Once in a while I like to step into my past for material here on my blog, and today I’ll be traveling out west and talking about a lifestyle I once lived.
Skateboarding is tough to sum up. It is the epitome of slackerdom, a haven of useless Peter Pan-ery where children refuse to grow up, disrespect other people’s property, and blatantly disregard societal convention.
It is a metaphor for all that is wrong with the youth of America, a marginalized hobby that ought to remain so. Or at least that’s how it’s perceived.
Who is Christian Hosoi
Meet Christian Hosoi, skateboarding icon from the mid ’80s, and a guy who regularly competed against skate legend Tony Hawk in competitions.
As a kid growing up in southern California during the ’80s, Christian and the skateboarding scene evolved together, and influenced one another big time.
He got his first board at seven, dropping out of school to focus more seriously on the sport. A vert rider who eventually took on street skating, he was known almost as much for his personal style as he was for being a skater.
This is a person who I looked up to, and wanted to be. I spent a lot of time when I was younger skateboarding in the same areas that Christian graced. He won a number of contests and made a lot of money. He started his own company, traveled the world and went to elaborate, drug-filled parties.
For Christian, life was definitely going well — or least he thought it was.
It can be hard to know when a line gets crossed, but sometime in the early-to-mid-’90s, Hosoi’s rock-and-roll lifestyle took over his life and his style, and his partying and recreational drug use became a full-blown addiction.
Christian faded from view, failing even to show up to the very first X Games competition to take on longtime rival, Tony Hawk.
After a couple of minor infractions and an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court, the law finally caught up with him in 2000 at the Honolulu airport. Hosoi had one and a half pounds of crystal meth on him, and was arrested for trafficking with intent to sell. At thirty-three years old, the skateboarding legend found himself facing ten years in prison.
The Danger of Role Models
It’s possible that I’ve completely lost you by telling the story of Christian Hosoi. But it’s also possible, like me, you knew who he was, looked up to him and considered him a hero.
In our society we place role models like Christian onto pedestals so high that maintaining unrealistic expectations and not faltering are nearly impossible.
I have friends on the internet who fall into this category, and many of them admit they feel trapped in a life that’s not reflective of who they are. Quite honestly I admit there are times when I am afraid to be myself and feel the need to represent myself in a way that’s simply not real.
This can easily lead you down a tragic road, as it has for me and as it did for Christian Hosoi. Similar to peer pressure, “expectation” pressure can push to the edge of a cliff that many of us fall from … or that some of us don’t.
A Redemption Story
Given the arrest, the drugs, the loss of freedom, the inability to skate, the separation from his family, it was clear that Christian needed help.
At the urging of his girlfriend and her uncle, a pastor, an imprisoned Hosoi started down the path toward a different kind of life. He became a Christian and studied the Bible, exploring faith and his own demons.
“How hard do you have to fall and hit rock bottom before you make the decision to stop doing whatever it is that is satisfying you on the outside, but killing you on the inside?”
In order to have merit and a traction that is believable, a redemption story must be sincere. A person’s life and character must truly be changed. The narrative of a talent-squandering bad boy who makes good through a radical moment with the divine can smack of a quaint anachronism if words are all one has to go on.
We need more than that.
When someone fully embodies their transformation, that story truly becomes useful — and not just to the evangelist who would use it to win over souls.
Making a Difference
Christian is counting on his redemption story as being one of those that goes the distance. Now a pastor at The Sanctuary in Orange County, California, he is living his own second chance as a skateboarder, and as a man.
To others and even to himself, it may seem as though the story he now tells is markedly different than the one he started with. But faith is a thing that requires effort and authenticity. It is a place where the self is and the self becomes.
While there are many difference between my story and that of Christian Hosoi, there are also a number of similarities. As I continue to look inward and open up here on my blog, I’ll share more of those as time goes by.
I believe that going deeper, and living a life full of transparency, is something that not only am I called to do, it’s something that I want to do.
One of the things I’ve appreciated most about writing personally here on my blog is the conversation that we’ve had in the comments. While I don’t expect you to share your story, I invite you to discuss any thoughts or reactions that you may have.
Maybe you’re a 30-something who rode skateboards and know who Christian Hosoi is. Or maybe there’s another person in your life who has a similar story of their own to tell. Or maybe it is a story of your own — one with redemption and a second chance in life.
Whatever it is, let’s talk about it in the comments below.