It was a Tuesday, and I was laying down on my daughter's bed watching My Little Pony with them. Usually, with my friend Linc, we will communicate thorough text, but on this day, he called. He told me the news. Skateboarding lost a giant. Jeff Grosso was a champion, a legend for sure.
The combi is where the majority of my memories of Jeff will reside. It’s been my home park for almost 20 years, and much of those years I skated with Jeff. Lonny Hiramoto and I would skate twice a week for probably a few years, and we would get to ride with Jeff a lot during those times before his back issues. Sessions regularly included, Hewitt, Mountain, Hosoi, Navarrette, Nash, Kasai, Harada, and Ngoho. One thing you could count on when Jeff was at the session, was that there was always more stoke. Even though I really only had three lines/runs in the combi, the excitement of pulling a trick never faltered with Jeff. And if you did a trick that you held on to, even though you should have bailed, you would get a clap or a tail smack on the coping from Jeff. He was always rooting for you.
When I first started to see Jeff at the combi, I didn’t really talk to him. There were times I would be with Lonny while Jeff and him were having a conversation and I would just listen, smile and nod. Mostly, I would just fan out and watch him as he came in poolside. To me, since I didn’t know him personally, he seemed unapproachable, and I didn’t want to bother him. Over the years, he got to know who I was. The head nod became handshakes and handshakes became the handshake bro hug. I feel blessed I was able to skate with him for those years. Back when Vans would charge admission, if I saw Jeff was there, he would always get me in. And it’s not like he did that for everyone. I’ve seen dudes that he didn’t know ask and get denied. For those that he knew, he was there for you. I think that I gained a little more respect from him when I gave up my Pool Party spot to Eddie Elgera one year. He gave me a sincere handshake and thank you.
One trait I admired about Jeff was that he had the utmost respect for the skaters that came before him. You could tell when he talked about any of the pioneers, Strople, Alva, Olson, Blackhart, these were the guys that he looked up to, and he taught those that came behind him that these pioneers needed their respect too. I used to see it with Lonny. Jeff always made sure that if Lonny needed anything, he would take care of him. When the combi reopened after it went from plaster to concrete, Lonny wasn’t on the list. Jeff gave a, “Pfft, come with me,” and went straight away and got Lonny a wristband. Jeff was a giver. Even with his unapologetic rants and seemingly rough exterior, Jeff had a huge heart. He was a champion for skateboarding, a champion for taking the younger generation under his wing, and a champion to his son, Oliver or “Goo,” as Jeff liked to call him.
Fatherhood suited Jeff. He was an amazing dad. These last few years, I wasn’t skating much, so I would watch the fun he would have with Oliver on social media. The stoke Jeff had when Oliver landed a trick was real. The perseverance he taught him, when Oliver didn’t make a trick, a lesson for life. My heart breaks for Oliver. His world just came crashing down, but my hope and prayer is, Jeff’s friends and the skateboard community, can give Oliver all that he needs. I know that those closest to Jeff are down to do whatever is necessary. Oliver’s dad is truly a legend, and will never be forgotten, but his legacy will live on in Oliver and all of us that keep his fire burning. I thought that Jeff’s last Instagram post was fitting. You can see how much he loved his son, the joy in his spirit. Even though I wasn't close with Jeff, I am going to miss him. He was one of a kind.
I’ll leave you with a story I would imagine telling Jeff about my first and only encounter with Steve Olson. It was at an X Games, the first year they did park. I met Lester there to check out the park and watch him ride. I was standing with my hands on the railing above the deck. So, Olson walks up next to me and goes to put his hand on the rail, but puts it on my hand. I said, “Sorry Steve,” and moved my hand, only those weren't the words that came out of my mouth. Being the socially awkward person I am, the reality was I just stared up at him with a goofy half smile, frozen. I wanted to say something, but no words made it from my brain out of my mouth. You know when you were younger and your mom made you apologize, even though you didn't want to apologize. That's exactly what Steve did. Still staring at him, Steve broke the silence, “Sorry,” and spit on the ground. My heart sank. I didn’t stay long after that. I walked to my car kicking rocks. That’s my Steve Olson story and I imagine that Jeff would have had a good laugh about it. Rest easy Grosso. Thank you. We love you and we will miss you dearly.
Hanging out at Exposure 2015 | Encinitas
Wicked Wahine Skate series was an all-girl bowl contest series. Grosso watches while Cara-Beth Burnside floats one over the deathbox. 2005 | Kelly Bellmar's
A blurry shot of Jeff at the Soul Bowl. On deck, another skater, who we lost, Steve Schneer. 2005 | Huntington Beach
Standing tall at GvR 2005 | Etnies Skatepark
Fingertip roast beef 2006 | Vans Combi
Power sweeper, GvR 2005 | Etnies Skatepark
Pool Party 2006 | Vans Combi.
2008 Two of my favorite tricks to do are frontside smith grinds and frontside rocks, two tricks that I loved watching Grosso do. | Vans Combi
Pool Party 2011 | His good friend Christian Coooper on the left, and photog Brian Fick peeking behind.
Lance Mountain clapping, Pat Ngoho napping, while Christian and Jeff talk life.
Pool Party 2017 | The last photo I took of Jeff skating the combi. Alley Oop.
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