Quiksilver Skateboarder Holds Street-cred Line as He Steers Expansion

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True, it does take a certain laid-back attitude of body and mind to plant your feet on a board and carve your path down water, snow or street. But master board athlete Natas Kaupas also knows the business end of his sport well enough to have earned a top post at Quiksilver Americas.

At his core, Mr. Kaupas, just named VP-marketing, is an artist who knows how to represent a lifestyle graphically, and that has made him a linchpin of Quiksilver's international identity. With his Zen-like sense of ease, he's an ideal fit for Quiksilver, a company born of Australian surfers who were looking to improve the performance of swimming trunks. Both Mr. Kaupas and Quiksilver have grown beyond those simpler days.

While originally a sponsored surfer in his teens, Mr. Kaupas gained his real fame when he put foot to skateboard and approached the street, curbs, stairs, handrails and benches in a way no one had before. He was the 2005 recipient of the Transworld Skate Legend Award.

It was not just his skate style that helped Mr. Kaupas make a name for himself; he also designed his own decks and even his own shoe.


Quiksilver, with revenue of $1.8 billion in fiscal 2005, has flourished. In the past few years, it has acquired action-sports companies including DC Shoes, Hawk Clothing and, most recently, Rossignol. From its early days of surfing, Quiksilver has expanded its reach even to Turin, Italy, and the Winter Olympics, where Norway's Kjersti Buaas, an endorser for Quiksilver's Roxy snowboards and women's apparel, won a Bronze Medal in half-pipe.

"How do you grow bigger without losing where you come from?" pondered Mr. Kaupas, a lifelong Californian. Finding an answer to that question is part of his challenge at Quiksilver.

The creativity that made Mr. Kaupas a legendary street skateboarder "is the same creativity he is credited with using to create the subculture and reputation of Quiksilver today," said Greg Macias, who shares with Mr. Kaupas the title of VP-marketing, Quiksilver Americas. "He's an authentic guy, and who he is expressed in a way that is interesting, fresh and youthful. And he is able to translate that into the graphics that have become our print ads, storefronts, motor-home logos, billboards, banners and even some products themselves." Mr. Kaupas even designed Quiksilver's current logo.

Mr. Kaupas, 36, said his promotion to the newly created post is "a recognition of a lot of what I already do." What he does is just about everything from art direction and apparel design to overseeing photo shoots and a new line of products designed by Quiksilver-backed surfer Dane Reynolds.

Quiksilver also plans to introduce three signature denim pieces for summer/back to school tied to its skate team. Mr. Kaupas himself will get his own signature skate jean.

The marketing exec works with an in-house crew of 27 to create most of Quiksilver's advertising, with added work via a collaboration with El Segundo, Calif., agency 72andSunny.

Mr. Kaupas organizes the look and theme of each season's line. He just returned from a research trip (with some time set aside for surfing) to Santiago and Pichilemu, Chile, to check out some fabrics.

Quiksilver doesn't see itself as the typical sports-endorsing marketer, and this expands the boundaries of its marketing tactics. Mr. Kaupas said: "Competition is not the driving force. In the sports and lifestyle we represent [surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding]-these unstructured sports, there are no limitations. ... The possibilities, the creativity, this is true personal growth."
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