CHRISTIAN HOSOI photos by Ted Terrebonne and Dan Bourqui

CHRISTIAN HOSOI

INTERVIEW BY KEITH HAMM
INTRODUCTION BY KEITH HAMM
PHOTOS BY TED TERREBONNE AND DAN BOURQUI

 

Christian Rosha Hosoi, 36, who will always be considered one of the greatest skateboarders of all time, was arrested on January 26, 2000 in the Honolulu International Airport with approximately 600 grams of crystal methamphetamine in his hip sack. Federal agents busted him for drug trafficking, and when Hosoi refused to rat out his supplier, prosecutors gunned for a ten-year sentence. The judge gave him 70 months. Three-and-a-half years into his prison stint — during which he earned his high school diploma, stayed out of trouble, and turned his life over to Jesus Christ — Hosoi faced the same judge to be re-sentenced under new law. On Friday, July 11, 2003 — before a courtroom filled with the born-again’s family and friends — federal attorneys tried to tack more time to Hosoi’s sentence. Judge Alan C. Kay, however, seemed swayed to release Hosoi on the spot. As is typical of real-life courtroom drama, proceedings were delayed, and delayed again, and again. Hosoi’s next hearing is now scheduled for July 31, 2004.

Longtime skateboarder and LA-based freelance journalist Keith David Hamm conducted the following series of interviews. Look for Hamm’s first book about skateboarders, titled “Scarred for Life” to be published by Chronicle Books in the fall of 2004.

[8:00 am. Wednesday, July 9, 2003. Federal Detention Center. Honolulu, Hawaii.]

“Prior to Marina opening, Aaron lived in Venice Beach and we’d go skate down in Venice and hang out at Roller Skate. Then we heard about the park opening up, so two weeks before it opened we went and checked it out to see the pros riding. We were like, “Oh, man, this is awesome.” Then on opening day, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Shogo Kubo, Billy Yeron and all the top pros in the magazines were all there.”

How did you get into skateboarding?
My father surfed in the late ’50s and early ’60s here in Hawaii. He grew up in Kailua. I grew up in California. I was born in LA. When I was three or four years old, he got me a skateboard for Christmas. It was aluminum with the ball-bearing wheels. I was really only three or four years old, so that really wasn’t my skateboarding days yet. Then we moved to Kailua, Hawaii when I was five and I went to elementary school there. We lived in front of this hill and that’s when Cadillac wheels came out. My dad made a mold, like a surfboard mold, and made a fiberglass skateboard with an upturned nose that was shaped like a surfboard, with a square tail and a lightning bolt on it, Gerry Lopez style. Then when I was about seven years old, we moved back to California, and skateboarding was starting to get popular. In third grade, I went to a private art school, and there were all these rich kids from Malibu, LA and Hollywood there. I guess that’s when Road Rider wheels came out with the quiet sealed bearings. It just stuck with me; that was the beginning. I was hooked, after I saw “Skateboarder” magazine.

Were you still on that first board your dad made for you?
No, that got ripped off when we lived in a loft in downtown L.A. Some kids came in and ripped off all our boards.

Your dad told me that your board had an upturned nose and a down-turned tail and that you rode it the other way around.
Yeah, cuz then [the upturned nose became] the kick tail and you could control it that way. The [original] way, you couldn’t put your foot on the tail to lift up the nose.

Where were the early spots where you learned a lot about skateboarding?
In my backyard, my pops built a ramp. My buddy Aaron Murray and I grew up together and his dad was a carpenter and my dad was a carpenter. They went to work together, custom building houses. He would build his son custom boards and I was already buying Dogtown boards from the skate shop with Kryptonic wheels, Tracker full tracks or Gullwings and Sunspot wheels. Skateboard World opened up in Torrance and we would truck down there. Aaron and I would tell our dads, “We want to go down there.” We looked it up in the magazine and it was the closest skatepark, so we started going down there every weekend. Then, Marina del Rey Skatepark opened up in ’78.

When you started skating Marina a lot, who were you running into there?
Prior to Marina opening, Aaron lived in Venice Beach and we’d go skate down in Venice and hang out at Roller Skate. Then we heard about the park opening up, so two weeks before it opened we went and checked it out to see the pros riding. We were like, “Oh, man, this is awesome.” Then on opening day, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Shogo Kubo, Billy Yeron and all the top pros in the magazines were all there.

How long was Marina your spot?
When it opened in ’78, I was going every weekend. Pretty soon after that, my dad ending up getting into a scuffle at work at Cook’s Crating, where he hung art. He and another guy had a falling out. After that, he said, “You know what? I’m gonna quit my job. What would you think if I worked at the skatepark?” I was like, “Man, C’mon, Pops! [sarcastically] No, don’t. I’d hate that.” He’s like, “Alright, I’ll see if I can get a job there.” I was only ten years old and I was getting really good. My first year there, I was already the best small-bowl skater there was. I hadn’t gone to the big, deep pools yet. I was just riding the brown bowls. So my dad goes over there and says to the guy, “Yep, the owner says I can work here and that I can be the manager of the place.” So, now he’s the manager. I said, “You’re kidding, right?” It ended up being a dream come true.” I started going there every day. I opened up the place and swept out the bowls. I had all the pinball machines and video games that I wanted to play. The snack bar and the pro shop was mine. I was running the whole place, you know; the manager’s son. Everybody was like, “Man, you’re gonna be good when you get older.” I think that was pretty much the motivation and encouragement I needed to pursue skateboarding as a lifelong career.

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