Christian Hosoi Interview

It’s more than a pleasure to have Christian Hosoi grace this zine. Back in the 80’s when we all started shredding, he was the Don. There’s no denying the fact that he was a massive influence on so many skaters worldwide back then, we would wear our t-shirts out the back of our shorts and try to tweak our airs as much as possible. Nobody could get a Christ Air though. He had the style, the steez – all the attributes of what every 80’s kid skated for; to be unique, to cut out your own path and destroy it at the same time.

Moving into the naughties, Christian is ripping once again.The wheels came off for a little while, but he’s back and now a changed man, with a family to look after and a reputation to further.

This interview was cut in 2 parts. The historical 80’s section was done over the phone a while back with Zac over 2 phone conversations and recently more words were exchanged face to face with Phil Procter in London. Big shouts and thanks to our friends at Vans UK and also to the photographers that shot these incredible photos for us over the years to make this work.

Hey Christian, let’s start at the beginning, what’s your full name?

Christian Rosha Hosoi

Rosha, where does that come from?

My pops named me after Rosha Shana, the Jewish holiday

How old are you now?

The other side of 40 now! But i’m still strong.

So, hows life these days?

Life is good, best ever in fact!

What brings you over to the UK?

Just filming a reality TV show called The Uprising.

Where have you been filming already?

I just got back from Liverpool, we filmed at Brian Sumners house where he grew up The show is basically about myself, Alabamy and Brian Sumner, the paths we have followed and where we are now, its going to be on Sky TV over here. Brian’s a Deacon now and a pretty important part of our church group. He had his ups and downs and is doing pretty good right now with God’s help.

How’s his skating?

Amazing as ever, he is riding for Reliance Skateboards now, they are fresh out and he also will have a wheel on Hosoi too.

What about your skating, getting chance to get out much?

Oh yeah, lots, it’s still there and will always be a big part of me.

How are you finding the veterans comp’s?

I want to get to everyone of those, it’s great on top of the vert ramp with all the guys, everyone gets on super well, it’s a great atmosphere, so many more styles. It’s not so much like at a street spot where you can’t do a trick because blah blah blah already did it here, it’s more like “hey man, let’s skate!”

Fancy a ride at the Mega Ramp one day?

Oh for sure, i’ll definitely add that to my list of accomplishments.

Did you see the Jake Brown slam?

I was there at the time, he is blessed to have been able to stay alive, let alone walk away, that was a miracle.

What do you think of the current crop of skaters, and the way things are heading?

Well it’s very different to when I was coming up, we were landing tricks ever other try and doing runs, now it’s 2 weeks to land a trick for a advert or your video part – I don’t think people will be remembered the same, so much less consistency, but the level tricks are at is quite amazing.

How’s Hosoi Skateboards shaping up?

Really good thanks, there is a new website coming up, the boards are all out there – the teams hot.

Who is on there?

Sergie Ventura rides for us, plus Richard Mulder and Andre Genovesi, Daniel Cardone, Jason Vanzant, Jay Haizlip, Aaron Astorga too. The team’s very strong right now.

Sick, so what about Pocket Pistols?

Well yeah, that’s my thing, me and Chicken, he is running things back home.

Jim Phillips doing the artwork?

Yeah he does a lot over there, plus we have Gonz doing some work too, he did the deck i’m riding now.

Who else do you ride for right now?

Hosoi Skateboards of course, plus Vans, Indy, Quiksilver, Nixon, Protec, Ninja Bearings, Kahro Bushings. I just got a new shoe out on Vans.

Cool, seems like Vans are looking after you, it’s good to see a company stick with its roots, the way Vans have kept John Cardiel’s shoe out there even while he isn’t skating is a credit to them..

Exactly, they are doing the right thing with Cardiel, such an authentic company. It’s an honour to be on there and the way they stick with and support the riders is unique.

I’m going to delve into the past here. Am I right in saying you had your first ever photoshoot doing a frontside ollie?

Frontside ollie, in the rust bowl at Marina Del Ray skate park. Yeah it went into Skateboarder Mag.

Is that an image that’ll stay with you for life?

Of course, it’s one of the first real inspirations that I had when it came to publicity, of thinking “Man, I’m in a magazine, I’m on my way to reaching my goal!”. And my goal was to be the best skateboarder in the world and be a professional and the way to start out was being in a magazine.

I was reading on the internet earlier that Tony Hawk saw the photo of you and was quoted as saying “Who is this girl? She rips!“, did that happen a lot back then when you had long hair?

Oh yeah, it happened all the time, all the time. My hair was down to the middle of my back and I was oriental so people just thought, “wow this must be a girl” because no-one really had long hair back then. If they did, they were surfers or older. No younger kids did.

