With the American economy at a perpetually sustained low point, the skateboard industry and certain skateboarders have taken a notable hit. Case in point: Gareth Stehr. Since hopping the pond from New Zealand close to a decade ago to pursue the California dream, Gareth has been on a non-stop skate rampage. However, due to politics and circumstances beyond his control, Stehr was "let go" from his primary sponsors Foundation and Dekline with little warning and no inkling as to what would happen next. But, with a will as strong as his style, Stehr has forged on, working to get back what (in my humble opinion) is rightfully his: a signature skateboard deck with his name on it.
What have you been up to this last year?
I have been painting a lot. Getting a chance to work on my bike, welding and working on it and stuff like that.
Corey Duffel has been really into that lately too.
Yeah he has. We all kinda have.
In all the photos for this interview you're riding Deathwish boards. What's up with that?
My friends over there have been hooking me up with boards. [Former Hellrose pro] J-Roy works over there and a few other guys. I don't ride for Foundation anymore, so ...
Yeah man, what's the story with the whole Foundation thing?
They said "budget cuts." That was the only explanation I got.
Was that pretty out of the blue for you? Did you feel secure in your position over there?
Yeah, I thought so. Along with the explanation I got from the team manager, it was pretty ... "You've been good. You've been on every tour. You always have photos when we need them. I don't want you to think bad; it's strictly a budget thing." It was kind of good to hear that but kind of not, you know? Like, "What are you kicking me off for then?"
So it was like, you're kicking me off for doing my job?
Exactly. I just think they wanted to free some money up. Seeing as how I ride for Foundation and Dekline, it was maybe more money than they could get back.
Are you still riding for Dekline?
We gotta get you a board sponsor.
Yeah man, it's just tough in this day and age. All my homies that are on legit companies are taking pay cuts. It sucks. And from my point of view, if these legit dudes on legit companies are taking pay cuts, they aren't looking to put someone new on. I am just trying to open some new doors. Skating a lot. Doing more art shows.
Tell me a little bit about this art stuff you are doing.
It's my main thing to do when I get hurt or something. I have been doing a lot of group shows. Like, themed shows. The last one was about Jesus. Then there will be something like rational portraiture. When I was younger I had a choice of going to art school or coming out here and skating. I chose skating. But the shows and stuff are kind of like an art school practice.
Lastly, what is the next step with Gareth Stehr? Where do you go from here?
Well there are a lot of people in the same position right now. With the budgets and stuff like that. But what I am trying to explain to them is that I am not looking for some insane pro salary. I've been riding those Deathwish boards but it's even hard for them. Even like four boards a month. They're still a start-up company. I am used to skating like 10 boards a month because I skate a lot and I tend to skate bigger s**t. You get used to it, though. I am always going to skate.
Seems like a lot of companies are hurting now.
I have two minutes of footage saved up right now and it almost feels like a sponsor me tape again. What I was hoping for was that a company could use that, on the Internet or something, as a "Welcome to the team," type deal. I might just end up putting it on Thrasher or something, though.
As a professional skateboarder, you just want to live right?
Yeah, yeah, Commune has been really supportive. Everyone has who has backed me. I just want to skate and be a part of a team. I can admit to that. I want to be able to say, "Yeah! My team is rad!" Thanks to everyone that's helped me keep skating.