He’s got shocking red hair, stands at 5 feet 8 1/2 inches tall, is a multi-talented master of the boards, an Olympic gold-medalist (twice), has won both summer and winter X Games and Dew Tours, and he has his own video game. He is none other than professional snowboarder and skateboarder, Shaun White.
Shaun Roger White was born in Carlsbad, California to Roger and Kathy White in September of 1986, he has two older siblings; a brother Jesse, who is seven years older, and Kerri, who was one year old when Shaun was born. Early on it was apparent Shaun was a fighter. He was born with a common congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, the condition causes mixing of oxygen poor blood with oxygen rich blood being pumped out of the heart and into the circulatory system of blood vessels. Since this condition can eventually become life threatening Shaun had to undergo two heart surgeries before the age of five.
Shaun and his siblings were born into a family of talented people; their father, Roger, was an exceptional surfer back in the 1960’s and their grandparents on Kathy’s side were well known stars in roller derby. So naturally it should come as no surprise that Shaun is a two-sport athlete and was even the very first person to ever compete in Summer and Winter X games; being skilled at both snowboarding and skateboarding has allowed him to do this. During the winter season Shaun’s family would take four-hour trips to Big Bear Mountain where Shaun was known as a little “daredevil” on skis. Shaun learned to snowboard from his father at the young age of 4, and he quickly became a shadow in everything his older brother Jesse did. His mother, Kathy, said that to keep him out of trouble she bought him a snowboard and told Shaun to copy everything his older brother Jesse did. Shaun gives credit to his brother saying he was his main influence in snowboarding. Shaun said that when they were younger his older brother would let him tag along with him and his friends and they would challenge him to do all the stunts they did. It obviously proved to be a good thing because he has become a popular icon that some children aspire to be.
Not to long after he turned six Shaun was sponsored by Burton and competed in youth snowboarding competitions. At the age of seven Shaun entered his first 12 and under snowboarding competition and finished in 11th place. By the time he was 9 Shaun’s name was becoming well known in the snowboarding world and he even caught the attention of professional skateboarder Tony Hawk who claimed he would be the future of snowboarding. He threw himself into jumps and was getting at least 5 feet of air during each of his jumps allowing him to be able to do more tricks and turns. Anyone who knows Shaun knows that he is ultra competitive; whether it be a game of Monopoly or out on a snowboard he is a force to be reckoned with and rarely to be challenged. When he turned 12 he began competing in some of the top competitions for snowboarding in the world. During his first year he had a lot of top 10 finishes but was still known to most as the “cute little kid”. By Shaun’s second year he became more noticed when he placed 2nd in several events and suddenly he was a main player in the game.
When Shaun first began snowboarding the thought of competing in the Olympics seemed like a crazy idea and definitely wasn’t a goal of his, but when he became the face of the American team that all changed. At 14, in 2001, Shaun entered a dry run for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City and finished 2nd in the halfpipe giving hope to many that he could actually win the gold medal at the Olympics the following Olympics. Much to Shaun’s surprise when it came time to making the team he missed it by a hard to accept 0.3 points and ended up watching the Olympic Games on TV with the rest of the world. It was no shock the next year Shaun had risen to the occasion and was performing above a level that was expected of him and things suddenly took off.
Shaun has also triumphed at the X Games by winning a medal at every Winter X game since 2002; totaling 14 in all, two bronze, three silver and nine gold medals. He also was the first male athlete to ever win a fourth consecutive championship in one event at the X games. The fifth win was foiled by Andreas Wiig. Shaun eventually got his chance to play on the Olympic team where he brought home a gold medal for his collection. At the 2006 Turin, Italy Olympics Shaun felt completely out of sorts around a bunch of highly serious competitors. He had two qualifying runs to do. In his first run he was tight and incredibly nervous and he had even fallen. So as he prepared for his second run he headed down the mountain totally relaxed and aced it scoring a 45.3 out of 50 giving him a spot in the finals. Everything after that he did with what seemed like complete ease. He mastered six tricks, each one astonishing the crowd more than the last, performing the best run he had ever done. This allowed him to finish with the highest score in the entire competition, a 46.8 out of 50. During the medal ceremony while the national anthem was being played two trickles of tears ran down Shaun’s cheeks. One would assume that this was probably one of the most prestigious moments of his entire life.
