Jeff Grosso, a skateboarder from Arcadia who rose to the heights of greatness in the 1980s before falling to the depths of despair and eventually making a comeback, died Tuesday in Newport Beach. He was 51.
A cause of death is unknown.
Grosso, who was a resident of Costa Mesa, broke onto the skateboarding scene as a 12-year-old when he began riding as a professional. Two years later, in 1982, the shoe and apparel company Vans began its sponsorship of him, one that continued into 2020 with his popular YouTube show “Love Letters to Skateboarding.”
Known for his hard-charging lifestyle and sardonic wit, Grosso was the unofficial historian of skateboarding, always ready to share a story and insight into the sport with the younger generation of skaters.
Michael Burnett wrote on Thrasher Magazine’s website, “We have the terrible task of saying a heartbreaking goodbye to beloved verticalist, commentator and friend of the mag, Jeff Grosso. The Brat, Mothra, Grossman or just plain Jeff, Grosso went from number-one amateur to ’80s superstar to cautionary tale and back again.”
Rest in peace, Grosso. Jeff ALWAYS skated with style. His grinds were long, his backside airs were head-high and his handplants were stalled out and sadder than a funeral. He will be sorely, sorely missed. Our hearts go out to his family and many friends. https://t.co/5cWE2nEyGd pic.twitter.com/hrlPpOzkeY
— Thrasher Magazine (@thrashermag) April 1, 2020
Condolences and tributes to the master of the vertical ramp flooded social media, including fellow legend Tony Hawk.
“I believe Jeff is a big reason that anyone truly cares, and skateboarding was lucky to have him as an ambassador and gatekeeper to its history,” Hawk wrote on an Instagram post. “He was also a great father, which is obvious in his last social media post. Thank you Jeff, words cannot describe how much we will miss you. …
“Jeff was a true skateboarder at his core, and a great wealth of entertainment, insight and valuable philosophy to a younger generation. I was lucky enough to skate with him over the last four decades and occasionally featured on his Vans’ Love Letters series.”
Born Jeffrey Blaine Grosso on April 28, 1968, in Glendale, he talked openly about depression and addiction, including to pain pills after multiple surgeries following skateboarding accidents and heroin. He told of the times when he tried to take his life.
“I tried getting sober in 1997 and didn’t get there until 2005, if that tells you anything,” Grosso said in an interview with King Skateboard magazine. “Life was never easy for me. I like to do things the hard way. It’s one of the reasons I was attracted to skateboarding in the first place. It’s problem solving.”
Grosso went on to say in the interview that he had few regrets in life, except how he treated people.
“I treated some woman really poorly; I treated my mother poorly and my family,” he said. “I abused friendships; I burned bridges. I was basically just a selfish asshole for many, many years. I thought the world owed me something and I thought skateboarding owed me something.”
Vans included the following passages on their company web page devoted to Grosso:
“To say Jeﬀ’s impact on our brand, our people and skateboarding was unparalleled, would be an underestimation of how much of a role he played in the lives of us all. From curating content that highlighted the global skate community, to his unique and raw commentary of the skate industry, and mentoring up-and-coming athletes — there was nothing that Jeﬀ wouldn’t do to uplift skateboarding and the people around it. Jeﬀ Grosso is the epitome of skateboarding. We mourn the loss of our dear friend and our thoughts are with his family during this time.
“Provocateur and historian with a Cheshire Cat grin, Jeff Grosso so well known for being audacious, sardonic, and usually right on the money, that it’s easy to forget that he gained his name with badass inverts, powerful grinds, and contest success. Whatever, as the mouthpiece for skateboarding’s precious [minutia] and first-hand keeper of its lore, Grosso’s gifted as much as he’s a gift to skating.”
Internet reports contributed to this story.