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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Hosoi puts demons behind

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

With today's arrival of National Skateboarding Day, one of the most legendary skateboarders wants everyone to know that even the best fall sometimes.

Christian Hosoi, who attended Lanikai Elementary School, was a skateboarding star in the 1980s who became addicted to crystal meth. He now speaks to kids on the perils of drug use.

Courtesy of Quiksilver

As one of the sport's brightest stars in the 1980s, Christian Hosoi skated and destroyed himself with his crystal methamphetamine addiction, and eventually landed in prison on a drug possession conviction after he was caught in Honolulu in 2000.

After spending nearly five years in prison, Hosoi is free and reuniting with the sport he dominated two decades ago. Only this time, he's bringing a drug-free message.

"I'm just looking forward to coming to Hawai'i and sharing my testimony with all the kids out there, especially with ones who have drug problems," said Hosoi in a telephone interview from California. "And the kids who haven't had a drug problem, I just want to open their eyes to the pitfalls of life and hopefully make a difference."

The 37-year-old Hosoi — once the face of outlaw and aerial skateboarding — has refashioned himself as the sport's goodwill ambassador by building skateparks and counseling at-risk youth. The former Lanikai resident has also taken aim at Hawai'i's crystal meth epidemic, and sees himself returning to Hawai'i someday to speak on the problem.

Last year in Hawai'i, deaths from crystal meth tallied 67, breaking the previous record of 62, according to the city medical examiner's office. The Honolulu Police Department made 708 crystal meth arrests, an increase from 578 in 2003. HPD also seized 140 pounds of crystal meth last year.

Hosoi, who once attended Lanikai Elementary School, said his popularity attracted many people, including Mainland drug dealers.

"It's funny, when you're a guy like me, everybody wants to hang out," said Hosoi, who was born in Los Angeles, but is linked to Hawai'i by his parents. Hosoi's dad, Ivan, is from Kailua, and his mother, Bonnie Puamana Mitchell, is from Maui. "In that scene, I ended up having a lot of people just wanting to give that stuff to me. It doesn't pay sometimes to be famous, or be a big person in this world."

Hosoi said his drug addiction was a slow process that started when he was about 24 or 25, and "took a good seven years of my life."

"I was actually smoking it, like they do in Hawai'i," Hosoi said of the crystal meth. "After that, it was all downhill. You just couldn't stop. It was almost like your priorities get mixed up. The next thing you know — drugs are first, and your family and skateboarding and relationships come after that."

Since his release from prison on June 4, 2004, Hosoi has been a man on a mission. With the help of friends, church pastors and high-powered companies such as Quiksilver, Vans, Pro-Tech, Black Label and Nixon, Hosoi has used skateboarding to keep at-risk youth from joining gangs and the streets.

"I just want to be a role model," said Hosoi, who is starting a ministry called the Uprising and is heavily involved with church activities, including a tour with actor Stephen Baldwin.

Many in Hawai'i's skateboarding community such as Chad Hiyakumoto, who owns 'A'ala Park Boardshop and is one of Hawai'i's most vocal skateboard supporters, still hold Hosoi in high regard.

"He was one of the greatest skaters that ever lived," said Hiyakumoto, 30, who grew up idolizing Hosoi, and sold Hosoi his first skateboard upon his release from prison. "To see him fall to drugs, it's a testament to the power that they have over people. For him to come back from that and use that notoriety to help kids stay off of drugs, I think is perfect."

In his heyday, Hosoi was earning megabucks from skateboarding endorsements and appearances. When Hosoi was 17, he put his father on his payroll and did the same for his mom two years later. At 21, Hosoi was earning more than $100,000.

In his lifetime, Hosoi has befriended many, and according to him, "helped a lot of people out" with his free-spending ways. Now, those friends are returning the favor, he said.

"When I've been in binds, especially when I was in prison, they've been there to support me and be there for my wife (Jennifer Lee)," said Hosoi, who had credited friends and family for financial help with his lawyer bills. "It's been just a total blessing. When you do give out, it does come back and return."

Hosoi, who is living in Huntington Beach, Calif., has been keeping busy with publicity events such as the X Games and Gravity Games, and various media interviews. He is recovering from recent knee surgery and hopes to get back into competitive skateboarding.

"I'll get some hardcore training, so I can hopefully give these guys a run for their money," Hosoi said.

Reach Brandon Masuoka at bmasuoka@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2458.