Christian Hosoi
© Chuck Katz

Skate legend Christian Hosoi reminisces about the '80s in Venice Beach

"Skateboarding wasn't massive yet, and they would be trying to tell us punk kids to get off the beach."
By Jaime Owens
9 min readPublished on
In the 1980s, legendary skateboarder Christian Hosoi emerged as a standout talent in the world of transition skating, heavily-influenced by the style and power of the original Z-Boys like Jay Adams and Shogo Kubo. Known for his high-flying tricks and unique style, Hosoi quickly made a significant impact on the sport and a name for himself. With Red Bull Origin at Venice Beach this weekend, we caught up with him to discuss his career and the event.
Christian Hosoi at Red Bull Skate Generation in Florianopolis, Brazil on April 6th, 2014

Christian Hosoi at Red Bull Skate Generation 2014 in Florianopolis, Brazil

© Marcelo Maragni / Red Bull Content Pool

Tell us about how you got involved with the Red Bull Origins contest down in Venice.

Venice is where I grew up and hung out with J Boy Adams and the whole crew down there, and really just cut my teeth on being a skateboarder. I was probably 15 or so. I grew up in Hollywood in the Koreatown / Echo Park area but I went to Venice every single day to go skate. I even went to junior high school down there, right by the Venice pier. I would have my mom drop me off and I would go meet up with J Boy Adams and we’d go skate.

Hayden McKenna high on the wall at Red Bull WallRide 2019 in Venice Beach

Hayden McKenna high on the wall at Red Bull WallRide 2019 in Venice Beach

© David Swift / Red Bull Content Pool

Describe the Venice scene back then when you were fully immersed in it.

Yeah, it was raw. It was real, you know what I mean? There were no cell phones. So everybody had to show up and be present and to hold down, but the locals all kept an eye out for each other and looked out for one another. I think that's kind of a lost art, so to speak, because everybody's so caught up in trying to be an entrepreneur all the time, rather than, you know, be local to your local neighborhood and to your crew and to your brotherhood and sisterhood.

We would always meet down there to set up the quarter pipe to the wall. We would set up the jump ramp in the middle of the boardwalk and then everybody would come around, and then we would get a huge crowd. It was like training all day long, you know? Vert was already hot and killer at the time but you can't take a vert ramp down to the beach. We had to create a scene and it was street style back then, you know what I mean? It wasn't like a plaza that had rails and hubbas or anything. It was more like curbs and pole jams and jump ramps; quarter pipes and a jump ramp to the wall. We really got creative with our skateboarding. Breakdancing was a huge thing back then as well and people would gather around in a circle and battle. So we would do street plant circles and just have a blast.

That's the environment that we grew up in. It was so new at the time. Skateboarding wasn't massive yet, and they would be trying to tell us punk kids to get off the beach. “You're ruining our wall, you’re spray painting on the walls.” But when they realized that there was a culture there, people would come from everywhere to see it. Peak skaters would come from all over the world to see whoever it may be. I mean, it was this place where you can come and really just express yourself however you want, whenever you want. And I think that kind of environment was perfect for us to progress the sport as well—to try something new, to always be innovative, to create new obstacles. We created the different types of skating and went from skate parks and pools to vert ramps and mini ramps and the next thing, we're doing wall rides and riding flat walls—no ramp at all. Like trying to grind a four foot wall with no transition. Tim Jackson doing his gnarly wall maneuvers.

Matt Field hits the pole jam at Red Bull WallRide 2019 in Venice Beach

Matt Field hits the pole jam at Red Bull WallRide 2019 in Venice Beach

© David Swift / Red Bull Content Pool

Style was mandatory. It was the currency of who was cool and who was just a jock.
Christian Hosoi

How was it to see Tim Jackson skating in person?

Oh, well we used to breakdance down there at the beach and battle people and do the whole thing. We had cardboard and linoleum. And Tim was amazing at that. So, he was basically breakdancing on top of the wall with a skateboard and made it look easy. We come from that kind of “battle” mentality. You know what I mean? But style mentality. We all have to be stylish as well. Even though you're innovating and progressing, there has to be style. Style was mandatory. It was the currency of who was cool and who was just a jock.

Watching the old SKTHARD video from 1988, in the Venice section you guys were crushing the quarter pipe to wall, jump ramp, and massive wallride section with huge crowds. How fun were those sessions with all those spectators watching a real session and not a contest run?

