Jeff Grosso, skateboarding legend and Vans video host, dies at age 51

World of X Games

Jeff Grosso, seen here hosting a "Love Letters To Skateboarding" segment for ESPN's "World of X Games," died Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

Skateboarding legend Jeff Grosso, 51, died on Tuesday morning at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach, California. Erica Arrelano, supervising deputy coroner for the Orange County Coroner's Office, confirmed his time of death as 10:15 a.m. PT and said the cause is pending investigation. Grosso's final post on Instagram shows a video of him dancing with his son Oliver to the Leonard Cohen song "Everybody Knows," along with a quote from the song: "That's how it goes, everybody knows." 

Grosso was one of the most colorful personalities in skateboarding, first as an active pro skater and later as a commentator for the Vans Park Series. He was sponsored by Vans for his entire career, beginning in 1982. His "Love Letters To Skateboarding" web series began in 2011 and ran for 10 seasons, paying homage to all aspects of skate culture and to skateboarders including legends like Steve Caballero, Steve Olson, John Cardiel, Tony Alva, Natas Kaupas, and Tony Hawk, as well as contemporary pros like Anthony Van Engelen, Ronnie Sandoval, and Lizzie Armanto. Additionally, Grosso competed in the Skateboard Park Legends discipline at X Games Los Angeles in 2010. For all his love of skateboarding, he could also be one of its most outspoken critics and an unrepentant contrarian; on both fronts he made it his life's work to tell it like it is.

Grosso mentored many of today's most prominent park and pool skaters including Lizzie Armanto, an X Games Skateboard Park gold medalist.

"Jeff ruled," Armanto told ESPN on Tuesday night. "He loved skateboarding and his son. He was a big person, strong and outspoken. When he skated, it was strong. He was hard on himself. I think as skateboarders we all can relate to that feeling. He was a good listener and was always there for me when I needed advice. I would not be where I am without him. He was a great storyteller and I'm bummed the saga is not continued."

Reaction on social media from fans and some of the biggest names in skateboarding was immediate: "My heart sinks to new lows," wrote Ed Templeton.

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My heart sinks to new lows.

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"He was a true skateboarder at his core, and a great wealth of entertainment, insight and valuable philosophy to a younger generation," wrote Tony Hawk. "I was lucky enough to skate with him over the last four decades and occasionally featured on his Vans "Love Letters" 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. 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."

Grosso was born on April 28, 1968, grew up in Arcadia, California, and lived in Costa Mesa, California in recent years. Among his many contributions to skate culture, he's credited with the invention of the "roastbeef" grab, reaching between his legs to grab the backside edge of his board with his trailing hand. 

In February 2018, Grosso recorded a long-form podcast interview for The Nine Club With Chris Roberts, recounting his entire career beginning with his first sponsorship at age 15 with a Variflex Skateboards team that included the likes of Lance Mountain, John Lucero, Eddie Elguerra, and Allen Losi. 

He briefly skated for the Powell-Peralta Skateboards Bones Brigade team and appeared as an amateur in the 1985 team video, "Future Primitive." He left the team the following year to release his first pro model skateboard deck for Schmitt Stix in 1986, then moved on to the Santa Cruz Skateboards team in 1987, who released Grosso onto the world in seminal VHS classics such as "Speed Freaks" and "Streets On Fire." Later in life, he spoke openly about his hard-charging, hard-partying ways and extensive drug abuse during his four-year stint with Santa Cruz, which ended in 1990.

His career later intersected with the Black Label Skateboards team and, most recently, Anti Hero Skateboards: he has two signature decks in the most recent Anti Hero catalog.

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