Nearly two years ago, Gareth Stehr was invited by his sponsors–Tum Yeto–to leave Auckland, New Zealand and embark on a brief skateboarding holiday in the United States. Upon arriving on Tum Yeto’s doorstep, he was greeted with, “Oh damn, we forgot you were coming here, but you can stay at Josh Beagle’s house.” A few weeks later, Gareth found himself with a new heap of friends, some major sponsors, and enough support to get him plenty of coverage and a work visa to reside in the U.S. Now that he’s settled in San Diego, Gareth is enjoying himself and focusing on the important things in life: thrift stores, skateboarding, and root beer.
All week long all I’ve been hearing about is the backside 180 El Toro attempt. Might that stick with you as your big move–kind of like how Darrell Stanton had his backside noseblunt-slide down the Clipper–the breakout trick?
I never really thought of it that way. It’ll come and go if you keep skating and busting out. I mean, Darrell is killing it on everything. It’s still awesome that he did that, but it’s not the main thing–he didn’t just disappear.
Have people come to expect only gnarly stuff from you when you skate?
Maybe. But I’m not worried about it or stressing that I have to find a set of stairs that’s one stair bigger than the last. I like skating different stuff. I don’t just jump down stairs.
While you’re about to bail a huge ollie, do you think about how the bottom of your feet are going to feel in about a second?
That sucks. It’s like, “Oh shit!” And something big like that, you actually have time in the air to be like, “Oh f–k, I’m f–ked.” I kicked out at El Toro a couple times, and that wasn’t fun at all.
What’s one great thing about America and one bad thing?
I like root beer and In And Out Burger. Traffic is what I don’t like. All my favorite cities to skate have subways or trains. L.A.’s metro–no one rides it. Me and Daniel (Shimizu) started riding it, and for us it was like a day trip, like going to Disneyland. We were on the train like, “Yeah! Woo hoo!” Jumping and skating around.
Favorite trick to do?
I just learned backside laybacks, so I’m pretty psyched on those. And crailsides.
What trick do you wish you knew?
Backside crails or stalefishes. I can’t get down there. I need to take some yoga classes or something.
Pressure flips or late shove-its?
Late shove-its. I started too late to get into the pressure-flip phase. I can’t even do them. I can do the straight one but not the varial flip one that everyone does.
Are big spins too trendy right now–like they got resurrected and then played out?
I think that happens with a lot of shit. There was a while where no one was doing backside Smith grinds or frontside feebles. Now it’s like, “If you can’t frontside feeble down ten, then don’t talk to me.” But I think it’s good. It’s rad when you haven’t seen something in a while and lots of people start doing them.
If you weren’t a skateboarder, what would you most likely be doing with your life?
I was working at a hospital in New Zealand, saving up to come here. I was a clerk in radiology–basically, a librarian for X-rays. So I would probably still be there and be psyched on having a flashy car or something. Before that I delivered pizza at night and was a laborer, building houses during the day.
How do you think things will change once you turn pro?
It would be cool. I don’t know if I deserve it or not. I’ll probably be able to afford an apartment–that would be nice. I want to buy motorcycle. Maybe that’ll happen. I prefer the old-fashioned ones. I buy the Cycle Trader every month and look in there and get all excited, but then I have no money to buy anything. A lot of my friends have bikes.
You have a signature wheel on Pig, doesn’t that kind of make you pro already?
I don’t know, (Josh) Beagle just thinks it’s funny to do that shit. I think I get royalties.
Do too many skaters stop pushing it and slack off when they turn pro?
I guess there’ve been cases of that. It does get a little annoying when you see dudes rolling in nice cars and you hardly ever see any footage or anything. But maybe it’s not their fault. Can you blame them? They deserved to go pro, and they make all this money so they’re like, “F–k it! I’m going to Disneyland!”
What bothers you most while you’re trying to skate?
Wind or lurkers, man. Dudes just walk up and try to talk to you. “So how’s that working out for you?” “Well, I just ate shit, so how do you think it’s f–king going?” The other day we were skating this nine-stair, and this one dude came up bouncing around everywhere–obviously on some kind of drugs, standing at the bottom of the stairs, lurking in the frame. He was crazy. He told us he was on ecstasy, so he was like, “Woo, this is awesome!” and I landed a trick, and he runs up and hugs me. And I’m like, “Dude, I don’t want to touch you.”
Who inspired you most in skating when you were growing up?
Ethan Fowler, Heath Kirchart, and Brian Anderson.
Did you ever try to emulate those skaters?
I see a lot of kids now who try to look just like a certain pro. They even try to copy their skate style. It’s kind of strange to see kids trying to perfect someone else’s style.
I never really tried to do that. I was just looking up to them–maybe try the tricks they were trying, but not try to make mine look like theirs. I’m not ever going to manage to make anything look like Ethan’s style. I probably wore all black because Ethan did. But I normally wore all black because it’s easier, you don’t have to think about matching. Not that I really think that anyway, but it’s just easier to throw on a black T-shirt. It’s good in some ways I guess. It’s helping the kids out. When you’re fifteen or sixteen, you don’t really know yourself, so when you grow up, you can get your own style.
What video inspired you the most?
Tincan Folklore by Stereo–that’s cool to watch now. When I was growing up, probably Welcome To Hell.
Who’s inspiring you today in skateboarding?
I still look up to the same people, but it’s weird that I skate with Ethan every day. Daniel Shimizu has the best style in the world.
Have you met anyone who’s so much better in real life than you thought they were in mags and videos?
Diego Bucchieri was weird. Not that I thought he wasn’t good, but he can do every single flip trick, and he’s really consistent. For the Thrasher road trip contest, one of the tricks was a switch laser flip. He knocked it out in a few tries and then wanted to land another one because he thought the first one looked funny.
Well yeah, you wouldn’t expect that because that’s not how the “skate media” portrays him.
Which is weird, that the media can portray you so everyone thinks you’re this certain person–like everyone thinks I just jump down shit.
Well I haven’t seen the new video, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen footage of you doing a flip trick.
Yeah, that even weirds me out. Because I tell myself I don’t do flip tricks. I am always like, “F–k it.” But watching my part now, I realize I got a good mix of tricks. I’m definitely psyched.
Where does your sense of fashion come from?
Definitely music–Mick Jagger and stuff. And just from being a kid, that’s my point of view of life. I’m just a big kid who plays skateboards. I know I look like a f–king kook, but it’s fun. I think people need to laugh at themselves more, rather than making fun and laughing at other people. Life doesn’t have to be all serious all the time.tricks. I am always like, “F–k it.” But watching my part now, I realize I got a good mix of tricks. I’m definitely psyched.
Where does your sense of fashion come from?
Definitely music–Mick Jagger and stuff. And just from being a kid, that’s my point of view of life. I’m just a big kid who plays skateboards. I know I look like a f–king kook, but it’s fun. I think people need to laugh at themselves more, rather than making fun and laughing at other people. Life doesn’t have to be all serious all the time.