Posted on 24 July 2008.
Shaun White has a lot going for him these days. He is an Olympic Gold Medalist, just got his deal with Target to do a Shaun White clothing line and he is progressing and moving forward in both skateboarding and snowboarding and there is no sign of him slowing down any time soon.
Shaun White has a nice big house which is more of a mansion really and it is overlooking a canyon in Rancho Santa Fe 40 minutes north of San Diego. Inside shawns house, he barely seems to notice that surrounding his ping-pong table in the living room are racks of painstakingly arranged clothes, and on the floor are pair after pair of shoes, lined up neatly in rows, for him to choose from for the the next day. He has a huge white horse, an infinity pool and a bitchen spanish style house. He has a velvet-wallpapered music room, where White has a drum-kit set up in one corner, various expensive guitars on stands, and some amps. A pretty sweet set up indeed! He has another pad in Park City Utah and a $350,000 Lamborghini Murcielago which white justifys buying because he can and its a fast cool car and he wrecked the last one.
Shaun White is just a genuinely nice guy, one who can crack a joke about anal lube as unselfconsciously as the next dude. If he’s going to buy a car, it’s going to be one of the fastest models on the planet; if he decides to take up guitar, it’s going to be a Gibson Les Paul; if he has to travel the world, then, damn it, it’s going to be with his friends in tow.
“That’s kind of my secret to my whole thing-it stays fun,” he says, when finally I manage to pry him away from the throng. “If you just sit around and train in the summer because you’re going to be `the best snowboarder in the winter’ and that’s all you’re thinking about, it’s not good. That’s why I got better than the kids that stayed in the mountains-I’d come home to the beach and skateboard, and have fun. Then, I’d go up to the mountain and I’m like ‘This is amazing!”‘ He pushes his gold, mirrored sunglasses a little further up his nose. “You just gotta remember the reason you started doing it in the first place.”
When White is in beer-pong mode, he’s in his element. It’s the other side of his appeal: not only is he one of the most exciting athletes to emerge in recent memory, he’s also just one of the guys, who just happens to be a multi¬millionaire, a video-game character, and, hang on, wasn’t that him in Vogue a few months ago, standing next to Daria, holding a skateboard? Take this recent blog post, written on his official website after White won the Winter X Games gold in Aspen: “What do you do after winning the gold? Do you go and immediately pawn it for a VCR and a PS2? NO! When you are in Aspen and Target has the biggest house on the mountain, you get together for a little dancing with all of your buddies! Deep in the heart of the basement was a secret room where amps, guitars and a drum kit were set up and ready to kick out the jams! Shaun was found ripping the frets on some classic songs, jamming along with the rest of the crew. It is fun to win gold, but it is even better hanging with all your friends and jamming.” Shaun White, then: just like us! Only not really: he does, after all, have an Olympic medal. White became a celebrity (and American hero) when he won the snowboarding gold in the 2006 Winter Olympics, in Turin. “I think that the Olympics needed snowboarding more than snowboarding needed the Olympics,” he says. “If you think about it, who do you know that can relate to that guy that skies like eight miles then shoots targets? Nobody can relate to that. Nobody goes out and toboggans. The highest rated things in the Winter Olympics are ice-skating and snowboarding. It’s because you can relate and understand. You can watch us do airs in the halfpipe and go `OK, I understand that. They’re flipping and they’re spinning.’ It’s a spectacle.”
But, as famous as he’s become as a snowboarder (he’s one of only two athletes with seven golds at the Winter X Games, and achieved his third consecutive halfpipe championship at the U.S. Open earlier this year), he has, all the while, been skating, too, often under the watchful eye of one Tony Hawk, who lives close by. White is currently the only skater to land the body varial frontside 540 and is known, as he is in snowboarding, for huge airs and smooth landings.
“Snowboarding was my thing, and skateboarding was just this fun thing I did in the off-season,” he says. “Tony Hawk would invite me to do demos and we became friends. When I was 16, I sat with him one day at the ramp and I was like ‘What do you think if I start competing in skateboarding? Would that be weird?’ And he was like `No, I think you’re good enough to go for it.’
White’s motivation to succeed, specifically by winning competitions, comes across in every sentence he speaks about snowboarding and skateboarding. It’s a tenacity that has brought him a long way and looks set to take him much further. As a kid, White would travel the three hours with his parents and brother to Big Bear mountain, where the family would spend the weekend snowboarding. “I would cram a weeks worth of riding into two days,” he says.-”On every run I was working on a new trick. My mom started to ride and she was really slow, so in order to let her progress enough to where she could catch up to me she made me ride switch. Then I got really good at it.” Soon enough, he was signed by Burton. “It wasn’t because I was like the raddest dude on the mountain-Burton just came out with a kid’s line, so I was there at the start with them,” he says. “They were like `We’re going to give you this snowboard and if you keep doing well and keep competing then we’ll give you another one.’ That’s all the motivation I needed. Done: I rip, I get more boards. Sick!” As he gained confidence, White began to attract attention. “I was super young and had this funny look,” he says. “I was just a giant helmet at that point, but I’d hit these huge jumps and just go for it.”
Eventually, White became the person to beat at the mountain. “It turned into this thing where everyone was against me, and I didn’t really like it,” he says. “I’d be at the start and the other parents would be all ‘OK Johnny, you’re gonna beat him today.”
He is already well on his way to changing both skateboarding and snowboarding but, in winning that gold medal, White, under the watchful eyes of his parents, and Burton, catapulted the sports into the mainstream. By furthering what Tony Hawk had started-doing commercials, video games, etc.-White has propelled extreme sports where many thought they could never go (and where some purists think they still shouldn’t): into the public consciousness. In the process, he has become a superstar, made a fortune and paved the way for others to follow suit.