If you grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, you know the name Christian Hosoi. One of skateboarding’s most iconic figures, Hosoi’s style transcended the streets, pools, and ramps he conquered and captured mainstream attention–along with six-figure sponsorships, endorsements, world tours, and a rock star lifestyle to boot. Hosoi and fellow skater Tony Hawk were the action sports’ equivalent of Jordan and Bird – both taking their sport to new heights with completely different styles and a shared flair for the dramatic. Hosoi’s aggressive grace and stylish technique remain almost unparalleled in the sport before or since, so much so Christian was lauded as “Christ,” and one of his signature big air vert moves became known as “The Christ Air.” Knowing the devout Christian Hosoi is now, the ironic blasphemy that he was given such a nickname almost seems like an eerie foreshadowing into his eventual fall from grace – something he credits with actually saving his life.
After a downward spiral into crystal meth addiction, Hosoi was arrested in 2000 for attempting to bring the drug on a flight to Hawaii for a business trip, and the amount he had carried a trafficking charge and a minimum of 10 years. While incarceration usually takes away one’s freedom, Hosoi found that it actually gave him his – not only from the drug addiction but from worldly temptations, thanks to his new-found faith in God. It’s been fifteen years since the arrest that changed his life, and the resurrection of the one they used to call “Christ” has been nothing short of phenomenal. Christian has willingly shared his story as a testimony for those who are stuck on the path he once followed. A documentary, “Rising Son: The Legend of Skateboarder Christian Hosoi” offered many of his adoring fans a first glimpse into the obstacles Hosoi faced and overcame during his time outside the limelight. Since then, he has welcomed the public eye, believing it to be his responsibility to share his story to help others in need. “Drugs are so self-destructive that people can’t handle the addiction,” says Christian from Venice Beach in between autograph requests. “Lots of my friends have passed away because of heavy duty drug addiction. They lost their families, kids and even their talents are gone as a result of what they got into. There aren’t a lot of positive examples of people who made it through addiction, and that’s what I’m trying to be, to show that you can still chill, you can still hang, get rad, skate friends’ parties, do art, go to clubs, listen to good music, and just appreciate the art without destroying yourself in the process.” We caught up with Christian, better known today as the Outreach Pastor at The Sanctuary Church in Orange County, CA for his take on his career, his life, and his salvation.
Achievements aside, why do you think people consider you to be one of the more influential skaters within the culture?
You know, you gotta make something look fun. That’s part of anything you do. It’s gotta look fun or like it is a good time. You can’t look depressed! [laughs] I think that determines whether what you do is infectious or not. Were you surprised at all in the way action sports just exploded worldwide? Not really, actually. In a prophetic way, I always thought that if I liked it this much, the whole world would, and everywhere we went, everybody was into it. It was a matter of delivering it in my own way.
Lifestyle, music, fashion what kind of sport has that as a part of its fabric?
No sport has that influence on music or fashion in terms of lifestyle or culture. I saw this at 15 years old, It was a small industry then – skating for minimal amounts of money, but all of a sudden two years later, boom! I was making hundreds of thousands of dollars, traveling the world, and feeling like a rock star. Did I have a premonition or idea? I think so. It stemmed from the love I had for it.
How did your success influence your lifestyle?
Back then, I thought I’d be smoking weed for the rest of my life, listening to Bob Marley, taking acid on the weekend, doing cocaine when there’s a party. You know…I just thought that was normal living. I thought if you didn’t do those things, you were a nerd. You couldn’t hang out with us without participating in those things. We were the cool crowd. If you hung out in those groups of people that’s the kind of lifestyle you had to portray. I realize now, I don’t have to participate in those types of activities and I can still have fun. It took me a bit of time to realize that was my position now, but it freed me to be able to not be influenced by others and allowed me to influence them to want to live my style of life. Art isn’t what you take or drink or smoke. Art is creative expression, but skateboarders, Graf artists, DJs, athletes, and so many others all come from a culture so driven by a lifestyle that sometimes we feel the pressures of jumping through those peer pressure hoops. But when you can be who you are on a creative level without taking away from your pure self, of who you were created to be without that stuff, I think that’s a beautiful thing.
How did your spiritual awakening come about?
