I have a very weird fascination with New Zealand. I often sit for hours fantasizing about how beautiful my life would be if I lived there. Here I am constantly stressed out and beaten down by deadlines, lack of money, traffic, politics, war, poverty, homelessness, crime, racism, and pollution. In my city, a trip to the bank results in a confrontation with an overweight 40 something woman wearing a jazzercise tee and tights. She yells at me because I took a tad too long using the drive up ATM. In Gareth Stehr’s homeland I imagine a utopian society in which an elderly lady with a sweet accent offers me a slice of pie while I do the mundane tasks of everyday life. I imagine I wouldn’t need much money in Gareth’s homeland. In New Zealand, if I got hungry I could go fishing, dig up some clams, and cook it all over a fire on the beach. New Zealand would be the perfect place to build my long dreamed skate commune. During this interview I found out Gareth has the same dream. Is this fate?
Let’s talk a little about the magical place of your birth. Why would you want to live in such shit hole like LA when you come from such a rad place?
I struggle with that question every day. I do love it here but its funny everyone here tells me that I am blowing it by staying.
Yeah the grass is always greener on the other side. What part of New Zealand are you from?
I’m from a little town outside of Auckland called Howick.
What was your town like? What did most people do for fun there?
If I didn’t skate and move here to the States, I’d be sitting at my house toying with my car. That is what everyone from my school does now. They all got cars and work on them, they put rims on them and supe them up.
What was the skate scene like in your town?
When I was in school I was the only kid in school that skated. I was friends with the care taker of my high school because he skated. He had a mini ramp at his house. He turned me on to music and shit. He gave me the original record of Never Mind The Bollocks and all the old Sex Pistols stuff.
How did Gareth Stehr get good if there were no real influences around you?
Pretty soon I realized there was a much bigger skate scene in the city (Auckland). I would take an hour bus ride to Auckland to go skate. I entered a couple of contests and then I figured out who the main dudes were and I just became friends with and skated with them.
Was Lee Ralph part of that scene? Did you hang out with him?
Right before I moved here I started hanging out with Lee. I’d see him around and go to his house. The owner of the shop that I rode for in New Zealand was a good friend with Lee. Lee would judge contests I was in and he would be at events. I’d go to his art shows and we’d hang out.
Here in the United States there are certain neighborhoods you just can’t go into. Is there any kind of racial tension over there?
It’s pretty mellow. There are maybe times you don’t want to be in places at night but nah as a country it is a whole lot mellower there. You don’t have to really watch your back there like you do here.
You recently got run over by a car and blew out your knee. What happened?
I was just out going to get some smokes and I don’t really remember too much because I got a concussion.
Were you drunk?
No I had a couple of drinks but I wasn’t stumbling into the middle of the street or anything. I just remember getting woken up and I was in the middle of the street.
So the only injury you got was your knee?
I had a big road rash on my back and a couple of dings on my head. But it was my knee that was pretty much the only major one. The police and an ambulance came but I refused to go to the hospital.
So let’s talk about the health care system in your native homeland compared to our health care system here. In New Zealand the ambulance would just pick you up and take care of you no questions asked, right? Everyone is covered.
Yeah it’s free over there. If it is an accident you are covered.
Yeah, you pay for it out of taxes. So did you get to go to the doctor pretty often when you were a kid? Here you have to be dying to even go.
Yeah, in New Zealand we even had a dentist in our school. You’d be in class and someone would come in with a little notebook. You’d kind of dread it because you knew that was going to mean you were going to the dentist. You’d have to leave class and go get your teeth fixed.
Here a couple of months ago a kid died because his mom couldn’t afford an $80 tooth extraction. The infection spread to his brain.
Wow that’s crazy.
Yeah it’s like we’re living in a third world country over here. What are you going to do about your knee? Are you going to go back now?
I’m not sure. I’ve got four weeks with a knee brace on. The radiologist said that my ACL isn’t torn. But this one doctor thinks that it might be my ACL. If it’s just my MCL like one doctor thinks it is, I should be able to wear this knee brace and it will heal on its own. I’ll only know after 4 weeks.
But if it is your ACL are you going to have to go back?
I don’t know, maybe we could get some fundraisers going for me. At most places it would cost like $30,000 or $40,000.
You’re sponsors wouldn’t kick in some money to help you out?
I don’t know, maybe.
Fuck dude you’re supposed to be a professional athlete. Shouldn’t you have some insurance?
Yeah, well being a skateboarder the companies all have you set up as an independent contractor so you are responsible for yourself.
Yeah, that makes it possible for them to get out of having to get health insurance for you. Did you come to the states with the sole intention of becoming a professional skateboarder or were you just traveling?
I just came here to travel pretty much but it all panned out super cool. I was riding for Foundation through a distributor in New Zealand and then they were like come over here and see if it works out. I came over and stayed with Josh Beagle (Former Foundation TM) at his house went on tour with them and they put me on the team.
