RIP IN PEACE: Jeff “Load” Stephenson

April 1, 1961 – Nov. 5, 2022Born on April Fools’ Day, 1961, Jeff “Load” Stephenson passed on November 5th, 2022 at the age of 61. He was not just a friend to me, but more of a father figure. People throw the word legend around, but this guy truly defines the word. Determined, aggressive and loud as hell, he was 100 percent skateboarder.  He constructed countless ramps and parks, begrudgingly teaching, unknowingly inspiring and constantly heckling everyone in his path—all with a cold Budweiser in hand. Although his physical appearance and tone were intimidating to most, once you met Load, you knew he was a genuinely kind-hearted man. He loved people and loved convincing them to do things they may not have known they were capable of. Art, music, horticulture, motorcycles, architecture, animals—the guy talked to a bird for 28 years and punched Lance Mountain in the face. He could do it all and did, a real renaissance man. His dangerously carefree, no-holds-barred approach shaped the go-for-broke style of skateboarding that the Southeast is known for. Skateboarding wouldn’t be what it is without his impact. I consider myself lucky and honored to have known him. Load is survived by his wife Virginia, son Zack, sister Vicky, brother Chuck and dogs Sunshine and Luke. I will miss you, Pops. Rest in peace. —TroublePatlanta, Load, Bucky and BhDWatch Load on the epic Love Letter to Atlanta from Six StairI met Jeff Stephenson (later to be called Load, because he was the load and he carried it) in 1977 or maybe ’78 at The Tube skatepark on Buford Highway. He and his friends were waiting around the parking lot and I was skating the end of the halfpipe, waiting to be picked up by my grandmother. I figured out lipslides on the end of the thing which had a rounded lip. He was standing outside the fence with his friends and he said, “Yeah, Mouse!” I think he actually coined who I was as a kid at the age of ten or 11 years old. He taught me so much about construction and everything in the world. He is never going to be forgotten. Gonna miss you, brother. Love you. —Thomas “Mouse” TaylorOriginal production print from our ‘80s Atlanta article      Photo: KanightsThe first time I saw Load I was in Thomas Taylor’s truck on the way to the opening of the skatepark in Athens, Georgia, April 2005. Grant pointed to this dude in a baby blue International Scout II with a pitbull and a hound dog sharing shotgun and said, “That’s the gnarliest dude we know!” And I believe that to be true to this day, without a doubt in my mind. —Matt “the Rat” JordanLoad, Kat, Lilly and Matt the RatRead about Load in the Atlanta article from way back in our March 1989 issue.Load has been riding the heels of my skating since I was born. They all heckled each other, and I wasn’t off the hook, even at six years old. You knew if you didn’t ride the ramp with style or power, you were gonna hear it. Load took care of all his close friends and family with anything they needed, except the shirt off his back because he never wore one. Having grown up with him in my life and on many sessions, he has definitely molded me into the skater I am today. Atlanta and the skate world will deeply miss the legendary Load. —Grant “GT” TaylorGT over Load, 2013      Photo: MoricoLoad is an OG. You see him on the scene and it’s nothin’ but respect. Bring a case of Buds to the session if you can. Look him in the eyes when you shake his hand. Admire his timeless style from the classic footage and photos. Imagine all the shit that wasn’t captured on film! Much respect to the man that built the ramps we all skated and helped to pave the way for all of us to rip today. —Mike LynchLoad doubles with GT and keeps the sessions revved     Video: Scotty WaggonerThe first time I met Load, I was intimidated. The man had so much power in his voice. He kinda shaped me in a way. Jeff affected so many people, and you couldn’t mistake him for anyone else. He taught his friends and the “young bucks” as he would call us, how to cut transitions—shit, he showed me how to use a hammer! Always fired up, he was the best announcer—“Frontside grind!” “Killer!” “Hit it like you live!” was my favorite. Load was a mentor, friend, dad, brother and husband. If it was not for him, I feel like the Atlanta skate scene would not be the same. The man had a heart of gold. Hearing his stories was the best. I mean, he knocked out Lance Mountain! Working with Load was great and he was an inspiration to the crew. I love you, old man. Time to go frontside and hit it like you live. —Ryan “Zeke” ClarkLoad