I went through life thinking, “Life is good, Buddha is good, I’m good, and if you’re good enough, you’ll probably inherit this place called heaven.” I believed that I was legalistically good. When I got into crystal meth and fell into drug addiction for 8 years, I wanted to quit “tomorrow.” Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. Everybody says that and I was stuck in a rut – I couldn’t quit. My girlfriend at the time, Jennifer, who’s my wife now, decided she was going to quit drugs as her friend almost overdosed in my house. She said, “I’m quitting drugs, I’m going to church tomorrow.” I said, “Sweet, I’ll go!” I read Buddha books, but I never read a Bible in my life, and at the time, I never even opened one. I been to a million hotels, saw the Bibles and put my dope underneath them in my room thinking they were going to protect it, and nobody was going to steal my dope. (Laughs). I went to church, nothing happened. I thought it was cool, it was like a club and you give your respects. People are trying to be good people there and then they did drugs on the way back home. We still did our thing, I said, “I’m going to Hawaii to do some business,” and asked if she wanted to come. She agreed to come but then I ended up getting arrested. Never been to church in my life and I went right before I got arrested. I get there, the first phone call, I find out that I’m looking at 10 years. I’m crying, and I’m in there with murderers, and man, I don’t think I can make it. She says, “Don’t worry, we’ll trust in God and we’ll make it.” I said, “I’m not dying, I need an attorney, I need bail!” She’s like, “God is going to help us. Go and get a Bible.” I went into my cell, cried out and said, “God, if you’ll just get me out of this situation, I promise I won’t do this and that. Get me bail.” All of a sudden I got labeled a danger to the community, and a threat to society and bam! No bail! I was like, Didn’t I make all these promises?!” I was angry. Two weeks later, I was walking around locked up in prison, but I was a “free man.” “Free man” meaning, I gave my life to God and realized that I am loved by him and that I was created for a higher purpose. Did people think you were going through a phase when you first got out? When I first got out of prison, people thought, “Oh, it’s not going to take Christian long to go back to his partying ways, going to clubs, doing dope, and being the life of the party again. That’s what we’re doing! We got better drugs, better clubs, there’s more money and there’s social media now and he’s going to be the king of that!” I’m sure they thought that. Through consistency, I built a reputation where they were like, “Woah, I don’t think he’s going to change.” It was like 2-4 years down the road and people saw that I was really sticking with this. I think that’s a testament to staying true to what you believe in. I’m not sober because I don’t do drugs, I’m sober because I love God and God loves me. That’s it. Bottom line. Has nothing to do with what people think of me, it’s my heart that’s right. Now it’s like, “Man, he’s still on fire for Jesus and he talks about it, look at his interview in Tokewell Magazine, he’s still talking about it! He’s still hanging out in Venice. He’s still hanging out with his friends, and he’s still true to his roots.” I was stuck in rut trying to be everything people wanted me to be. Living that rock star lifestyle and that could eat you alive, man. It did me. It sent me to prison for almost five years and I look at it as the best thing that ever happened to me because, in that place, I discovered my purpose and what I was meant to be, versus all my accomplishments, the money I made, trophies I won, and what everybody said about me. All of those things are distracting from the real person on the inside. I think sometimes you need to have a rock bottom experience to cause you to think outside yourself. It’s about family, relationships, who you’re connected to, and who you influence. The world needs more positive role models and influencers because it’s lacking. There are so many kids without fathers because their fathers are out being kids. They’re not ready to take on the role, so their kids look to other role models in the homie, the gang, or in their favorite celebrity they look up to. Myself as a father, I not only want to father my children, but I want to be a role model for kids around the world. Be somebody they look up to. I’ve been sober since Jan 23rd, 2000 – a little over 15 years. Not a sip, smoke, or drug or anything like that. It does feel good. It’s an accomplishment.
Did you ever worry that your transformation might cost you friendships or friction between the people who knew you more in the party lifestyle?
We as people who get put into a situation have to adapt. Just like me adapting to my new lifestyle, I was still like, “Man, I can’t wait to see my homies.” They’re all raging and I don’t judge them, I’m not critical of their lifestyle, I just love them. Love is what wins people over to recognize maybe they’re in a destructive lifestyle. Some people can handle certain situations and go through life like that but in the end, what were your goals? Did you accomplish your goals or were you too busy having fun? You really have to look at the big picture. Sometimes you’re too busy in the VIP room to realize your goals and what talents you have. Do you even know, or are you too concerned with having a good time? There are people that go through life and are good at having a good time, but that’s not the best life. That’s a lower grade of what you were created to do or be. You would never realize that if you were raging or partying.
Obviously, you have changed your lifestyle, but what are your current views on the medicinal use of cannabis?
Marijuana is great for medicinal reasons. I’m all for it. I’m not for people who abuse it or use it for their own personal lifestyle. It’s like alcohol. I’m not a fan of alcohol because people always go too far. Nobody drinks for fun. You want to get buzzed. I paid for a drink, it better get me buzzed or else it wasn’t worth the money. Like when I bought dope, if it didn’t get me high, I got ripped off. To me its a mind altering substance, but I don’t condemn anybody. I just talk about my choices and experiences but if it starts to interfere with your personality, then I think those people are relying on drug enhancement to come out of their shell. Athletes, they get fined and they get disqualified ed. I really embrace people that don’t rely on that crutch, because I remember being that guy. Man, I’ma hit the dance floor, get a drink, smoke a fatty and tear it up! Now, I’ll tear it up without it! Most people don’t have that confidence. People get liquid courage when they drink. It’s insecurity. There’s a fine line between a substance being not healthy for somebody and them using it for a medicinal reason. That’s the original use of cannabis – medicinal. Being a pastor, a father, a professional athlete, and a business owner, I want to be a role model for people in general. It’s a big responsibility to do those things the best way I can and to do it with good character and morals.
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