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A year after Jeff Grosso’s death, his legacy lives on

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A year after skateboarding legend Jeff Grosso’s death, pro skaters and friends remember Grosso through art and skateboarding.

Grosso was an Arcadia native who rose to fame as a professional skateboarder in the late 1980s and later became a beloved ambassador for the sport through his YouTube show, his mentorship of younger pro skaters and his public reflections on battles with drug addiction. He died at the age of 51 at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. His death on March 31, 2020, was caused by “acute polydrug intoxication” from the combined effects of fentanyl and phenobarbital, according to an autopsy report.

“His legacy will always be his passion for skateboarding,” said Christian Hosoi, a longtime friend of Grosso who has since become a pastor.

Fellow skater Lizzie Armanto said she will always remember Grosso for “sticking up for what he thinks is right and what’s important in skateboarding. He was always like advocating for quality control.”

“Jeff Grosso’s Loveletters to Skateboarding” YouTube shows continue to be shared, educating a younger generation about the skateboarding community that first put the sport on the map.

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Jim Gray, a fellow skateboarder who once had a high-profile spat with Grosso, said they mended their relationship and grew to appreciate each other’s commitment to skateboarding.

“He was a fan of skateboarding, way more detailed than I’ve ever been,” Gray said. “About tricks, about people, about who came, where they came from.”

Skateboarding icon Tony Hawk told The Times earlier this year that Grosso reached another level of influence when he shared his struggles with sobriety on his YouTube show.

“He was definitely an inspiration for a new generation, in terms of how to respect your culture,” Hawk said. “The fact that he got clean, he was in recovery, people saw that as hope, especially people struggling with the same issues. But I liked that he wasn’t preaching only that. He weaved that into his narrative, but it wasn’t all he represented.”

Skateboarder Christian Hosoi stands in front of a mural.
Skateboarder Christian Hosoi stands in front of a mural created by his father, Ivan “Pops” Hosoi, on an exterior wall of the Sanctuary, a Costa Mesa church where Christian is now a pastor. Christian was a longtime friend of 1980s skate legend Jeff Grosso.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Christian Hosoi skates on a half-pipe behind his Costa Mesa church.
Christian Hosoi, a pro skateboarder in the 1980s known for his ramp skills and inventing the Christ Air skate move, skates on a half-pipe behind his Costa Mesa church.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Christian Hosoi poses for a photo mimicking the Christ Air skate move he invented.
(Jay Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

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Lizzie Armanto
Lizzie Armanto, one of the top women in skateboarding, grew up in Southern California and befriended skateboarder Jeff Grosso. She said she will always remember Grosso for “sticking up for what he thinks is right and what’s important in skateboarding.”
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Pro skateboarder Lizzie Armanto
Pro skateboarder Lizzie Armanto is photographed in the half-pipe she built in the backyard of her Long Beach home.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Pro skateboarder Lizzie Armanto shows off her board.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Jim Gray poses with a skateboard in his Costa Mesa office.
Jim Gray, a pro skateboarder in the 1980s, is photographed in his Costa Mesa office at Inkgenda, which makes stickers for numerous skateboard and surf brands. Gray was friends with skateboarder Jeff Grosso, who died a year ago on March 31, 2020.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Jim Gray
Jim Gray is photographed holding his current ride, which sports a sticker with his likeness and the quote, “I’m Jim Gray, Who The Hell Are You?”
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

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Jim Gray is photographed skating in a parking lot.
Jim Gray skates around the parking lot outside his Inkgenda office in Costa Mesa.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

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