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Born in 1969 and raised in south Santa Monica, California, Natas, Kaupas along with Mark Gonzales, repurposed Rodney Mullen’s flatground Ollie and outright invented modern street skating. Ollies, kickflips, wall rides, handrails, and, of course, fire hydrants— all became realities through the critical years of 1984 through ’89 thanks to Natas. Originally sponsored by Skip Engblom and Santa Monica Airlines, Kaupas famously had never owned a skateboard magazine before he landed on the cover of Thrasher in September ’84 doing the first wall ride ever seen by the masses. After Natas rocketed to stardom overnight, he brokered a licensing deal with Santa Cruz at age 16 and his various panther graphics became some of the best-selling boards of all time (eventually selling 56,400 Panther 3 boards in ’89 alone).
Natas shocked the crowd at an Oceanside, California streetstyle contest in ’86 by attempting to Ollie onto a small handrail near the course. Opening yet another frontier, Natas and Gonz would boardslide the first legitimate handrail in Westwood, California, on the same day a few months later. Kaupas’ parts in the Wheels Of Fire (’87) and Streets On Fire (’88) videos would televise his innovations (and trendsetting clothes/hairstyles) to the masses. Also credited with the first frontside flips on quarterpipes and the first legitimate nollies onto obstacles, Natas received the first professional skate shoe ever from etnies in ’88. At the dawn of the ’90s, Natas continued pouring his creativity into his own brand, 101, and his list of design and art direction accolades since would make the most acclaimed of commercial artists blush.