Christian Hosoi, the king of style, began skateboarding in the mid 1970s. He skated at the Marina Del Rey skatepark with legends Shogo Kubo, Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta and Jay Adams as his mentors. He turned pro at the age of 14, and quickly emerged as one of the top competitors, and competed against pros such at Steve Caballero, Mike McGill, Lester Kasai, and Tony Hawk. His battles with Hawk for the top spot were epic. Old Guys Rip Too catches up with “Christ.”
OGRT: Talk to us a little about how you got started skateboarding.
CH: It all starts with inspiration and being that I grew up in LA. But my father grew up in Hawaii, and so surfing was a huge part of his culture growing up there, surfing Sunset Beach in the ’50s. He moved off to California for art school in LA and then [had] me.
Sidewalk surfin’…obviously California was the spot for skateboarding in the like late ’60s, early ’70s. So he basically got me a skateboard, you know, and took me to the beach to go surfing in Hawaii; we went to live there in second grade but we also had a skateboard; he actually even made a handmade one out of a surfboard, kinda like a fiberglass mold that was shaped like a Jerry Lopez surfboard that had a lightning bolt on it. We had Cadillac wheels, you know, urethane wheels just came out ’73. We moved out there for a year off and first and second grade, and then we moved back to California. That’s when the road rider came out, and the Jay Adam’s fiberglass board. I got one of those, and I looked at the magazines, and it was like, this is what I want to do. Before that, I was inspired by Bruce Lee, and I wanted to be there, you know, Bruce Lee, you know, basically that was going to be me. Martial arts is going to be what I did. When I got into skateboarding, I was like wait a minute. I wanna be like Bruce Lee on a skateboard.
Seeing guys like Jay Adams, and Tony Alva; when I looked in the magazines, the style, the aggressiveness, the freedom to express yourself however you wanted made me just gravitate towards it, and just it became my passion and my goal to become the best at skateboarding. Really I just wanted to be the best, like, I wanted to be the best martial artist I wanted to be the best skateboarder. My father being a surfer, bringing me out here, introducing me to it, getting me skateboards, taking me to the skate shops taking me to the skatepark, it just inspired me to follow after my dreams. That’s how it really all started, it was a supportive father, my mother was behind it 100%. She was behind my father and his arts, going to art school; they got married in ‘61, and so it was just normal to support each other.
OGRT: What was it like having guys like Shogo and Jay Adams as mentors and having them push you?
CH: You know, in life you think of the best mentors you could possibly have in any category or say artistic, creative discipline, athletic discipline…when I think of like martial arts to think of Bruce Lee is the best mentor you could possibly have. Then I think of skateboarding and I go wow…Jay Adams, Shogo Kubo, those guys, and even Tony Alva was huge with with my molding in, you know, leading me, taking me under their wing and really saying, hey, you know, this is [what] this is, what the pure form of it is. This is what passion is, this is what 100% is like, Jay Adams says 100% skateboarder. I think those are the things that shape you to stay grounded, down to earth, but yet still have that attitude like I’m gonna take over the world. I’m gonna be the best, I’m gonna be the best, the most stylish, I’m gonna shred on whoever comes in front of you, and then we’re gonna do it with class, we’re gonna do it with camaraderie, we’re gonna do it like a brotherhood.
There was a connection that I think they had and always have had, it didn’t stop anywhere; they may have grown and then skateboarding changed, but the attitude and the purity stayed the same. I was able to be raised by those guys. To me this is one of the most cherished things of my skateboard career, that those guys were the ones that were my big brothers. Not just my mentors, not just my coaches, I mean like I hung out with them, they came over to my house, they were friends with my father. My father was really like supporting my career but also raising me to be a man as well. With these guys it was all about growing up quick, taking over the world at [the] youngest age possible, and do it in full fashion. Venice, Santa Monica, skateboard, punk rock, it was all happening right then; 1978 through 1981 was like the most insane years where they took me under their wing and really raised me.