And I guess the punk rock scene was fierce then and everyone had shorter spikier hair back then?

Yup, it was the late 70s still but the UK was just coming out with the Sex Pistols and all that, and it started getting punk really quick, so by 1981 it was all punk rock.

How much did the UK punk style have an effect on you out there? Did you dig it?

Loved it! We were listening to The Clash and Sex Pistols. I was pretty rounded when it came to music because I was into reggae, I’d go to reggae concerts from when I was 5-7 years old. Go to blues concerts with my dad, and classic rock. So I grew up listening to Led Zep, Stones, B52’s and Sex Pistols. I had a pretty wide range.

How much did it inspire you then? Because it inspired a hell of a lot of people back then in the US skate scene, the whole punk thing exploded. Was it just the music? Or did the skating differentiate?

With the skating, you loved to have music playing while you skate, so when you have the Ramones jamming while you’re skating, there’s nothing better than having music that pumps you up and really gets your adrenaline flowing and brings the extra excitement and rhythm into the atmosphere and you just start flowing. Like surfing – when you watch a surf movie with good music and you watch the wave move with the rhythm of the music, it just like skateboarding. And that’s what music does when you add it to skateboarding, it makes skateboarding really come alive and you look at it like a fluid movement, so it’s artistic almost.

I can definitely vouch for that! Were there any particular bands back then, other than The Ramones and Pistols, that would absolutely have to be in your session if you were skating a bowl?

Bob Marley and AC/DC, Van Halen, they were the ones I’d play during my runs. I’d play the Go-Gos too, I could go on and on.

So you were riding for Powell Peralta back then am I right?

Yeah I rode for Powell Peralta back in 1980.

And you switched to Dog Town skates?

Yeah..

For someone who was involved in the Dog Town scene right at the end, what was your initial reaction on the documentary that came out? How well was that documented in your eyes?

It was pretty good, it was really just a documentary on these guys talking about the past. I wasn’t really at the places these guys were at, I was only really at the Marina Del Rey skatepark when it turned into Jay Adams and Dennis Agnew, Polar Bear… so that was pre-my time. Marina Del Ray opened in 1978 and that’s when I came on the scene.

Your Father helped in many ways yeah?

Yeah, actually he ended up managing the skatepark there, after we went there, because I wanted to go there so much. And he was like, “you know what? I might as well manage it!” as he thought it could be managed better. And so he worked there and I could skate there as much as I want for free.

When Thrasher magazine started in 1981, it was the start of a new generation of skateboarders like yourself, Lance Mountain, Tony Hawk, Lester…..there’s so many different skaters in that scene. When you look back, has skateboarding changed in many ways since then?

It definitely has changed because of the evolution of the skateboarding and the tricks and how people perceive skateboarding today, is a lot different to how it was perceived back then. Back then we were rebels and outlaws and people were shunning skateboarders because of their attitude and lifestyle. But today it’s accepted and its come a long way in that I’m a father. I have a kid who’s 9 years old and you’re even having grandfather’s who used to skate and so you have generations to generations that are interested in our culture. This culture that has really cultivated itself and has become a real big influence on our whole culture today, being an individual, being artistic, having your own character and personality and it really bleeds into a lifestyle rather than a sport.

So it really has grown and evolved into a sport that is influencing the generation today which is a lot different from when were doing it when it was just the top 20 to 40 guys who would skate and maybe 80 guys total in the whole world who skated. And it was only vertical back then, and vert takes a lot of practice and time to become a good vert skater, where with street skating, kids can practice all day every day and don’t need a ramp or a skatepark. We needed a ramp or a skatepark to practice and progress but now kids just need a ledge or a handrail or steps and they’re doing these radical manoeuvres and become these phenomenal street skaters that you can breed anywhere. So now you have 20 to 25 million skaters probably in the States that skateboard and influence the world. It’s a huge difference.

And how much of an influence was someone like the late Fausto Vitello on your skateboarding career?

It’s so sad, he was like a Father to me because I rode for Indy since say, 1981, so I’ve been riding for them for all these years and we’ve travelled all over the place and I’ve stayed at his house. I know his family and his opinion towards skateboarding is probably the most respected out of anyone I know because he had such a passion for the heartbeat of skateboarding and really the core group of skaters.

He didn’t want to compromise for money even though he did have a huge empire of businesses and magazines and companies, but he still stayed true to what he thought skateboarding was – hardcore, real people that loved what they did and he didn’t take away or add to that and I think that is more dignified today in skateboarding than those that have been super successful or those that are trying to live out some past.

