By Ashley Mackin
World-renowned skateboarder, X-Games winner and longtime rival to Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, has an in-depth story to tell.
He started skateboarding at age 10, was named the top amateur in the nation by age 12 and went pro by age 14, getting endorsement deals and prize money on a regular basis.
But at the Cornerstone Church of San Diego, during its May 5 services at the Cuvier Club, 7776 Eads Ave., he told the other side of his story — the side that involves heavy drug use, prison time, and eventually becoming a pastor.
While offering advice to youth in the audience, many of whom brought skateboards and helmets for him to sign, Hosoi talked with Cornerstone Pastor Sergio De La Mora about what it was like to have all the fame a teenager could want, and what can happen when that gets out of hand.
Having grown up in Hawaii, Hosoi is a longtime surfer. He said skateboarding, even at age 6 or 7, was like “surfing on land. I got that feeling, I got that rush.”
By skating every day, he was named top amateur skateboarder in the nation at age 12, skating with pioneer skaters Tony Alva and Jay Adams (a
mere mention of the names drew cheers from the congregation), and had endorsement deals and sponsorships, eventually signing with Dogtown Skateboards.
Things were looking great for Hosoi, he spent his teen years traveling, competing, and placing in the top three at nearly every completion in which he participated from 1985-2010.
Pastor De La Mora asked, “You’re at the top of the top, you have everything that a 20-year-old would want ... what was your life like at 20?”
“I had pretty much everything the world had to offer ... making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, traveling around the world ... you think you are the guy, you think ‘ you want to be me’ like, ‘I’m it,’ ” he said.
“I had to continue to reproduce that feeling over and over, and if I wasn’t the guy to be on the next cover or get his picture in a magazine, I would think, ‘What’s going on?’ My identity was slipping. I tried to find it in money, fame, girls, friends (and) being popular.”
Then he tried finding it through drugs. He had been smoking marijuana since age 10, eventually moving on to harder and harder drugs.
“I thought I’d get artistic and creative,” he said in a self-mocking way. His drug use and attempted smuggling eventually landed him in prison.
“They told me I was looking at 10 years, you’re like, ‘yeah right,’ but I went inside and the inmates were telling me, ‘yeah you’re looking at 10 years.’ All that mattered didn’t matter any more. All I could think about was, ‘Why me?’ ”
Deemed a danger to the community and a threat to society, Hosoi was sentenced to five years. His first phone call was to his girlfriend at the time, who had quit drugs and started attending church. Her advice was to trust in God to get through the jail sentence.
Hosoi said he joked that he didn’t need God, he needed a lawyer. Still, he decided to track down a Bible.
“I’ve been in a million hotel rooms, seen a million Bibles; I never opened it one time in my whole life. So I decided to look for one and read it,” he said.
He opened it to a random page in the book of Genesis. Flipping to another page, he landed on Psalms and said, “What’s a pa- sam?” Eventually finding something he could relate to, he started reading. From there, he said, his life was never the same; he felt “set free” by his prison sentence.
Hosoi now travels, speaking to youth groups and churches about his life story. He published his autobiography, “My Life as a Skateboarder, Junkie, Inmate, Pastor,” in an effort to set others free.
Christian Hosoi’s advice for young skaters
■ “It’s all about passion, it’s all about commitment, it’s all about perseverance, it’s not quitting or giving up. Those are the things you learn through not just success, but you learn them in your failures, when you are falling down. That’s why I don’t regret when things went wrong in my life; I turned the negative into a positive. Because of that, other people see the hope and see that there is a chance for them. If I can come out of something so bad, they can too.”