Both rest in peace, they went pretty close around the same time. Being like my favorite skateboarders of all time and them really being a part of my legacy, […] you want them to be here but at the same time people realize how much of an effect they’ve had on them…a lot of times nobody really knows what people meant until they’re gone. I knew it before they went, and I get to know it after they went. I just want to honor their lives, what they’ve done in my life, and everything they’ve done for our sport
OGRT: You turned pro in 1981 at the age of 14; how did that change your life at the time?
Yeah, you’re just a kid wanting to turn pro, and feel like you could give the pros a run for their money. I was confident, I won the Marina del Rey amateur contest and the Gold Cup Series. I was like wow, I wanna go and swing with with the big dogs, and in terms of events going from sponsor to sponsor, going from Bones Brigade to Dogtown and then to Sims. I finally got on Sims, then they gave me the model, I think it was pretty amazing.
I went from Stacy Peralta, being groomed…underneath his leadership at Bones Brigade; going to Dogtown and wanting to participate in something was the reason why I skateboarded in the first place. Shogo Kubo Airbeam model, the Bob Beniac 10 inch, the Muir Red Dog the PC tail tap model: those are the boards that I had as a little kid; I had them all. So for me to go from there to Dogtown to get a model and to turn pro, I was like man, that’ll be a dream come true. Then they went out of business right after I got on. That’s when Tony Hawk, Mike Smith and Gator rode for Dogtown and then we all went separate ways. I went and met with Tom Sims, another dream come true, you know looking at the guys I favored Brad Bowman, Doug Demonserence…those guys were like style masters over at Sims. Then I’m sitting in Tom Sim’s office in Santa Barbara and he’s going, “Christian, I’d really love to give you a model for Sims.”
I mean it was like another dream come true so with all the terms of events I think that I got to have some special times spending time with major people in our industry who I looked up to as a kid saw all of that in the magazines and now wanting me to represent their brand. Then next year’s really when I got my model, and that was when Tom Sims pulled out of Sims, soon he gave it to you know Select, which is Brad Dorfman and they gave me my model finally. It’s surreal when you get your own model, your name on the board. It’s one of those things that as a kid you dream of when it finally happened it’s like getting a gift in the mail or present or something that an award you know what I mean it really is something special. For me it really made me feel important and that I belonged. When the industry and all my peers and all the skaters were like “yeah that’s awesome” they were stoked for me that just makes it 100% better. You can have all that but if you don’t have the support of your peers in the industry and your fans it’s not as special. So it was really a special time in my life when I turned pro.
OGRT: You quit school at an early age to focus on skateboarding, talk about that a little and what earning your GED meant to you?
CH: Yeah, you know now I turned pro and I had to travel all over the United States. It started to become an international thing even and schooling needed in-class credits. So I was like, can I take my school schooling on the road, and this is before like homeschooling even was something that was available. They were like no you can’t do that, I was like man I guess I gotta decide whether to pursue my education or my career in skateboarding. With all the things that were happening at the time, the progression of the sport, my progression in my career…I was like we had to make a call. My family was like well what do you want to do? I was like well I wanna take professional skateboarding on and I was already making a couple thousand dollars a month in royalties. I had a job, it wasn’t like I didn’t have anything going yet. It was like full back covers of magazines, getting pictures in the magazines, everybody was just already knowing that I was always working my way to the top.
So it’s a tough decision but I finally made it…like well then I gotta go to school later. My mom was like, well you can always do school; you won’t be able to always do this. And I went wow, when you get the support of your mom and your dad to be able to do something, go after your dreams, it really does motivate you and encourage you to stick with it, not give up and to make people proud. I wanted to make my mom and dad proud at the same time. So that was really the the launch of me going after my dreams and pulling out of school. When I finally got arrested, and I’m in federal prison, and they’re saying everyone in prison has to get their GED, I was like wow this is amazing. Now I’m gonna be able to get my GED, and finally get my high school diploma. But at the same time I was like wow am I even going to be able to pass the thing. I hadn’t been in school since I was 15 years old, have I learned anything along the way? They had three weeks to study before the next test, and I was like alright let’s study a little bit. I studied a little bit in all the academics, and then I heard that it was going to be the first month in like seventeen years or something ridiculous like that, that they are changing the GED test to make it harder. I’m thinking why wasn’t it last month that I took it. Here I am going…this is not happening right now.