He was always right there on the cutting edge, always keeping up, always letting the skateboarders dictate to him what they thought he was like for the skateboarders and he was there from the beginning when skateboarding was at it’s lowest level and lowest peak. He was throwing backyard contests, he was putting money in our pockets and putting a mag together to promote skateboarding. He just loved skateboarding, and that’s something everybody is going to learn to realise and appreciate. Appreciate who he was and what he stood for, and he stood for skateboarding.

For those that know him personally are blessed, and those that don’t know him, or have only just come to know about him, are going to be blessed. He’s impacted not only my life but also the whole industry in a way that no-one else has or can affect them in the way he has.

Let’s talk about the 80’s some more, it must have been a blast in many ways, cars, girls, fame, international skate trips. What’s your most insane tour story that springs to mind that’s the most memorable?

They’re all pretty memorable but my European trip was pretty good because it was a Thrasher tour and it was perfect for Fausto. He sent us out there and I tell ya, I can’t even remember everybody on the trip, but we went out there and took a Eurorail pass and toured all of Europe. When I got to Venice, I lost my passport, Eurorail card, ID, wallet, credit cards, everything, on a train and I was sitting there in Italy with nothing!

Shit!

Here I am, sitting there and then I go to the Police and they told me I have to go to Switzerland and gave me a letter to say I don’t have a passport. So I sneak over the border under bags, fall asleep outside of the bags and get to the border and they ask for my passport and I tell them I don’t have one and so they pull me into the side room. They throw me aside and escort us back and get an emergency passport. My mum just happened to tell me to take $1,500 dollars in traveller’s cheques just in case anything happened, so I had those and got back to Amsterdam by train, in time to get home just in time to meet all the guys and do the Suicidal show, it was radical!

The 80s were a crazy time for skateboarding and you were right at the pinnacle of it. We’ve seen the Stoked movie where it was just crazy, so what was the most ridiculous thing you were asked to do, that you just thought “I can’t do this, this is outrageous.”?

I don’t feel that anyone asked me to do anything stupid. They were careful with me because really I was just a super nice guy and I wanted to help out and make every demo and exhibition the best they could be and I was always wanting to make it a big show. I wanted to entertain and be there for the kids, handing out the most stickers and give out the most products. I wanted to hang out the longest and talk to the kids and interact with my fans, because I knew how important that was for me, in my eyes what it’d be like for them.

You know, I was asked to travel almost every single weekend in the year to go somewhere else and that was pretty ridiculous. And so if there was anything ridiculous asked of me, it was to spend so much time away from home. I was away for like, 40 something weekends a year and would be home only one week a month. It was like a vacation being at home, it was pretty ridiculous being gone that much. But other than that, nothing too out of this world.

I suppose as well, because you started so young and became so adapted to riding your skateboard so well, so young, you didn’t really even get a chance to get any advice or anything on how to deal with such pressure. Who were the guys you were looking up to back then?

Back then it was Jay Adams, Kubo, Tony Alva, Polar Bear, George Wilson, those were the main guys I looked up to. The guys who skated Marina and who I hung out with every single day and they were the guys that took me under their wing, they came over to my house, they were friends with my dad. And because he owned the park, we’d be skating out there until 10-11 o’clock at night! They were a little bit out of control at times, and I can tell you right now that their influence on me wasn’t always a good one but their hearts and their souls were for skateboarding. They were totally real skateboarders, loved what they did and had a passion for skateboarding and that’s why they were the pioneers of our sport.

Like, Tony Alva doing the first front side air, Jay Adams getting as radical as he could every time he skated, with the aggressiveness. Kubo being smooth and stylish. Those elements together with surfing, because they all surfed, influenced me. And my dad was a surfer in the 50’s and 60’s in Hawaii, and all those elements shaped me and made me skate the way that I did. And made me be how I wanted to be today. I had to go through some things to get where I am today, but I’m here, I made it. Not all the influences they had on me were good ones, but there were good ones there.

Do you look back on those and regret anything whatsoever? Do you ever think “Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that”?

I wouldn’t take anything back, because all things happen for a reason. Once we realise that, we don’t have to keep making those same mistakes or dictate our lives by what the world is feeding us and having to live up to expectations. Looking at society today, this messed up generation, looking at it from my messed up generation, where kids today go out partying loads, drink alcohol, smoke weed, have sex, and it’s all so accepted. And now I can speak out about it because I’ve experienced those at all levels. Fame, fortune, being in Hollywood and going to prison, being addicted to drugs, being a husband and a father, I can definitely talk about those subjects and have experience.

People will listen to someone who has been through it rather than someone who is just telling you something you shouldn’t do. That’s where Satan tried to destroy me and I can bring people the knowledge that God is real through the very things that were trying to destroy my life – Drug addiction. I can talk to drug addicts and talk to kids about drugs and give them help to give them up and live a better life, but definitely things all happen for a reason.

If you could go back to a certain year, what year would it be and what reasons would you have?

I would probably go back to…..that’s a tough one, I mean from 82 all the way up to 92, skateboarding was awesome. And really, I would just go back to the 80s and relive those times and enjoy the skateboarding because those were the days when we were inventing tricks, the Rocket air, the Christ air… just making the fish shape and the Hammerhead. Those days are so inspiring for me because now I’m looking back. When you’re in the day and in the picture, you don’t really know what you’re doing. But when you step out of the picture and look back at what was happening, it was so innovative and influential that it’s a blessing to be a part of skateboarding at such an era that has made a big impact on skateboarding.

What’s the highest air you ever achieved, do you know?

I went over the 10 foot mark but I think I’ve gone higher, maybe like 12 feet on a 10 foot ramp.

Do you have a particular favourite session?

One session that really sticks out to me was when me and Neil Blender went down to Del Mar and we would spend the night in the parking lot in his car and we’d be up early, at 8 in the morning, to be the first ones in there to skate the pool by ourselves. That’s really intense when you’re so passionate that you’re so in love with skateboarding when that’s all you wanna do. That’s one of the best sessions. We were cooking eggs on a hot plate in the parking lot, we were there living the moment and seizing it and I believe, right after that, I made the 540′. It was one of those times when me and Blender would just go down there and skate. Another session would be at my ramp in Hollywood skating with all the boys.

In your back yard?

Yeah, just up off Sunset Boulevard. WC Fields’ estate where I rented his house. They were some awesome memorable sessions. I could probably sit and tell you a whole bunch more.

If you could recreate one of those amazing sessions, which skaters would not be available to ride and why?

A lot of skaters have passed away, Jeff Phillips, Joe Lopes…those guys were guys that loved skateboarding and are gonna be missed. But other than that, it’s guys like Gator who is in prison. Right now I’m just looking forward to skating with Cab, Lance Mountain, Chris Miller, those guys are the ones I used to skate in competitions with, Jeff Grosso, Mike Smith, Pat Ngoho… probably gonna leave out a bunch of guys.

What makes the perfect ramp?

Just as long as it’s smooth and not too grippy. It doesn’t matter what size it is, I like any size ramp. Quick transition, big transition, small, tall, whichever. As long as its cool. Even some kinky ramps are good so long as they’re good kinks. So a perfect ramp… as long as it’s a ramp and it’s skateable. As long as its not falling apart, its skateable! In fact, I’ve skated some pretty dodgy ramps that were falling apart too and still had a laugh. That’s skateboarding for you!

Talking about the perfect ramp, let’s talk about the perfect board to ride the thing with. You’ve had some pretty crazy shapes over the years. The shapes of the boards were very innovative. Nothing else had a Hammerhead on it or a big Blockhead, it was very different at the time. Did your shapes actually improve your ride and how much were they different for different’s sake?

Oh no, it was all function and then I added to it. When I had the fish shape, it was because I did these body jars air tail taps back then. I wanted my hand to be on a flat nose instead of a round nose so it would be perfect, so I made a flat nose. And then I wanted it to be nice and sleek and I cut it in, side cut, and we were skating ramps at the time, there were no real pools anymore, the PVC wasn’t coping so I’d go up to do tail taps with a round tail and my tail would slip off and I was bummed because I wanted to do tail taps in the contests and all we had was plastic coping. So I made a swallow tail so my tail wouldn’t slip off. And I thought it’d be sick, with a swallow tail like a surfboard, because I was influenced by surfing so that’s how the shape came about, through function. I started the fish shape in 83/84 when I rode for Alva and I did the Hammerhead in 84/85.

So what about the graphics then? Any graphics that you had back in the day that you’d take to your grave because they’re that inspirational?

The Rising Sun graphic is pretty memorable, that embodies my identity, that’s why we called my movie “The Rising Son”. All the graphics my father did, the triangle with the sun which is really original stuff, even the Alva stuff, the flaming ball, we did that. But if I had to pick one, it’d be the Rising Sun.

What about other people’s graphics? Are there any that caught your eye and made you think “wow, that’s amazing”?

It would have to be the Rodriguez graphic, y’know with the Sword and the Skull.

The Powell Peralta one?

Absolutely, that one was one of the most classic graphics of all time.

Thanks for your time Christian and good luck with the skate company and the future.

Thank you too, God bless.

Find Christian Hosoi at www.hosoiskates.com