Hawk donates first board to Smithsonian

The Lemelson Center for the study of Invention and Innovation sets up a mini ramp outside the Smithsonian and receives donations to chronicle the history of skateboarding.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History will expand its collection of skateboard-related items this weekend as living legend Tony Hawk and '70s pro Cindy Whitehead donate personal equipment to the famed institution.

A ceremony honoring Hawk's and Whitehead's permanent donations to the museum's Division of Culture and the Arts will highlight Innoskate, an event exploring innovation and invention in skateboarding and its influence on endemic and mainstream culture.

The two-day public festival, presented by the Lemelson Center for the Study of Innovation & Invention, begins Friday with a screening of "Bones Brigade: An Autobiography," a 90-minute documentary that covers much of Hawk's history with the seminal Powell Peralta skate team throughout the '80s.

The center kicks off Saturday with the donation of Hawk's first skateboard, a fiberglass Bahne model from 1975 (with Chicago roller skate trucks and Stoker loose-ball-bearing urethane wheels), a hand-me-down from his older brother.

Courtesy of Mike Blabac

Hawk's first skateboard, a fiberglass Bahne model from 1975, was a hand-me-down from his older brother.

"I remember trying it for the first time in our driveway [in 1977]," Hawk said. "My brother [Steve] had gotten a newer skateboard, so his old one was near the garage. I picked it up and started riding, having no idea how to turn. I went to the end of the alley, ran into the fence, and then picked it up and turned it around. My brother was laughing that I couldn't figure out how to turn. ... Somehow I managed to hold on to it through all the years, though."

"I am happy to give it to the Smithsonian, but I had to get my brother's blessing first," Hawk added. "He told me, 'That's where I think it belongs.' So he is coming with me to share the honor."

Whitehead's donation includes her Molly padded shorts, Puma sneakers, Sims team jersey, a bib from the 1980 Gold Cup series (where she finished third overall) and a handful of skatepark membership cards.

"It's bittersweet," Whitehead said. "I'm so used to having this stuff around, to be able to look at it and think about the memories. But once I sign it over to the Smithsonian, that's it. You sign it over for life. But to be asked by an institution like that? That's a real honor, and this stuff can help teach people some history."

On Saturday, Whitehead will be speaking about the history of skate fashion and its influence on mainstream fashion, while X Games medalist Mimi Knoop will talk about the role of women in skateboarding.

Rodney Mullen will join Hawk in a discussion about trick innovation, while manufacturer Paul Schmitt will talk about the evolution of skateboard equipment as skaters progressed through the eras. Pro skater Chris Haslam will put on a miniramp demo as part of Schmitt's talk.

Hawk and Whitehead's equipment joins an existing collection that focuses on "items that show how Americans engage in sporting life" and includes, for example, Kelly Slater's surfboard, Dorothy Hamill's ice skates, Michael Jordan's jersey and Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves, according to the center's deputy director Jeffrey Brodie.

"I can't believe skateboarding has come this far, or that an esteemed museum would even be interested in my skateboard," Hawk said. "It is truly a new era."

Innoskate wraps on Saturday night with a screening of the Danny Way documentary "Waiting for Lightning."

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