I basically was like I’m definitely not going to pass it. Whatever. You have to keep taking it until you pass it, and you won’t be able to get a full day job in federal prison until you pass it. You have to go to school half day and wait to take the test. I was thinking, “Oh well, I’m gonna be here for a while trying to get my study on.” I mean it took me how long? 7th to 12th grade? To be able to pass that test. I was like man I’m gonna be here forever right? I had a good eight and a half years of prison time, I was like man not gonna be a big deal I guess. I’ll get it done one way or another. But I took it, ended up passing it first pass. You know the one you think you’re the weakest thing is math was like man I’m probably the weakest in math I ended up being strong in math. I ended up having a little more difficulty in not the spelling or grammar, but the reading. I think it was the reading where you have to go take a look at it like a script of a movie and then give your take on what it is. So I was like yeah, alright, that’s cool I’m good with that then, I am pretty smart. Then I got my diploma, my mom got to see it, got to see the pictures and it was one of those moments where I was like YEAH! In my thirties, getting my diploma, it was dope.
OGRT: Probably the most famous shape of all time: the Hammerhead. How did that come about?
CH: I was sitting there, I was skating for Tony Alva; he had just designed the fish board and, you know, created the fish shape. And now I’m about to start my own company, and I was like, I gotta create a new shape. I was like, man, I gotta create a new shape, what am I gonna do? And then I thought about it, I though maybe I’ll cut some notches out, right where I grab for backside airs, and it will be like a hook. And I’m looking at the board, and we notched it out, you know me and my dad would always cut out, you know, foam boards to like look at it, and see what it would feel like when you’re skating on it. I grabbed it, and I was looking at it, and I was like, that is ugly. A big ol’ flat nose, with it cut out right there, and it was kinda ugly. I looked at the nose, and looked at the tail, and I was said, we’ll just swallow out the nose; we swallowed the nose, and immediately it looked dope. I was like, “That thing looks sick!” …that’s how organic it happened. It wasn’t like, “I’ll create this hammerhead shape,” no, it was all sheer function, and the determination to make a better shape that worked better. So that was how that whole shape came about, and it was one of those, you know, organic moments. I mean, it wasn’t planned, we didn’t think it out, we were just going with the flow, and that’s what came out of it. I launched Hosoi Skateboards with that shape.
OGRT: Transitioning of off that…what influenced you to start Hosoi Skateboards?
CH: Like like all companies today you wanna do what you wanna do. You want to create designs, you want to create, you want to be a part of the the beginning-to-the-end process. I think that’s part of the the whole, “Man, if Tony Alva can have a company why can’t I?” Tony really inspired me to be able to have my own brand. Especially, I was 17 years old, you know, and I was like, I’m gonna start my own brand, and if Tony can do it maybe I can do it, too. So that was the environment and the atmosphere at the time, and I’m, like, Hosoi Skateboards, and I said that sounds pretty dope. My father was like let’s do it!
So we started it, just out of the garage, silk screening 2,000 boards; me and him, in the garage, by ourselves. Basically old-school style: bought ’em, sold ’em, and re-upped…and there it was.
OGRT: Your graphics have for the most part stayed consistent through the years; who designed it, and tell us the meaning behind it all.
CH: My father was the one who did the Alva graphic — both of them, the sun and then the actual sun spikes. With the triangle circle, I was sitting there thinking what are we gonna do for the hammerhead, and I’m like, well, we like the circle with the name across it. We’ll just change the background, because it was a rising sun at first for Sims, then it became the flaming ball, then it became the spikes on the fish board. So I just went, let’s put a triangle behind it, because [my father] did a lot of a triangle art back in the day in art school, and I was like that’d be kinda dope. Sure enough, he just threw a black triangle behind it and we’re like, that looks like a dope logo, and it became the icon trademark for Hosoi for decades.