and Zeke    Photo: MoricoFSA over the onion at Cedar CrestSuch a bummer, man. I feel like I knew him well after shooting those interviews for Grant’s GTXX Volcom doc. When I was editing it, I loved going through all his interviews—definitely the most genuine and unfiltered out of anyone on that project. When I first rolled up to Slim’s that day, he saw me walking in and I heard him say to Kamal, “Who’s this dude?” Kamal said, “This is Lannie, the filmer. He’s filming Grant’s thing.” He turned to me and said, “I was ‘bout to ask you what the fuck you were bringin’ all those bags in here for and you don’t got no board! But you’re good, brother, welcome to ATL.” Jamming that night with him on the harmonica was epic. Sorry for ATL’s loss. It’s a huge hit. —Lannie RhoadesExtolling wisdom    Photo: FlynnHeavy hearts and condolences for Load, AKA Jeff Stephenson. Getting a pat on the back from anyone in the Stratosphere crew means something and holds weight, especially when it came from Load! Watching Load, Jimmy Slim and Thomas all skate together when we were kids was awesome. You knew their bond was forever and they were an amazing example of how lifelong friendship can and should be. DTE LOC, No Bail Crew for life! Rip in peace, Load. You will always be remembered. —Tom “Grom” RemillardCenter stage at Wes Shoelace’s ramp     Photo: FlynnWhen I was 14, I used to steal Load’s cassettes from Skatezone and take them home, copy them and then bring them back the next day. That was part of how I found some good bands in middle school. —Jason StephensOriginal art for Load’s band ReebWhen I first visited Georgia for a skateboard contest in 2011, Load was the announcer. It was hard for a young out-of-towner like me to get some runs in the bowl jam. But as soon as Load stood over the deep end with a Budweiser in one hand and the microphone in the other, rocking the long grey beard and all, he fired everyone up and the real session started. Thanks for being you, Jeff “Load” Stephenson. You will be sorely missed. —Pedro DelfinoBud or nothin’My condolences to all the Strat family and ATL homies. Load was the first ATL local we met when Grindline did the Fourth Ward park. There’s nothing like hanging out at his house with the dogs, smoking hog legs and drinking the coldest Budweiser. I’m honored to have gotten a Load nickname. Rolling two today. Much love. —Jack DenverDevolving with Jordan HershaftWe skated together across the Southeast many times in the first half of the ’80s. Fun times, for sure! —Paul SchmittThe Professor knows the LoadLegend is thrown around a bunch, but given I knew him for 38 years, I can call him one. December ’84 at Ramp Ranch I met him. Once you met Load, you knew who he was—especially if you skateboarded. He was loud, opinionated and had style and swag on and off the board. R.I.P., legend. You will be missed but not forgotten. —Robert “Old Man Rob” TidwellGetting a piece. Frontside, alwaysR.I.P. to “the Load Warrior” Jeff Stephenson, one of the architects of the all-or-nothing Atlanta style of skateboarding. —Chuck HultsEarly ‘80s Bro Bowl shot by Chuck HultsGeorgia skateboarding lost an amazing brother yesterday. A friendship 25 years strong, you will be missed here on Earth but never forgotten in life, my dude. Give ‘em hell on the other side, homie. I love ya, man. Rip in peace. —John PorterDon’t worry, he pulled itThe first time I met Load I was skating to cash my shitty 200-dollar paycheck for the week. I think it was about near the Red House in Cabbage Town. This gnarly biker-grandpa-looking dude in an old International Scout pulls up and asks if I wanted a ride to the beer store. Obviously, I jumped in the truck, cashed my check and made an awesome friend for life. Rest in peace, dude. We love you. —CruzCustom trophy    Photo: MoricoSo we took Waylon to get photos with Santa last week. I bought the digital package and when I look at the photos the next day, I saw that they’d given me photos of another family. They refused to give me my money back unless we came back to the place—bastards. So we had to give ol’ Skater Claus a call to save this situation. Way radder than a stupid mall Santa anyway. Thanks for saving Christmas, Load! —Graem “Little G” KinsellaSkater Claus don’t care if you wet his lap neither!Our work and engagement outlives our bodies no matter what. We are what we do and who we imprint on. Load taught me how to make ramps—proper transitions and cuts that will send you where you want to go with the speed ya need to get there. These primordial shapes stoke the flames of an eternal