What does Gareth Stehr hate the most about living here?
It’s hard for me to do stuff sometimes because I have no Social Security number.
Because you are an illegal alien?
How do feel about the new proposed immigration policy?
I haven’t been following it too closely.
Shit you ought to since you’re an illegal. I think illegals can apply but it costs like $5000.
Shit can I do that?
I think so. Fuck I don’t even think that we ought to have borders. I want to go to New Zealand. I should be able to just move over there right now. I’ll tell you what, we could swap moms. I’ll take your mom and you could have my mom. You could stay here and I’ll go over there.
Yeah I don’t know what our immigration policy is over there but I think it is a lot easier than over here.
I’d be illegal over there. I don’t care.
Yeah over there it’s not a big deal. No one would really care.
Gareth Stehr your prime minister Helen Clark is a woman who climbs mountains for fun. She seems way more with it than our president. Do you really want to get a green card?
I’m not getting a green card to hang out with the president. All I’m trying to do is hang out with my friends and go skate. It’s not like I am doing anything bad or wrong. I’m going to get kicked out for skateboarding.
That’s why you didn’t want to go to the hospital after you got run over right?
Yeah. Well yeah the police were there as well.
Did the police ask you for a green card or anything?
If Gareth Stehr were a little brown dude you probably would have been deported right then and there. What do you think of George Bush?
I think that he is definitely fucking up. He is not making the best decisions.
Gareth Stehr There are more sheep in New Zealand than people. Have you ever helped a sheep over a fence?
No. My uncle has a farm but he grows palm trees. He doesn’t have any sheep.
So you’ve never helped any sheep over the fence. So no one in your family has ever helped a sheep over the fence?
Oh nah. No one in my family has ever had sex with a sheep.
What do you like best about living in LA?
Most of my friends live here.
So Gareth Stehr who’s in your crew?
Justin Roy, Nuge, Daniel Shimizu, Clint Peterson, he lives in this loft with a mini ramp. Yeah that is my favorite part about living here. I’ve got tons of friends in other places as well. I wouldn’t mind moving to Portland, Oregon.
Of all our states, Oregon is probably the most like New Zealand.
Yeah it reminds me of home a lot.
If you were to go back to New Zealand you might not be allowed come back to the states because your visa expired right?
Yeah. I had a two-year work visa. I could have extended it but I got married and I was trying to get a green card through marriage and we got divorced. So it made the whole process null and void.
You need to find another American girl to marry.
Okay let’s put it out right here. You are looking for an American girl to marry. We give you an Automatic email address. If any girls want to help you become a legal resident of the United States they can email you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Girls you must be over 18 and include a naked picture. Shoot if I were a girl I’d marry you so I could get a green card to New Zealand. That would be a good trade off.
Yeah and maybe they can pay for my surgery too.
Does New Zealand recognize gay marriage?
I think so.
There you go so now you just opened up your prospects.
No I haven’t opened up my prospects.
Gareth Stehr what is the least appealing thing about Americans?
Shit I’ve never really thought about it. I don’t like the North East accent. Like New Hampshire and Boston accent. I’ve got some friends from Boston so they are going to be pissed off that I said that.
What about the Southern accent?
I like the southern accent. I hang out with Ben Gilley a lot so. I stayed with him in Birmingham, Alabama so I’ve got lots of friends over there. That’s another place that kind of reminds me of home. Just because all of the people are really friendly.
So can I expect Lord of the Rings type shit when I go to New Zealand?
Of course you’re not going to see any Hobbits or anything, but as far as the scenery goes it’s pretty close. In the movie there weren’t any beaches. The coast is one of the coolest things about New Zealand. It’s shaped long and thin so pretty much wherever you go you are only 20 minutes from the beach. You could be in a city and drive twenty minutes and you’ll find farmland, open spaces, and beaches.
Shoot why don’t we all just move over? I’ve had this idea to start a skate commune. I was thinking that New Zealand would be a great place to do it. We could live off the land there.
I actually thought about that too. I thought it would be cool to have a house by a lake and then have barns with some sick indoor park stuff and then some outdoor stuff. Like a cool skate camp kind of thing.
We could raise sheep and it would take care of our all our needs. We could have food, clothing, and companionship.
I wouldn’t want to leave all my friends over here though.
Shit we’d bring the whole Hell Rose crew with us over there. If we build it they will come.
Yeah we could get Lee Ralph to help us start it.
Lee Ralph could be our leader. So why don’t you tell me you’re sponsors now.
Foundation skateboards, Pig Wheels, Ruckus Trucks, Dekline Shoes, Veece Clothing, Active Santa Monica.
So I was serious about trading moms with you. If you want to I would be interested. Ask your mom. I’m going to call my mom today and break the news to her. But she won’t be too bummed because she is probably going to get a better son out of the deal anyway. Hopefully your mom will be into it.