OGRT: How did the “Christ Air” and “Rocket Air” come about?
CH: So the Rocket Air was first. We were in Texas at the Kahuna ramp. The night before the contest, we were all what kind of air should we invent? And we’re, like, all kind of making up, you know, the what is it called…Search for Animal Chin, where they’re like, method air! Rocket air! You know what I mean? In the bed? We’re all in the hotel room making up tricks, and I was like two feet on the tail, two hands on the nose, do an air like this. Me, Lance, Neil and everybody were, like, yeah let’s try it tomorrow. We go out, and were trying it, and I was like, backside air. And then I was like, wait a minute, just go up backside air, anti-judo,turn it, and grab, and face down like that. I think I made it in just a few tries; overhead high, boom, and it was just like that. It immediately just worked. I did it in the contest, I think, and it is one of those things that just happened organically like that…really easy.
The Christ Air was similar. I was watching Monty Nolder do his Nold airs; Tony Magnusson was doing these no-footed airs, Caballero was doing no-footed airs. I was like, wait a minute, I’m gonna do one, I’m gonna hold my arms out straight, I’m gonna hold my feet straight, and I’m gonna get into a crucifix position, and I’m gonna call it the Christ Air. I went up, boom, it was one of those things that just happened naturally, it was just one of those things that just came naturally; a few tries I was doing them and they were really easy, actually, at the time. So that’s how those tricks came about. Ironically my name was Christian, my nickname was Christ, and then I did the Christ Air; it fit whole kit, and then to think almost two decades later I’m now a Christian, a believer in Christ. Never grew up in church, never read a Bible, wore crosses my whole life but never knew anything about God or anything like that. I wasn’t anti-God, I just believed that good was what we needed to be. So I was just a good person my whole life, versus trying to pick a side…I was like it’s all good. So how ironic is it that I invented that maneuver.
I also invented the Body Jar, the backside tweak air where you bone out the tail, I did that early, I think in ’82.
OGRT: Shortly after being released from prison, you attended the 2004 X Games; Danny Way honored you with a huge Christ Air. What did that mean to you, and describe the emotions that you felt seeing that.
CH: Yeah, when Danny Way did the Christ Air to win the X Games right when I got out of prison, it was like such a surreal moment, because it really was a humbling experience to see that, you know, my influence on skateboarders were still happening after all the years that I was gone. When I got out, they were just so welcoming and encouraging on me getting back into the industry that it really made me feel loved, made me feel important, made me feel that I had a big part in skateboarding history, but also currently in what was going on in skateboarding at the time. Because it’s the big air, it’s the mega ramp, it’s what I was known for. For Danny Way to pioneer the mega ramp, and then to actually win the first one doing a Christ Air at, like, 20 feet out, it was one of those moments I’ll always cherish and be, like, wow. I really did feel honored, and respected, and the whole skateboard X Games, when it was happening, it was just, like, they were they were supportive, they were open; I just got out of prison doing five years for drugs with intent to distribute. For them to be like, everyone gets a second chance. Everyone was supporting me, I had a newfound faith in God, and being a representative of skateboarding again, I just knew that was my passion, that was my love, my whole life; it wasn’t going to stop. You know it was just beginning, basically, when I got out of prison. That was like the first month that was I out of prison, when that happened.
OGRT: Talk a little about how being a father has changed you.
CH: That’s one of the most important responsibilities in, like, stewardships and opportunity that we have, as men, next to being a husband. I think that being a role model is one thing, but being a husband is something we have to put first; we have to honor our wives, love our wives. To raise our children takes commitment, takes having patience. I’ve got four children, I’ve got three grandchildren; for God to even allow me to even have children is a super blessing. The Bible says that children are our reward in the Lord, and so for me they are like gifts, like rewards, just like a trophy, just like any type of connection; almost like an acknowledgement, that I have this ability to be able to even raise them.
