So I know you're gonna say that I cheated on this one. Skipping Gonz at the genesis point of this undertaking definitely represents a serious skate nerd faux-pas, punishable only by scorn and excommunication. True, I could've gone with Tony Alva or Duane Peters here and gotten away with it. Hell, I could've even gone with one of those Life Magazine-type photos of some blonde kid hanging-ten without any shoes on and been okay. But to skip right past the almighty Mark Gonzales in preference of the unofficial vice president of all things "modern street"? Tisk, tisk.
Fact of the matter is when I started skating in the summer of '88, Natas was our dude. Sure, we went through our compulsory Bones Brigade skull fetish early on. But by the time we got to Mr. Kaupas, we knew something (or so we thought). Of course we'd heard about this Gonz character and how great he was... but where was he? The late-80's pre-Blind period proved to be among the more quieter periods of Mark's career (and I've got the magazines to prove it). With the exception of a few tranny photos, the occasional contest run and Psycho Skate (which albeit hardly Gonz's fault, my neighborhood had given a unanimous thumbs-down), he was nowhere to be found. Don't get me wrong, we'd heard about him. We just lacked any real visual comprehension to go along with it... let alone something scored by Firehose.
Back then, there weren't any websites we could log-on to and check out old magazine stuff (ahem).
All we had was what was in front of us... Natas. Wrecking shit in literally every magazine as SMA couldn't really run ads at the time featuring anybody else. He was our guy. Every photo consisted of him either soaring over that hip at Venice High or performing some soon-to-be-fundamental curb trick that he had invented the day before. I specifically remember walking around town with my friends pointing at stuff that Natas could ollie. Garbage cans, mailboxes, cars... I remember we finally drew the line at a basketball rim. 10 feet? Probably not... but maybe!
We could barely ollie to axle on a curb.
And lets face it. The dude was just cool. Those minimal Mofo-driven ads with that cool haircut that only he could pull off... so awesome. (In comparison, Gonz ads had splattered paint, berets and Primo. I blame Brad Dorfman).
Anything Natas touched gained an instant legitimacy that ad agencies would kill for. Those 76'ers Cons and some Ellese shoes? Sure! Natas wore 'em! Green light. And who are these Public Enemy guys on my man's shirt? I should probably check that out... after all, Natas likes 'em!
And of course we knew he wasn't Satanic... but it was still fun to freak our parents out anyway!
Eventually Natas would go on to spin on hydrants and start one the greatest skateboard companies of all-time... but we'll get into that soon enough. My crew would eventually catch a late-pass on Gonz... but my early days of boneless grabs, shitty ollies and launch ramp near-fatalities were all in his name, Lord Satan Backwards.