by MIKE CORRIGAN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & ay it, it's fun: "Boom Boom Huck Jam." Now, didn't you enjoy that? The short, punchy, percussive way the words sort of burst out of your mouth? The 1-2-3-4 syncopation? Well, if you get a kick out of the way it sounds, imagine the thrill of actually attending the world's premier X-treme sports spectacular.

Now in its sixth year, Tony Hawk's Boom Boom Huck Jam -- brought to you courtesy of the T-Mobile Sidekick, Guitar Hero, Jeep, Quicksilver, and Sirius Satellite Radio among other corporate sponsors -- is a three-ring circus of extreme sports derring-do starring skateboarding's crown prince, Tony Hawk, and featuring a hair-raising triple play of high-flying skateboarding, BMX and freestyle Moto-Cross. Hawk has recruited some of the best professional and amateur riders in their respective fields for one mind-blowing mission impossible: to defy gravity as we flatlanders have known it. The Boom Boom Huck Jam lands in Spokane at the Spokane Fair & amp; Expo Center this Wednesday evening.

Hyped to be the "best and biggest" Huck Jam thus far, 2008's installment once again promises multiple events guaranteed to keep those with even the shortest of attention spans over-stimulated. The 24-city summer tour features dozens of top pro athletes from the interlocking worlds of skateboarding, BMX and freestyle Moto-Cross executing gravity-defying aerial stunts within a sprawling outdoor complex, the focal point of which is a colossal vertical half-pipe demo ramp, the most lavish in the world, rumored to have cost $1 million to construct. There, Hawk will join Huck Jam veterans and pro skaters Kevin Staab, Jesse Fritsch, Sergie Ventura and Neal Hendrix in an all-out assault on the laws of physics, effectively challenging your sense of what is possible on a puny skateboard. Elsewhere, BMX superstars Kevin Robinson, John Parker and Dennis McCoy, along with Freestyle Moto-Cross riders Drake McElroy, Matt Buyten, and Greg Garrison, will vie for your attention by generating some insane air of their own -- two wheel-style -- by launching man and machine off motocross ramps and into the stratosphere. The soundtrack complementing all of the mayhem will be provided courtesy of a special guest DJ, the world-renowned turntable-ist and videographer, Mike Relm. Adrenaline shall be on tap.

From humble beginnings as a single Vegas show back in 2003, the Boom Boom Huck Jam has grown into a continent-striding colossus that gives even the summer's biggest rock tours a run for their money in terms of sheer entertainment value. And in the center ring is none other than skateboarding's favorite son, Tony Hawk -- who's more popular with teenage boys than Miley Cyrus is with their tween sisters. He is, in every fundamental sense of the phrase, a skateboarding rock star.

First showing up on the radar in the early 1980s as the skinny San Diego kid with the funny sideways haircut blasting bionic aerials in the pages of Thrasher magazine, Tony Hawk once seemed unlikely to achieve a meteoric rise to skateboarding fame. Until, of course, you consider that his rise was anything but meteoric. In fact, for a while there, it looked as if Hawk would end up -- if not like many of his '80s skateboarding contemporaries, either dead or in prison -- then almost certainly not making a living by riding a skateboard.

Hawk had been skating for five years by the time he first went pro at the age of 14, signing up with the infamous Bones Brigade, one of the first skateboarding teams to gain celebrity status for something other than simply competing in skateboard competitions. Assembled by original Dogtown skater Stacy Peralta, the Bones Brigade set about selling skateboarding to a generation of kids as a lifestyle -- with themselves as emissaries -- through the release of a series of hugely popular skate videos.

Before Hawk was 18, he was recognized as the best skateboarder in the world. He owned his own home (with a giant half-pipe in the back, natch), drove a fancy car, and had what looked to be a skin-tight financial future.

Then in the early 1990s, the bottom literally fell out of the skateboarding industry. The money dried up. Hawk was in freefall.

But while skateboarding's popularity has never been entirely stable, its cyclic resurgence occurs with surprising regularity. By the end of the century, skateboarding was again in vogue and Hawk's Birdhouse Skateboards (a company he co-founded during the lean years) finally started to turn a profit. Not content to rely solely on Birdhouse and on competitions for income, however, Hawk began feeding at the corporate trough, signing highly lucrative sponsorship deals with (among many others) Apple Computer, McDonalds, Bagel Bites, Hershey's, Domino's Pizza and Sirius Satellite Radio, whereon he currently has his own talk show.

But ironically, Hawk didn't officially become a household name as indelible as Sharpie ink until the arrival in 1999 of a certain Activision videogame cartridge bearing his name and likeness. That's when "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater" first invaded game rooms and first prompted the parents of America (and a good number of their kids as well) to inquire, "Who is this Tony Hawk guy, anyway?" (It's also marks the year that Hawk formally retired from competitive skating.)

Though he now finds himself (along with his wife and four children) a permanent resident of Easy Street, Hawk routinely tills a portion of his riches back into the skating community through the Tony Hawk Foundation, which, since its inception in 2002, has helped hundreds of low-income neighborhoods around the country finance and build public skateboard parks.

Tony Hawk is a rock star without a record deal. He doesn't play guitar -- he rides a skateboard, endorses product, occasionally cranks out an autobiography, and continues (through events such as the Boom Boom Huck Jam) to play a huge part in the evolution of skateboarding -- not just as a uniquely American sport, but as an ever-expanding worldwide phenomenon.

Tony Hawk's Boom Boom Huck Jam at the Spokane Fair & amp; Expo Center on Wednesday, Aug. 20, at 6:30 pm. Tickets: $39.50. Call: 325-SEAT.

  • or

About The Author