So it’s my opportunity. So many fathers, they just run away from their children, they can’t handle the pressures of it. It’s just they don’t have the patience to deal with it. I’m not saying that certain situations are easier or rougher than others, but we as fathers have to represent to our children…integrity, loyalty, honesty, perseverance, patience, love. Those are the things, the character, that we have to raise our children [with]; of course being successful, having an education, those are amazing, but the core of it is to teach them how to be respectful and generous. With that, they’ll be wise, and of course education, and becoming a man, to be successful in whatever areas of life…because even my kids, I don’t pressure them to to be anything, I just raise them to have fun and be happy; to love each other and other people.
I think that’s what matters most, and I think that’s the opportunity of the father gift: that you get a chance to be able to be that role model to our children; not only our children, but everyone around us, because everyone’s looking at how you raise your children. How you discipline them, nurture them, mentor them, and so those are things you learn along the way. I believe that I had a lot of great mentors in my life, and I’m taking everything I’ve learned from every one of them, and I’m gonna apply it to my life. That’s just going to give my children an advantage to be everything they want to be, and who God created them to be.
OGRT: Your two younger sons, Classic and Endless, are amazing skaters. What’s it like for you to skate with them and watch them improve?
CH: It’s a dream come true, you know what I mean? You wish your kids would skate, and follow in your footsteps, and stuff like that. Really, it’s about having fun; every one of my kids loves skateboarding, and they’re good at it. To me, I already won, you know what I mean. Like, to me whether they pursue it as a career or not, just because they know how much fun it is, or how much I love it. They support me in it because I’m still having a career in skateboarding; I still have to go practice, still gotta go enter contests, do demos, be an ambassador, you know, to the sport and represent the brands that I’m sponsored by and even my own brand. But to see them really push themselves and get better is one of those things that just brings me pure joy.
OGRT: If they eventually want to become pro skaters, what advice will you pass on to them?
CH: Love it! Love what you do, don’t do it for any other reason, and you’ll never quit. You won’t get discouraged, you won’t throw in the towel because the industry is not up, the money is not coming in, the culture’s gone down, or it isn’t the way you’d love it to be. The whole street skating scene came in, I was like alright this is cool, but really I was like meh, what’s driving these people to be passionate about that? At the end of the day, I was like, OK, it’s an evolution of accessibility, and style, and what was going on today. It didn’t deter me from skateboarding; I still skated anyway, and that’s because I was ingrained to love what I do, and to not give up and not to let other people lead me, but I would be a leader not a follower. So really I was still doing what I love…skateboarding.
Whether it was in a pool, on a ramp, a mini-ramp, or street, I was challenging myself as well, back then, to skate street. I think that’s something that, you know, people need to persevere through that. That’s the only way you’ll persevere: keep on doing something.
You’re not only getting something from it, but you’re giving back to it. I always wanted to give to skateboarding more than I took, so whether it was a good show, winning contests, getting in the mags, I think that was, like, the byproduct of me wanting to excel, progress, and to revolutionize, break barriers, to break records and all that. That was more of the goal, but the byproduct was all the rest…the big contracts and the raging lifestyle that I lived. That’s the advice I give everybody, not just my kids.
OGRT: Skateboarding has really embraced the “Legends”; what that been like?
