Skateboarding legend Jeff Grosso of Costa Mesa dies at 51

Jeff Grosso, a Costa Mesa resident and legendary skateboarder, has died at age 51.
(YouTube / Vans)

Skateboarding legend Jeff Grosso hosted the popular Vans video series “Loveletters to Skateboarding” on YouTube.

This week, many who watch the show have felt compelled to write love letters to Grosso on social media.

Grosso, a Costa Mesa resident, died Tuesday at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. The former professional skateboarder was 51 years old.

The cause of Grosso’s death has not been officially determined pending an autopsy, Orange County coroner’s office investigator Inez Chavez said.

Grosso leaves behind an 8-year-old son, Oliver. His final Instagram post before he died was a video of him dancing with Oliver.

Grosso, originally from Arcadia, rose to fame in the 1980s. He was first sponsored by Vans in 1982, beginning a long-standing relationship.

Nowadays, skateboarding fans around the world could watch Grosso on his video series. Locally they can ride the “Grosso vert ramp” at the Vans Off the Wall Skatepark in Huntington Beach.

“He wasn’t trying to stay in the culture, he was trying to keep the culture alive,” said Jim Gray, a former professional skateboarder and friend of Grosso. “There was corporatization, a Little Leaguing of skateboarding in a sense. The generation when we grew up, it was a smaller culture and we were very protective over it. Part of his message was keeping the soul of it alive. He was very tied to the roots, the original tricks, things like that. He was like a Godfather of skateboarding to a lot of people who were watching the show and following him.”

Local artist Jason Maloney remembers his first skateboard as a kid, and it was a Schmitt Stix brand “Grosso” model. The design of a bald-headed rag doll, with baby blocks sitting in front of him that spell out “Jeff Grosso” is considered iconic. It was designed by Grosso’s good friend John Lucero; Maloney credits Grosso and Lucero for providing inspiration for his artistic career.

Maloney first met Grosso through Grosso’s ex-wife, Vanessa, and was friends with him for nearly two decades.

“He had an enormous personality,” Maloney said. “He was mischievous, that’s for sure, but behind that, he was a very loving, kind, sensitive man. He had a tremendous passion for music, for art and his lifelong love of skateboarding.”

Famous skateboarder Tony Hawk made an Instagram post dedicated to Grosso on Wednesday. Another former pro, Rick “Spidey” De Montrond, said he had known Grosso since he was 12.

“He was a tell-it-like-it-is guy but he was also a great raconteur, as well,” De Montrond said. “I introduced him to my friends in the music business and the film business, and they enjoyed having conversations with him. He wouldn’t talk about skating at all, half the time. He was very engaging; that was a gift he had.”

Former professional skateboarder Christian Hosoi, like Grosso, publicly battled substance abuse problems over the years but they both emerged sober. Hosoi, a Huntington Beach resident who is now a pastor, said he will remember his final time on a skateboard with his friend a few weeks ago.

“The last couple of sessions were ones for me to remember forever because we were there together,” Hosoi said. “To be skating with each other and then go and be dads and watch our kids skate, it was surreal, considering the lives we lived and to survive all that. It’s just a sad moment for us in skateboarding because he was 51 years old. He had a lot of years left.”

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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