How Tony Hawk built a 14-foot half-pipe in Yonge-Dundas Square

How Tony Hawk built a 14-foot half-pipe in Yonge-Dundas Square

A step-by-step breakdown of how the elder statesman of skateboarding constructed his personal pop-up ramp in the heart of Toronto

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 Photograph by George Pimentel

Toronto skateboarders are used to bussing out to the Beach or the ‘burbs to find a decent skate park. When Tony Hawk is in town, the skate park comes to him. In the city to launch his signature clothing collection at Walmart Canada locations, Hawk erected his own travelling 14-foot-high half-pipe at Yonge-Dundas Square on Thursday. Here, we break down the event and how a 13-person team built the behemoth ramp.

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Hawk’s half-pipe weighs 18,000 pounds (five Toyota Corollas), is 50 feet long (the width of a basketball court) and 14 feet tall (two phone booths). And it’s the only one of its kind—custom built by Tait, who have constructed concert stages for U2, Madonna and the Rolling Stones. So far, Hawk has taken it to stadiums and beaches, suspended it from the ceiling of L.A.’s Staples Center, and is in talks to mount it on a cruise ship.

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 Photograph by Luc Rinaldi

The pipe started its journey to Toronto about a week ago, when its parts—steel frames and 72 interlocking panels of Hungarian beech wood—were loaded into a 53-foot semi-trailer for a cross-country trek. It arrived at the square at 6:40 a.m. on Wednesday, and a team of 13 quickly went to work.

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 Photograph by Luc Rinaldi

First, the team laid down a steel base, using wooden planks and careful measurements to ensure the floor of of the half-pipe would be level above the square’s gently sloped surface.

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 Photograph by Luc Rinaldi

After mounting the first layer of wood on the base, curved frames were attached on either side and the first level of sloped panels was put in place. The pieces slid together (with the occasional help of a a sledgehammer), and the lead builder (right) locked them in place by turning a a small, screwdriver-like tool inside imperceptible holes on the edges of the panels.

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 Photograph by Luc Rinaldi

The team repeated the process for a second level of sloped panels, then built a platform that would help them mount the third and final level.

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Around 11:30 a.m., the team hoisted the final panel into place. Once they’d added a second platform at the top of each side of the ramp, it was ready for Hawk.

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 Photograph by George Pimentel

Hawk is the Gretzky of skateboarding, an undisputed icon of his sport. He started skating as a kid in San Diego and dominated the competition circuit before he was out of his teens. But it was the 1999 X Games in San Francisco that turned him into the reigning king of skateboarding: after seven failed attempts, he landed the first recorded 900—a two-and-a-half-spin feat, so called for the degree of the rotation. (Only a dozen or so skaters have pulled it off in the 17 years since).

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The trick turned Hawk into an instant legend: by the end of the year, he released the first instalment of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, the video game series that convinced a generation of grade-schoolers that they wanted to be pro skaters.

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 Photograph by George Pimentel

Hundreds of those now-20-something kids-at-heart showed up to watch Hawk in action on Thursday, joined by other skaters like Evan Doherty (who nailed a 900 at age 11).

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Here, Hawk is rocking a handplant.

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 Photograph by George Pimentel

After the sessions, he signed some decks—and made this kid’s day.

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 Photograph by George Pimentel

And here he is skating over from City Toronto building. Watch out for those streetcar tracks.