Shortly after learning how to snowboard Shaun learned how to skateboard as well and joined Tony Hawk’s Skatepark Tour in 2002. In 2003, at the age of 16 he attended the Slam City Jam and made his professional debut as a skateboarder. Shaun was quoted by ESPN of saying, “I think it’s so much harder to go big and do the tricks. They’re so much faster and so much less under control. I’m used to doing airs and stuff in snowboarding, but I almost think you go bigger on a vert ramp.” He says his older brother, Jesse was also his influence when it came to skateboarding. Shaun grew up close to the Encinitas YMCA which had a vert ramp and he practiced there frequently. It turned out that 2005 would be yet another big year for Shaun when he won his first major skateboarding event at the Panasonic Open.
When 2007 came around Shaun was at the height of his sports career with a phenomenal year of wins and an Olympic gold medal added to his collection. He achieved snowboarding’s highest honors with huge wins at the Winter X games in the superpipe, the TTR Tour Championship and the Burton Global Open Championship. Shaun’s goals in snowboarding are not to do the most technical trick, though he has been known to do some pretty outrageous stunts, but to make his jumps look easy and complete them to perfection.
He has held a lot of “firsts” in his career in both snowboarding and skateboarding. Shaun was the first person to land back to back double corks in an international halfpipe competition. He was also the first person to ever land a Cab-7 Melon Grab in vert skateboarding. A difficult trick to perform, a Cab-7 Melon Grab involves grabbing the back of the board between both heels and extending the legs forward making it appear that you are laying back. He still remains the only person to land the body varial front side 540, otherwise known as the Armadillo.
Shaun already has a lifetime’s worth of accomplishments. At the time this was written he has nine gold medals, three silver and two gold at the Winter X games, his gold, silver and bronze medals from the Summer X games, his two gold, three silver and one bronze medals from the Winter Dew Tour, three more gold medals at the Dew Tour, one gold and one silver at the TTR World’s Snowboard Tour and two Olympic gold medals to add that extra cherry on top of success.
Shaun may be great at what he does on a board but he has had his fair share of accidents, broken bones and fractures. Before Shaun had even begun competing professionally he had broken his hand, fractured his skull and broken his foot. At the beginning of his professional skateboarding career while at MTV’s Sports and Music Festival he ran into Bob Burnquist while skating doubles and broke his leg. During the 2004 X games he suffered his worst injury when he tore the meniscus tissue in his knee leading him to do six months of rehab before heading back to the slopes to train for more snowboarding. His parents recall being terrified watching him wipe out all those times since having almost lost him as a baby.
Through Shaun’s success in snowboarding and skateboarding he has also been able to open up many other doors of opportunity as well. Through his first and biggest sponsor, Burton, he has his own clothing line called the “White Collection”, he was able to release a DVD, “The White Album” which showcases all of his snowboarding and skateboarding, he has his own video game that came out in 2008 “Shawn White Snowboarding” and is also a featured player in a second video game and he accumulated quite a list of big name sponsors. His sponsors include: Burton, T-Mobile, Target, Mountain Dew, Oakley, Birdhouse Skateboards, Volcom, Sony Playstation and many other brands which was a huge change for the snowboarding world. The thing Shaun likes most out of all his good fortune is that girls now come and talk to him; which is great since he claims he is in no way a lady’s man and has never been able to get the whole “talking to chicks thing” down.
The one big thing Shaun is able to do that some competitors are not is relax on his board. The better he is doing the more relaxed he looks. Unlike other competitors, when the pressure starts to build up in a competition he gets better,“When the pressure’s on, I always seem to go bigger and land everything better,” Shaun said. If that is the case then continue to bring on the pressure and Shaun will continue bringing the United States gold medals. There is definitely more to come from this talented young man, known to many fans as the “Flying Tomato” because of his quick moves and flashy, long red hair (although rumor has it Shaun despises that nickname). For this dedicated guy the possibilities are endless. He’s a fighter and will continue to “wow” the world with his capabilities.