The more you huck, the higher you get

Tony Hawk talks as fast as he skates.

When describing his "Boom Boom HuckJam Tour," the legendary skateboarder races through an explanation of the tour's title.

"We use the term 'hucking' to refer to launching yourself in the air," Hawk says. "And it's not a competition. It's more of a fun thing, so we call it a jam. And the 'boom boom' part just sort of punches up the title a bit."

The tour, now in its third year, combines skateboarding, BMX riding and motocross. "It's a show, it's entertainment," Hawk says. "It's more along the lines of Cirque du Soleil than the X Games. And every year, we get bigger."

This year's tour is the largest so far, carried by 15 semi trucks of sound, light and video equipment. The brand-new, $1 million ramp system alone takes two semis to transport. And the motocross track encircles a massive halfpipe, allowing motocross riders to launch over the skate ramp. "We've got video screens everywhere to show all the action," says Lowell MacGregor, one of the producers of the HuckJam. "[The show] is an ADD child's best day, because you've got a bike flying over a skateboard on one side, and on the other side, there might be two bikes flying over the channel. Everywhere you look, there's something going on."

Showstoppers on tour include Hawk, of course, and fellow skaters Andy Macdonald and Bucky Lasek, motocross freestylers Brian Deegan, Dustin Miller and Drake McElroy, as well as BMX big fish Mat Hoffman, Kevin Robinson, and part-time Phoenix resident John Parker, who will face the "Loop of Death."

"It's like a big Hot Wheels track," Parker says. "It's a little tricky, because there are multiple riders. One motocross guy got pretty wrecked during the show. He busted himself up pretty bad."

The risk of injury on this year's tour has decreased, thanks to hours of rehearsing. The stunts still hold suspense, but every part of the exhibition has been choreographed. When Hawk spoke with New Times via phone, he was finishing up six weeks of rehearsals before boarding a plane to Phoenix for another week of pre-show rehearsals at Glendale Arena. "If somebody gets hurt, the audience probably wouldn't know it," he says. "But we would, because everything is timed and we're waiting for our cues."

For the performers, doing stunts concurrently may be more dangerous, but it offers a refreshing change from competitions. "At a competition, everybody does a one-minute run," Parker says. "But for this show, you get to see everything, because we're riding for two hours."

"We do a lot of things where there are many of us on the ramp at the same time, so while there might be two or three skaters on the ramp, there'll be two or three skaters doing jumps overhead," Hawk adds. "We also have a long jump -- a 30-foot, ramp-to-ramp transfer. And we have a freestyle ramp, where a lot of stuff is done on the fly."

To add to the excitement, the show in Glendale will be taped, and will air on February 6, as part of Fox NFL Sunday's Super Bowl XXXIX pre-game show.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea