Christian Hosoi revolutionized the skateboarding industry in every way imaginable.
Because Christian grew up skating Marina Skatepark with major pros like Jay Adams and Shogo Kubo as his friends-not to mention that his dad Ivan managed the park-it’s no surprise that at just fourteen years of age he became one of skateboarding’s first teenage pros, pulling in a cool 1,600 dollars a month.
When parks closed with the downturn in skating’s popularity, backyard ramps and PVC coping became the norm, and Christian’s style of doing tailtaps and tricks to tail inspired him to make the first swallowtail boards-his 1983 Alva. Soon after, it was all about his lofty Christ and Rocket airs-his undisputed title of launching the largest backside airs even brought on the awkward-to-most, yet fully functional-to-him Hammerhead shape: “I thought, ‘How can I make my board better for backside airs? How can I make a handle? I was looking for a hook for my hand.’ I said, ‘Oh, this looks hot!’ And it’s OG. It’s completely original. No one was experimenting with any type of shapes back then.”
With all this talent, product, and trick evolution, it’s no wonder he’s also the person who-when affiliated with a company or is the company affiliated with him, depending on how you want to look at it-seemed to always have the King Midas touch. When he took his bravado to Santa Cruz (“Look, let’s do an ad campaign. I’ll make these wheels sell like hotcakes.”) and signed with them for their OJIIs and later his Hosoi’s Rocket wheels in the mid 80s, they went from selling 12,000 sets of wheels in a month to 55 to 65,000 per month in less than six months. Of course, the wheel residuals were only a small part of the 200,000-dollars-plus he was raking in a year by selling six- to ten-thousand boards a month at the same time-boards depicting the rising sun image and Japanese lettering that only seemed to gain in popularity since he introduced them on his first Sims model in 1982.
This was all quite ironic as the rising sun started as a “plan B” to his original Dogtown graphic that never saw light due to the boardmaker going out of business: “My first graphic was going to be the Dogtown cross, with two samurai swords going across the front and a banner at the bottom.”
No popular merchandise is immune to counterfeiting, and with the ease with which Christian’s boards flew off the shelf, a shady Canadian woodshop started manufacturing its own Hammerhead models, identical to the authentic Skull Skates ones being produced in Skull’s Canadian homeland. “This guy was making boards and selling ’em for ten dollars cheaper than we were,” explains Christian. “So he’s selling ’em for eighteen dollars apiece while we’re selling ’em for 28 dollars-so everyone was buying his boards. I had to go and get a lawyer and spend like 40 grand on lawyer fees just to get him to stop doing it.”
This wasn’t something limited to Canal Street, it had infiltrated the sanctuary of skateboarders: their own skate shops-even causing Christian to get permanently banned from one of the most popular skate spots of the time, Upland skatepark: “I went there and told Stan (Hoffman, owner), ‘You know what? These are bootleg boards. Please don’t sell these.’ He said, ‘What are you talking about? They showed me a contract.’ I was like, ‘Stan, please! I’m not making a dime off ’em!’ Then I sent him a letter from my lawyer saying, ‘If you sell these, you’re gonna get prosecuted for it.’ Then the next time I went over there he was like, ‘You’re out of here for life! I can’t believe you’d think I’d sell your bootleg boards!’ And I just never went back to Upland.”
As the 80s turned 90s, Christian saw his salary take a 70-percent pay cut as he started companies like Tuff Skates, Sk8 Kultur, Milk, and Focus. Things worsened in 2000, when he was arrested for trafficking methamphetamine from California to Hawai’i. Christian was only recently released from prison with a new outtlook on life and knowledge of how to use his unfortunate past to better his future and others’: “The best thing that’s come out of it all is that I now have a platform to hopefully make a difference in the next generations to come, be a good example, be the one who has a love of God and the one who wants to take all the difficulties and hardships that I’ve gone through, ’cause I’ve been through some. Now I know and am experienced in what ways you shouldn’t go. Because Jesus went to the cross for me, that’s why I want to serve him, please him, and give back all the gifts that he gave me, and that gift is skateboarding. So I’m thanking him with that. I give it to him out of worship. I want to use it to hopefully touch the rest of the world. And that’s one of the most positive things I’m going to get out of this, let alone my new life that is in Christ.”
Today Christian is living with his wife and son in Huntington Beach and skating his pro-model Black Label Red Kross board at a number of Southern California skateparks. He’s been so busy that he’s yet to delve into the various storage facilities that may still have a number of those cherished boards contained inside: “Yeah, I still have some, but I’ve lost a lot of boards in storage over the years.”-Eric Stricker