? Jaws? Clint? Gentleman. Mike, Rich, JJ, NOB all putting in work - no talk of money only of doing the event justice. Tony said on facebook that morning "The revolution will be improvised" and that was certainly the case but job done. Fucking. Hyped.
Words by Dave Leahy (producer of Irish Skate film "Hill Street" out May 2014)
Photo's by Rich Gilligan