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Tony Hawk Carves a New Niche The master of the half-pipe and creator of a skateboard empire is about to introduce his latest trick: a skateboard without wheels

Tony Hawk got his first skateboard when he was 9 years old, and he's been rolling ever since: He turned pro at 14, won more competitions than any other pro skater in history and in 1999 astonished the world by becoming the first to land a "900"--a 900-degree turn, that's two-and-a-half midair spins--at the X Games in San Francisco.

In a sport rooted in the hard-partying fringe of Southern California, Hawk was something different: While he was still in high school, he used his winnings to buy a house in Carlsbad, and a few years later, he started his first company--Birdhouse--even though the skateboard industry was tanking at the time. Hawk was convinced better days were ahead.

Billions of dollars later, who wouldn't agree? At 41, Hawk rules an empire. He is the world's highest-paid action sports athlete, according to Forbes, with estimated earnings of $12 million last year. There are Tony Hawk skateboards, bicycles, clothes, shoes, a bestselling autobiography, the Boom Boom HuckJam exhibition tour and a video game series that's a phenomenon unto itself, with worldwide sales topping $1.6 billion since 1999.

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