By Hillel Aron
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By Jill Stewart
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|Photos by Markus
Shaun White is the kid every kid wishes he could be.
If you’ve never heard of Shaun White, it’s probably reasonable to assume you won’t be attending the 10th installment of the ESPN X Games, here in downtown Los Angeles through Sunday. It’s a safe bet you’ve never been on a snowboard either, or, for that matter, a skateboard. If you have children of your own, your approval rating is suffering.
Consider for a moment the life of White, 17, of Carlsbad, California. His occupation (how many 17-year-olds have one?) is professional snowboarder/skateboarder. He’s won just about every major snowboarding competition outside of the Olympics (stay tuned). He is the first athlete to compete in both the summer and winter versions of the ESPN X Games (where he was named the Most Outstanding Athlete in winter ’03); he’s featured in Playstation’s Cool Boarders 4 video game; his first feature film, The Shaun White Album, is scheduled for release in September; and, thanks to sponsors like Burton, Oakley, Mountain Dew and Volcom, he owns a Lexus and three houses before even graduating from high school.
There is little irony in the fact that ESPN introduced the blockbuster action-sports Olympiad known as the X Games the same year that Burton Snowboards began sponsoring White, then 7. Or that in the decade since, the National Sporting Goods Association has consistently ranked snowboarding and skateboarding as the fastest-growing sports in the nation among 7- to 17-year-olds. Trading in their parents’ traditional ball games for the individuality, creativity and daring of contemporary action sports has become a hallmark of this generation, creating in the process a multibillion-dollar industry that has forced the world to both pay attention and pony up.
White doesn’t play team sports anymore. A soccer mom chased him off the field and into the X Games, where the grom once known as “Future Boy” has definitely arrived. Here’s what he had to say about it:
L.A. WEEKLY: What the hell is that “Cabo Wabo” stuff on your voice mail?
Are you playing guitar?
Almost a year. I love it. It’s so much fun. I went to the X Games and got Best Athlete of the Games, and they gave me a truck and a guitar. I didn’t play, so I was like, cool, I got a guitar, and I forgot about it. Then my brother started playing and bought one off the Internet that sucked, and I’m like, “Wait, I got a sweet Fender Stratocaster.” Now I can’t put it down. I’m a huge Metallica fan. We’re starting our band now.
Describe a typical day in the life of Shaun White.
Oh, man, the tough questions. Typical day is probably call up Tony [Hawk] or Bucky [Lasek] or somebody to go skate at Tony’s ramp or whatever. Then maybe go surfing. But some days are pretty hectic. That’s the mellow day. The worst day is when you have to go and shoot at the skate park and do a bunch of interviews, go home and get your stuff to fly to Vermont for a Burton meeting, then straight to Japan for a contest. I think traveling takes it out of you the hardest. But I say “chill and go skate” right now, because that’s all I’m going to do today.
Does that make you like the prototypical post-team-sports, anti-jock pro athlete?
I’m not anti, but I do enjoy skating or something way more than, like, baseball. I can’t do it. Running around the bases, and those pants they make you wear. I’m not into it. I used to be pretty good at soccer, but then I got way into skating, and something crazy happened when one of the other kids’ moms snapped on me for going to a game late and started yelling at me. It’s cool when it’s your mom, but when someone else’s mom snaps on you, it’s crazy.Are those sports still pretty big around there?Skating is getting bigger and bigger all the time, but those sports are still huge. You see all those soccer moms with “My son is better than your son” stickers and stuff, and it’s like, what’s going on?
I read somewhere that you and your dad call each other “dude”?
He probably calls me “dude,” but I call him “The Dude.” His name is Rodger, but we call him “The Rodge,” too. He loved that movie The Big Lebowski to the point that he actually refers to himself as The Dude or The Rodge. It’s bad.Does that make your upbringing less than “traditional”?[Laughs.] Definitely. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have such a good time with my family. They’re the ones who would take me out of school and drive me up to the mountains to go snowboarding. They’re pretty awesome parents.