I think it’s a history thing; I think people are really starting to want to know their history, just like any sport. We’ve come to this place where it’s got a lot of history now, and those that were doing it back in the ’70s are now being honored in the Hall of Fame. We’ve got this eighth Hall of Fame coming up. That’s how young our sport is — we only have eight years of the Hall of Fame. So we’re starting to recognize our history, and honor those who came before us. It’s really created this platform for us to, if we choose to, be involved and to participate, to even skate. Even prior to this though, that we did it anyway. Tony Hawk is a huge supporter of building skateparks through the Tony Hawk foundation. You know his platform has been gigantic with the game, the Tony Hawk pro skater game, to being a common household name. Now using his popularity to bring skateboarding to a place of, I guess, respectability in the corporate world to where the X Games has really blown up. Street, vert, mega ramp, park park, legends…I mean they’re doing all these masters divisions now which are incredible for guys like us. We ate, slept, and bled skateboarding; there was nothing else for us. So for us to still have a career, for me to cruise around with Steve Van Dorn in vans and travel around world with Tony Alva, Steve Caballero, and the legends that are on the brand, I mean, it’s really amazing for me to see how much the culture of skateboarding is recognizing the history of the sport. We’re at a good time, I believe. Even the skaters that are ripping today…I get a lot of respect, a lot of compliments from a lot of them. To me, that’s where you know that they’re understanding the history of the sport, they’re getting educated on the origins of the sport. Whether it’s maneuvers, tricks, companies, people, all those things that are so interesting for people who want to be able to know what’s going on in their sport. To be a history buff, or someone who’s researched why they do something and where it came from, I think that’s something that’s come full circle. It’s really given us a platform to be able to still have our career, and to go out there and be welcomed wherever we’re at. To sign autographs, to do demos, for the fans to come and watch us skateboard still; it’s pretty intense that people want to come out and watch us skateboard at competitions still…that’s rad!
OGRT: Biggest slam you’ve ever had? Worst injury?
CH: Well I broke my arm, I think that was probably the worst injury. I was in the midwest meylay, I was I think I was 16. And you know six months…that was the longest I didn’t skateboard. I was doing a Gay Twist in Lincoln, Nebraska, it was the first year we had a contest there. We drove out there in the van…Thrasher, Stecyk, Fausto, all the Indy crew. We got there, start skating. I wasn’t even riding my fish shape yet I was riding the my first Alva, the fireball. Went up to do a Gay Twist, landed sideways and just cracked my arm. Flew back with Stecyk, Craig Stecyk flew back on the plane with me. I ended up getting a pin in my arm. We ended up going back the next year to skate the same ramp and it was one of those crazy emotional moments. Here I am looking at the same ramp now I got my fish shape and I walked up to the ramp and my knees like we’re like starting to wobble and I was like whoa what’s that! So I was like man, I got to go up and do that trick again and get it over with. So I got up on the ramp and I was shaking going up the ladder. Went up…rock to fakie, Gay Twist…landed it like first try…got my board threw it at the ramp, kicked the side of the ramp and said “Take that, who owns you?!” It was done, you know that phobia was over, it didn’t even faze me anymore…worst injury ever.
OGRT: Being older now, what do you do to prevent injuries or stay in shape for skating?
CH: Yeah right now I’m in the process of doing a transformation going from fat to like somewhat in shape haha. I’m like 168lbs pounds right now where I should be like 155 maybe but I’ve been a nursing a mcl tear. Last year I tore my MCL and so I’m starting to get strong now, starting to become to where it’s almost 85%.
OGRT: The progression of skateboarding has amazing to watch, who are some young guns that impress you?
CH: Oh there’s a lot of young guys, Pedro Barros, Greyson Fletcher, Raven Tershy…man there’s so many good kids now. Taylor Jett, I sponsor this kid, Taylor Jett a street guy. I’m looking forward to him taking it to the top and being in Street League and giving those guys a run for their money. He’s from Houston, Texas. Let’s see I sponsor a girl in Texas named Jordan who I think is 11 or 12 and then I sponsor one in Hawaii…Cody, and this little kid who 4 years old, called Ocean he’s from Japan. I’m just really trying to inspire the future and really groom them to become world champions one day. So along with the best that are in the world right now, it’s great to really start to looking at those that are just starting out and watch them bloom, watch them blossom and become a world champion one day. But those tranny skaters…Grant Taylor…I love to watch him skate. But I think Pedro Barros is like…he’s gnarly. Alex Sorgente…those guys just insane, young guns to watch.
OGRT: What do you hope to be remembered for?
I was a man of integrity, that I loved what I did, respected everyone that I met and was loyal and committed to those things that I believed in like my faith, the passions that I have and just made everything that I have ever done or am doing or will do better. That I was a man of God, that I love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, body, spirit and strength.
OGRT: Again we greatly appreciate the time Christian. Time to let em’ know…Old Guys Rip Too!
CH: Thank you and God bless you bro!