This article first appeared in the Huck Futures Issue in 2011. We have republished our profile with Jeff in the wake of his passing on March 31, 2020.
When your board sponsor calls your new pro model deck the Midlife Crisis edition, you can’t have many Peter Pan-esque illusions as to your position in the world. This is what happened when ageing pro Jeff Grosso joined rugged and irreverent skate company Anti Hero in early 2011, after asking founder Julien Stranger to give him a shot. It’s lucky then that Jeff Grosso doesn’t seem to give a fuck. He’s simply way past buying into the hype and taking his status as a pro skater seriously.
“I just ride skateboards, that’s what I do,” says Grosso in a grizzly tone when asked about the mythical status of ‘being pro’. “The fact that people are stoked on it and want to give me opportunities to make a little extra dough – I’m fucking stoked, yeah!”
Originally hailing from Glendale, Los Angeles County, the forty-three-year-old has taken his “so-called career” into a new phase. As well as the aforementioned endorsement from Anti Hero, he was recently given his own pro model shoe by Vans alongside a makeshift web series called Jeff Grosso’s Loveletters to Skateboarding – an exercise in nostalgia that sees Grosso reliving his skateboarding youth alongside fellow middle-aged shredders. “People want to say it’s a comeback or a revival or any of these little tag words, but I’ve always been here – I haven’t gone anywhere,” he says. “It’s just that, all of a sudden, now there is an audience.”
But clinging desperately to his youth he is not. In fact, Grosso seems to be settling into his later years nicely. He remarks that this newfound interest from the industry has helped him renovate his Huntington Beach home and made his wife happy in the process. And perhaps it’s because he’s been working as a production manager for a skin care company – making sure “the right goo gets in the right bottle with the right label” – but skateboarding doesn’t seem to be quite the meal ticket it’s perceived to be. For him, it seems, ‘pro skating’ is more like a hobby that he happens to get paid for.
It’s also important to remember that Grosso is the pro that never was. By the late 1980s, he had appeared in such classic films as Future Primitive and Streets on Fire and received hook-ups from the likes of Powell, Vans and Santa Cruz for his fluid and powerful vert riding. But, by his own admission, he “wasn’t very good at being a pro skater”. Heavy indulgence in drink and drugs meant that his career was over by the early 1990s. Grosso may not be alone – drink and drugs have afflicted the careers of many a pro skater – but he takes it in his stride with a humility that’s hard not to respect. “I did what I did, I am what I am. I tried to live an appropriate life. I’m not a role model and I don’t have any answers,” says Grosso. “I’m just a dude who is trying to make his way and stay alive one day at a time. And hopefully make my life count for something.”
Despite his modesty, Grosso’s name is emblazoned on the Vans website under the ‘Legend’ banner, alongside the much-celebrated figures of Tony Alva, Steve Caballero, Christian Hosoi and Cara-Beth Burnside. Does he feel worthy of such a tag? “The world likes to put things in boxes,” he says, “so they make this geriatric division so they can all be like, ‘Look, here are our old guys.’ It’s just a way for the corporate entity to figure out a way to sell itself – to utilise what they have at their disposal. Hopefully the goal is to give a little history lesson out of it, pay a little respect to the people that came before and therefore win some street cred in the process. That’s kind of marketing 101.”
He could be mistaken for jaded and cynical, but alongside this straightforward assessment of the industry’s marketing techniques sits a down-for-life skater who’s just happy to ride out the sponsorship while it lasts, and then skate on regardless. “I’m stoked, you know, whatever you guys want to call me. You want to put me in the asshole category, I’m fine with it!” he adds with a laugh. “But whatever, I’m just some fat old dude. I like to ride pools and I’ll do it as long as I can.”