Jeffrey Blaine Grosso, the legendary skateboarder, king of ‘vert, and host of Vans’ YouTube show Loveletters To Skateboarding, passed away on March 31, 2020. He was 51.
Transworld Skateboarding reported that he passed away at his home, but no further details were given. Born on April 28, 1968, Grosso, originally from Glendale, California, was living Costa Mesa with his son, Oliver, who’s 8 years old.
Michael Burnett of Thrasher magazine confirmed the tragic news of Grosso’s sudden passing with a beautiful tribute on Instagram. “Today we have the terrible task of saying a heartbreaking goodbye to beloved verticalist, commentator and friend of the mag, Jeff Grosso. Jeff went from number-one amateur to 80s superstar to [the] cautionary tale and back again. His latest role as [a] lovable curmudgeon, host of his own history-packed web series and keeper of skateboarding’s righteousness, unafraid to offend or annoy in his quest to educate, was by far his greatest – second only to being Oliver’s dad.”
“Jeff could be as gentle and sincere as he could be hilarious and hard, (on the coping and himself.),” Burnett continued. “He 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.”
Fellow skateboarding icon Tony Hawk said on Instagram, “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’ Loveletters series.”
“One of the last times we spoke, we talked about how ridiculous it is that we still get to do this for a living and that anyone even cares what we do or think in terms of skateboarding at our age,” Hawk added. “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. 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.”
Here’s what you need to know about the late Jeff Grosso:
1. One Day Before His Passing, Grosso Shared A Video Of Himself Dancing With His Son
The skateboarding legend’s genes seemed to have been passed down to Grosso’s son, Oliver, who’s featured in multiple videos on Grosso’s Instagram. He wrote of his son on Instagram, “He saves me every day.”
Grosso’s social media pages are filled with either skateboarding pictures or photos of his son. Together, they went boogie-boarding, played soccer and, of course, hit the local skate park. Even though Grosso had multiple surgeries throughout his career, he still loved to skate, especially on a vert ramp.
Oliver’s mom, Vanessa, and Grosso were together from at least 2010 and welcomed Oliver together in 2012. It appears they separated sometime in 2018.
2. After A Tumultuous Decade With Drugs, Grosso Got Sober in 2005
In an interview with King Skateboard magazine four years ago, Grosso opened up about his sobriety. While he tried every drug in the book after injuries from skateboarding, he developed a serious addiction to pain pills. “I was only on them for a short period of time,” Grosso said. “Being a recovering opiate addict, I only took the pills as prescribed and it came to a time for me to kick them. I kicked cold turkey.”
Grosso said kicking his pill addiction was just as difficult as kicking off hard drugs. “It’s all the same … Vicodin is an opiate. Heroin is an opiate … If you’ve been on it for more than seven days you’re going to feel the withdrawal. Some people with addictive personalities like me get extreme withdrawals and others don’t feel a f***ing thing.”
“Being a junkie is a young man’s game,” said Grosso, whose ex-wife Vanessa also struggled with drug addiction before getting clean, according to Transworld Skateboarding. “You don’t see a lot of old junkies and I don’t want to be one. It’s not clever, it’s not funny – it’s not even fun anymore. I’ve got other s*** going on. I’ve got reasons to live today.”
3. Grosso Absolutely Loved Hosting Vans’ ‘Loveletters’
Grosso never lost his passion for the sport and still skated hard at age 51. With Vans’ YouTube show Loveletters to Skateboarding, which started in 2011, Grosso paid homage to some of the most influential people in the sport, and, best of all, he got to do it in his own special style. “When the show first started it was supposed to be this history channel of skateboarding thing but you know what? The history of skateboarding is so f***ing muddy and grey. So, now the show has morphed into a weird scroll through my demented Swiss cheese brain,” Grosso told King Skateboard.
“My goal for the show is for dudes to tune in, watch some old s***, have a laugh and get hyped to go skate with their friends,” Grosso explained. “If you tuned in and saw Mark Gonzales bluntslide on a curb or frontside invert on Max Schaaf’s ramp hopefully you picked up the phone and called a friend to go skate. That’s my hope for the show. We’re not trying to be the Smithsonian of skateboarding. We’re not trying to be fact; this is my version of skateboarding.”
4. Grosso Previously Attempted Suicide At His Mother’s House In Arizona
Despite his incredible success, Grosso struggled with his demons and overdosed three times on heroin. In an interview with Transworld Skateboarding, he opened up these dark times in his life.
He said, “I overdosed out in Arizona at my mother’s house, which is brilliant. That was actually a suicide attempt but whatever. I had been out for so long, that was one of those DOA trips. I had been out for so long, all your veins start to collapse. So they couldn’t find a vein to get the Narcan in. Eventually, they just had to shove it into my jugular. Right in the neck.
“So I woke up strapped to a table, my head strapped to a table with a pick line in my neck. It pops you right up. Like I said it’s like being lit on fire from the inside out. You wake right up like, ‘What the f***.’ And all these doctors are standing there like, ‘You idiot. Do you know where you are?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know. Australia?’ The lighting in the room looked like Australia to me.”
Grosso shared these honest stories hoping to deglamorize drugs. As a public figure, he was an open book.
5. Grosso Started Skateboarding When He Was 5 Years Old
In an interview with Juice magazine, Grosso said his love for skateboarding was instantaneous. “My mom brought home a skateboard from her boss at work,” Grosso recalled. “It was a California Surfer board. Urethane wheels were already out, but I had this s***ty skateboard with clay wheels and s***ty bearings. I lived on a hill in Eagle Rock. It was super rough asphalt. I couldn’t stand up on the board, yet. I had no concept of that at all. I would sit on that board and roll down the hill. I was doing that for a few days until I dissolved the wheels.”
Grosso entered his first contest at age 12 and won. From that point on, he was hooked for life. At the time skateboarding was an emerging sport, but Grosso and his friends would ride around looking for new parks, then started skating on homemade ramps and pipes. He received his first sponsorship from Veriflex before traveling around with Powell, skating with Santa Cruz and Black Label.
After dropping out of high school, Grosso self-emancipated and turned pro for Schmitt Stix before returning to Santa Cruz. Whether he was making money or not, Grosso just loved to skate.
He said of the circuits in the ’80s, “It was killer. I got to travel the world and hang out with Hosoi and the Gonz, and the Texans, like Craig Johnson, Gibson, and Phillips. I skated with Groholski and all the East Coast dudes, Josh Marlowe and Fred Smith. Skateboarding, as far as the people that did it — was still super small. It had died off and everyone was just doing it for the love of it. Then all this money started coming back into it.”
While his professional career had its extreme ups and downs, in the end, Grosso landed on top. In 2018 Vans built “The Grosso Vert Ramp” in their parking lot. “It’s super f***ing embarrassing that my name is on it but it’s very sweet of Steve Van Doren to do that,” Grosso told Thrasher.