Looking back on his life as one of the top skateboarders in history, Christian Hosoi paints a picture of wild popularity and extravagance in his memoir, "Hosoi," released today by HarperCollins Publishers. It's all there: the endless partying; the cocksure womanizing; the ostentatious displays of wealth. For a young skateboarder pulling down 25 grand a month, lapping the planet to ride contests and demos, and living in an historic estate off Sunset Boulevard, life was filled with limitless freedom. Or at least that's what Hosoi believed at the time. These days, the 44-year-old pastor, husband, father, and two-time X Games Skateboard Park Legends gold medalist believes just the opposite: It was prison.
Hosoi knows a thing or two about prison. In January of 2000, as an acute methamphetamine addiction devoured any vestige of Hosoi's career in skateboarding, federal agents arrested him at Honolulu International Airport with 600 grams of crystal meth in his hip-bag. What followed was nearly half a decade behind bars. "[Prison] is the bottom of the lowest point in anybody's life," Hosoi told me when I interviewed him in July 2003 inside Honolulu's Federal Detention Center. "The only thing worse than prison is death." But he also explained that every minute of his time in prison had been worth it, because that's where he started reading the Bible. In its pages, he said, he had found ultimate freedom.
Hosoi's trust in God is a faith he shares with the book's coauthor Chris Ahrens, who's been writing professionally about surfing since he was "a destitute surf bum, living on the beaches of Australia in 1973," Ahrens said. "I first interviewed Christian for 'Risen Magazine,' where I worked as editor, in 2003. He had read some of my work and he liked it. That and our shared faith opened him up and we bonded quickly."
On the "Hosoi" project, Ahrens explained, "my role specifically was to record Christian's story, write it down and read it with him. I also interviewed Christian's friends, family and his competitors... Everyone I talked with told me that Christian was gifted, dedicated, confident and generous. Cocky, but friendly to anyone and always there for his friends or any fan that wanted an autograph. Everyone said that he was extremely honest and unyielding if he believed in something."
Above all, that honesty comes through in the memoir, which swings with great distance between a glorified look at life in the fast lane and an eventual condemnation of it: "Drugs, money, fame, sex -- it's all an illusion. Through those means we grab at the wind, not knowing what's at stake."
At the very least, the 300-page memoir -- which is filled with more than 100 color and black-and-white images -- cracks open a time capsule containing a picture of professional skateboarding in its most alluring and obnoxious form. At its best, "Hosoi" can provide lessons to those able to learn from another's mistakes.