Those sessions remind me of the Venice skatepark now because every time I go down there's a big show going on. There's guys like Isaiah and Hayden that are flying around and doing it! These guys are just ripping, and the crowd is going crazy. So, there's a constant, like almost performance, that happens down there at the beach that we were doing back in the day. And it only motivates you to get better, go higher and have fun. When you have people see you doing it, it just feels good to have witnesses. And even for them to watch you eat it. That's my favorite; slamming in front of a giant crowd and then you get up and go back to land the trick. People get inspired seeing you get back up and do it again and pull it off. Life is like that. You can't quit. You can't give up. I mean, you need to learn how to fall and learn how to get back up.

Life is like that. You can't quit. You can't give up. I mean, you need to learn how to fall and learn how to get back up.
Christian Hosoi
Christian Hosoi

Christian Hosoi

© Chuck Katz

So amazing. What about Jesse Martinez? What was it like skating with him down there?

Jesse was kind of like everyone's big brother. He watched out for everyone. He was that guy that came from a gang family background. Basically that was going to be his future and he chose not to. He brought that protective, loyal, respect code to the Venice skateboarding scene. Everybody is looking out for everybody. And Jesse was that guy. He was the first one to stick up for whoever and protect the beach, protect the skaters. He wasn't gonna let no one ever disrespect anyone. I think that taught everyone a lesson too; protect those who can't protect themselves, and to really be an asset to the community. And then obviously, him fighting for the skate park battling it out with the city, making it happen. His voice was the reason why that park got done. He took care of that park every day. That says a lot about his heart, where he's at and who he is. Jesse really does invest into his community and loves the future generations that are going to be there. He's one of my most favorite people and has done more for the community of Venice than anyone.

With the new Red Bull Origin contest coming up, are you judging it? Are you going to sneak a couple of classic Hosoi wallrides in there?!

I'm not going to be skating that type of stuff for sure. I'll maybe do a kick turn on a vert wall, but I'm not trying to go 90 degrees to the ground right now.

You’ll get that fire in your eyes and want a piece of it for sure.

As long as I have my kneepads and can slide out, maybe. I'm good with that. If there's a moment where I could do a slash I'll be happy. But I'm not trying to jump ramp land on flat ground anymore. I don't even know how we did it. All day, every day—and I was in Chuck Taylors! Literally bailing out of that all those times is wild.

TJ Rogers performs during the Red Bull Rising Talent workshop in Venice, CA, USA on 18 October, 2018.

TJ Rogers at the Red Bull Rising Talent workshop in Venice, CA

© Will Lanzoni / Red Bull Content Pool

Talk about the importance of a contest or event like this being held at such an iconic and monumental spot in skateboard history. It’s pretty cool to have so many resources put into putting on a high caliber event like this.

Yeah, I think it's great that Red Bull is educating people on the history of skateboarding in the heart of Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Dogtown. It's all about the history of the location. And I think that this type of event brings the minds of people who want to know what it was like back in the day. I think it's going to bring people to want to know more about the history and watch Dogtown and Z Boys or my documentary, "Rising Sun." I mean, we lived it. We did it. We were there. It was something that can change your life and change your life forever. It'll inspire you to want to skateboard or to want to be just good at whatever you do. Because that's what we wanted to be—we wanted to be good. We wanted to push skateboarding to new levels, while having fun with your friends, and bringing your friends with you. Taking as many people as you could with you.

And there were a lot of casualties of war during that time. A lot of people and friends that didn't make it because of circumstances, whatever it may be. But yet, we were always trying to be the light for kids to have a choice and to follow their dreams. I'm a perfect example of a kid who followed his dreams and succeeded, but yet still fell and got the dark side of life and ended up in prison. But with a second chance, now I get to come back. And I get to tell the story of what it was like before that, and then what it's like now. I get to appreciate what all these kids are doing today, you know, on the obstacles that we had back in the day. And to really celebrate this next generation who loves skateboarding, like we did.

Part of this story

Red Bull Origin: Venice

Red Bull Origin is a challenge-focused event format set against the backdrop of iconic Venice Beach skate spots meticulously replicated for an unforgettable session.

United StatesVenice Beach, CA, United States
View Event Info