In the 80s and 90s there was never a bigger example of taking sides than the Hosoi vs Hawk debates. Tech or style? Power or precision? Flow or difficulty? These things were part of taking sides for or against two of the most popular skaters of the day. For whatever reason, you had to take a side. I took Christians side although, I didn’t dislike Hawk. You know who did? Kooky punk rock dudes rebelling against the poster boy of innovation.
Around that same time Natas Kaupas and Mark Gonzales were changing the way we rode our skateboards in the streets. By changing I mean rewriting how it was done. The blue print that Rodney Mullen created was being used by Natas and Gonzales to challenge what could be done while “Street Style” skating. Take a mix of Vert and Freestyle moves to the streets and you’ve got a blank canvas for anything and everything. It was a time like no other in skating. There will never be period like that again where so many tricks were created. Plus there was this guy with a different name and a tough looking graphic. A name like Natas on the bottom of a board with a panther? Parents were confused by it and skaters were lined up for it.
Even though the Gonz and Natas were on the same page during the street skating movement, they positively had their own unique styles. Just that time in skating allowed so much creativity and spontaneity that you could make a trick yours. There were no rules stating tricks had to be done a certain way because they hadn’t been done yet. The door was wide open to anything and nothing was really considered uncool.
The thing about both Natas and Gonz was no one really took sides. You never had to choose between Gonz or Natas. It was hard to compare their skating against each other even if you wanted to. How can anyone judge that type of creativity or invention? What they did was so special their individual styles complimented each other in such a way that it pushed boundaries. Me and my friends looked at a trash can or picnic table and said, “I bet Natas could ollie that.” or “I wonder if the Gonz could board slide something that high?”.
Natas had that surf style background and flowed through the streets. Gonz, to this day I can’t describe his style. It was just rad Gonz style. I think Natas never really quite gets the proper recognition he should. The kids just don’t know. Older guys get what he did and how far ahead of everyone he was. I think after he broke his ankle so badly in 92, he didn’t get the opportunity to keep pushing it like Gonzales did. Any Natas sitings were that much cooler and the few clips he had on Element was a sight for sore eyes. The Gonz just keeps on killing it and innovating to this day.
Natas briefly rode for my wheel company and expressed concerns based on not having any interest in demos, filming, touring, and limited exposure in ads. I could of cared less, I had Natas Kaupas riding for my team and that was the same dude I had on my walls as a kid. The same pictures are now on the walls of my shop. Skateboarding keeps evolving but, you have no future without a past. The tricks are bigger and kids see the past getting more and more distant. Style will always be what separates legends from “that one guy”. -ERL