fire. We all pass, but these shapes and times live on forever in those that were there. I will always be grateful for you and the stoke you taught. Make the cut, get it up, grab some Buds, go frontside, don’t take no shit and rev it high from dawn ’til dusk, ’til dawn again. Love you, Load. We miss you already down here, brother. —“Big Shin Ben” KilmarxRevvin’ it up    Photo: FlynnI had the pleasure of meeting Load only a few times when visiting Atlanta. He was definitely a character and even a bit intimidating at first sight. I remember the first time hearing his deep voice mixed with that Southern accent. It was so thick that I couldn’t understand much of what he was saying. However, before I even got to introduce myself, I could see that this was a person of next-level hospitality and kindness as he welcomed us into his home. That day, we had gone by his house to get help, because P-Stone had fallen on the board and had a huge glass wound on his butt. Me, Jacopo, Darkness and Pat were all pretty stressed out, but Load was completely unbothered and went ahead and brought out the dog stapler gun. It wasn’t pretty, but he handled the situation without breaking a sweat. He saved our whole trip with his DIY surgery. From what I’ve heard, it was a habit of his to always go the extra mile and put himself second to help out friends in need. Rest in peace, Load. —Oski RozenbergAll dressed up for Grant and Lilly’s wedding day     Photo: MoricoSorry to hear, pray for peace and comfort for family and friends. –Lance MountainMountain obviously forgave himWhen I was a kid and went to my first skateboard contest, I was amazed at the diversity of people that were there. Witnessing the Rancheros heckle everyone was truly amazing. They ragged on life and everything around them. I was a little scared of the intensity of that scene, but shortly after moving to ATL, I found myself hanging with Load because he didn’t care and I could relate. He taught me many simple, important lessons in life that I will always live by. We became best of buds and hung tight for decades. He always found fun in everything we did and loved my kids like an uncle—so many good times and laughs. There will only be one dude that came from the mold called Load and there will never be another. R.I.P., my brother. Rest easy. I will see you on the other side. —Rob “Roobsie” MoseleyWith wife Ginna     Photo: FlynnGrowing up, my mom Michelle always told me crazy, fantastic stories about my father. My parents were separated and across the country from each other, so when I was young I didn’t have him around all the time. As I reached my teenage years, I started to come visit more and more by myself and started to really get to know my dad and his larger-than-life personality. I started to understand more and more what it meant to be Load. When your mom tells you crazy stories as a kid, you tend to grow up and start taking them with a grain of salt, but my experience was anything but that. Eventually, I came to live with him and my awesome stepmom Ginna, who happened to teach at the school where I finished high school. For those years, I was completely thrown into the world of the ATL skate scene. If there is one thing I can say about all of this, it’s that, if anything, my mom may have even watered down the stories to make them more believable. Load, my father, was a true icon in the skate scene here. He cared so much about anybody on a board, you would have thought they were all his kids. A lot of them saw him as a father figure, too. No matter if it was handing out a deck to some kid at the park who needed it, or helping to build the new DIY spot under a bridge or in a backyard, my dad was involved, which then meant so was I. I have to say, I have grown to love this community with all my heart and I think of everybody as my family. Even before I was part of this crazy world, I was a skater and had friends I would shred with, but I had never been a part of anything like this before. I quickly realized that this was more than skaters just skating; it was a way of life. It was a family, and it was the most badass crew there has ever been. I know my dad is not the last legend to be birthed from this family, but he will always be remembered as one of the first by all of us. Load was truly one of a kind in the life he lived. He loved and cared for everyone he knew, and as hard as his shell was, he had a delicate heart and loved us all. —Zack StephensonProud poppa at Zack’s graduation. Gone too soon, but never forgotten

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