“America has Elvis. We have Christian Hosoi,” Jason Jessee.
Even to the casual skateboard enthusiast, the name Hosoi needs no introduction. Part Elvis, part aerial acrobat, Hosoi took skateboarding higher, faster, and smoother than ever thought possible in the 1980s. He did it all with a style and charisma that 1980’s rock gods like Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses and Metallica couldn’t even shake a stick at. It all came crashing down, sadly, like Elvis’s heart attack on his golden throne, the king of skateboarding would meet his demise with a fanny pack of meth at the Honolulu Airport in January 2000 and 5 years in federal prison to follow. Like his most famous skateboard graphic, the “Rising Sun” Christian would rise again. He’s back. He’s badder than ever, just celebrated his 50th birthday and he took the time to drop some knowledge on Yobeat. Listen up.
1994. All photos courtesy Chris Carnel
You went pro at 14 for Sims Skateboards. Do you have any good Tom Sims stories?
I remember seeing Tom Sims in the magazines and seeing all the team dudes – Brad Bowman and Lonnie Toft, especially. I was just looking at the ads with the pure Juice wheels, comp 2’s, all the new conical wheels, glowing wheels, and I was like, man, this is amazing! As time went on I met Jay Adams and rode for Z Flex, rode for Tony Alva when he had the lightbeam, then I rode for Stacy Peralta as an amateur. I was riding for the Bones Brigade and I wanted to turn pro. Stacy’s like, “You know, you’ve got to wait 2 years.” And I was like, “No, I want to go pro now.” Dogtown approached me. I rode for Dogtown and it was an amazing company. Shogo Kubo, Bob Biniak, Jim Muir, Paul Constantino these guys were my idols. Especially Shogo Kubo. They went out of business really quick. So, then I got call from Tom Sims. Can you imagine being a kid and getting a call from Tom Sims? He was like, “Hey Christian, I want you to come to my office. I want to meet with you. You know, Brad Bowman says that you’re a ripper and we should talk.” I went to meet with him and he told me he wanted me to ride for Sims. I was sitting in his office, going man, I am really making it! I have been on every single team that I wanted to be apart of and now Tom Sims! He told me he wanted me to be on the team. My childhood dream.
Did Tom ever take you snowboarding?
No. The story goes on where he immediately licensed out Sims. He licensed out the brand to Brad Dorfman. He issued my first professional model with the rising sun and that was the beginning of my professional career.
Jordan Richter said he and Jason Lee they would always come skate your ramp in your mansion. They said you always came out in a robe.
Yeah, I used to like to live kind of a lavish lifestyle. When the guys would come over to skateboard I would always walk down to the ramp in my slippers and robe and say “hi” and take a run. Sometimes I would do a 100 ollies, warm up, kind of like training, like I was doing my morning run or something in a robe (laughing). The guys would be like, “What’s this guy doing out there! This is trippy!” I would basically get out of my slippers onto my board, ride for 10 minutes, go get my slippers back on and tell the guys to have fun and keep skating. I was trying to impress the kids.
Do you recall your first time snowboarding.
I remember going up to Mountain High in Wrightwood with the plastic Sims board. Trying to dig out little jumps and seeing how slippery it was, not very maneuverable, it had a skateboard attached to it. I remember when the Terry Kidwell models came out made of wood. We went straight up the mountains and I tell you, it was the most amazing thing. Now we had boards that actually worked, that were functional and we were blasting airs. All we did was look for the biggest jumps to pull off are skateboard maneuvers. For us, it was like skateboarding in the snow. Like when we surf, we’re just skateboarding in the water. I know that skateboarding was birthed out of surfing, but once you learn how to skateboard all you want to do is tricks and fly in the air. So that’s what we did immediately when snowboards came out.
Jeff Kendall said you would eat cereal and smoke joints at breakfast. Right in front of your parents.
Yeah, you know, we were radical kids. We grew up in a radical time because skateboarding didn’t have any rules. There weren’t any leaders or people trying to guide us. It wasn’t like it is today where people think you can have this huge career and parents are bringing their kids to the skateparks. It wasn’t like that. They would just drop us off and we would skate all day. It was more underground because of the people who did it. I remember doing those things with Kendall and just thinking how this kid must be tripping because being from Indiana I doubt he saw that kind of stuff go down. We were all about the shock and awe. At the same time we were focused on skateboarding and being the best skateboarders we could possibly be. We were seeking skateboard ramps, skateboard pools, contests. You know, Jeff Kendall is one of the best skateboarders ever from that era and for me to have him at my house growing up, from the thrill seek to build skateboarding into what it is today. Truly amazing to see how far skateboarding has come.
Jason Jessee said recently, “America has Elvis. We have Christian Hosoi. He was bigger than life.” Your thoughts?
I love Jason Jessee. You know, I sponsored him as a kid riding for Rocket Wheels when I did the Hosoi Rockets. There was always something special about that kid, his skateboarding abilities, his demeanor and how he approached things. To see how he has become a larger than life character that he is today is awesome for him to say something like that. Its truly an honor when people put me on that pedestal of what I mean to them so that humbles me every time. Elvis was my idol. It was Elvis, Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood and Bob Marley. Those were my idols as a kid. Then it was Tony Alva, Jay Adams, Shogo Kubo. To be put into the light of Elvis Presley by one of your peers, especially those that have a pretty strong voice in our culture today, is amazing.
You lost it all and then you gained it all back.
I didn’t think it was possible to come back from where I was at at the time. Being a drug addict for 10 years, addicted to crystal meth, then going to prison for 5 years, just thinking how you blew it, or how things could be different. When faith was ignited in me to follow God I changed. Think about this, my name is Christian, my nickname was Christ, I invented the Christ Air and now I am reading the bible for the first time in a prison cell and I am finally opening my heart to allowing Christ into my life. To now see where God has taken me since that day in January 2000 to where I am at today being sober for almost 18 years. Now being a role model for skateboarding and seeing where my story became a message of hope and of second chances. For people to think there is no way to comeback, to look at it now and go, wow, what an amazing purpose and cause. Now there are no regrets – for all the wrongs, all the errors, all the bad choices. Now I can minister and help people. I can spread people that message of hope. They can comeback. You can be restored. Now I am still a professional skateboarder. It’s how I make my living and I am going to be 50 tomorrow. Who would have ever thought I would still be competing at 50? Practicing for a Foo Fighters Concert/ Vert Demo Saturday in front of thousands of people. Skateboarding on a vert ramp at 50 years old. It blows me away. It’s almost supernatural miraculous, call it what you want. For me to be here to enjoy how far skateboarding has come and to be apart of that is incredible.
I didn’t have to stay in that rut of drug addiction, fame, trying to find my identity again.
Vans welcomed me back. Steve Van Doren, who headed up the whole Vans Park Series is about to be inducted into the Olympics, to believing in people like me and Tony Alva, Steve Cab, Cardiel, Grosso, Barbee – the list goes on of people Vans supports. We’re in our 40s, 50s, and now, Tony’s in his 60s and we represent skateboarding. They honor us, and they bring us along and we still have careers. Skateboarding has that much dedication to it’s roots and they understand where we come from because of a guy like Steve Van Doren who championed the brand Vans to always remember where you come from. Remember who started it. Why it is where it is today. To be a part of skateboarding and to see it welcome be back with open arms. I didn’t have to stay in that rut of drug addiction, fame, trying to find my identity again. They said come on back and I have been here ever since. And I don’t think I am going anywhere soon.