How does a 70s skateboard star become “The Little Emperor?”
You take a young, talented skateboarder from the hood in Santa Monica, add fearless bravado and drive and then have sponsors give you a bunch of free stuff. Lonny Hiramoto was making a lot of money at the time and, by his own account, became a little spoiled. His friends started calling him “The Little Emperor,” and it stuck. But “The Little Emperor” backed it up with his great skating.
Hiramoto won a televised skate competition at 13, invented the “Footplant” and skateboarded all over the world. He was also named National Skate Champion in 1978! Sponsors lined up fast and included Kanoa Surf, Tracker Trucks, Gull Wing, Gyro Wheels, Dale Smith and Madrid. On the surface everything seemed fine but Hiramoto, like a lot skaters, had to deal with the fallout from heavy partying.
Hiramoto grew up in a poor Santa Monica neighborhood and started using drugs and alcohol at an early age. With his brothers and sisters into the lowrider culture, the young Hiramoto fell in with gang members and drug dealers which led to a decline in his skateboarding life. It wasn’t until an incident in his mid to late 20s that he began to see the light. Hiramoto was partying with friends for three straight days when he passed out in a bathroom and cut his face. With blood running into his eyes, he left the house and a stash of drugs. Within hours of leaving the house, his friends were involved in the murder of a man. Hiramoto would have been right there if he hadn’t left that day and he took this as a sign that God was entering his life. An interesting read about Hiramoto’s faith and struggles can be found here: http://www.rollforglory.com/lonny.html
Over the next 25 years Hiramoto has been in and out of the church. As with many people, struggles come and go but Hiramoto moves forward with a strong faith in God and a continuing love for the skate life. It seems likely Hiramoto’s return to his faith and fully on commitment to the righteous skate life has done him well. He continues to, not just skate, but skate well. Hiramoto, who is in his 50s, still rips and his sponsors today include Flood Control, Bones, KHIRO, Independent Trucks, 187 Pads, Fear to Faith Clothing, Kanoa Flyaway and Guage Clothing. He is a heavy local at the Vans Skateboard Park and recent youth footage shows Hiramoto blasting airs with the skill and aplomb of a man half his age.