Some of us may go through a day facing no tougher question than “Paper or plastic?” at the supermarket. But try asking one of the most famous X-athletes, Shaun White: Skateboarding or snowboarding?
Skateboarding, says Shaun, is more difficult, “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.”
Shaun White says this, even though he learned skateboarding years before snowboarding.
It seems difficult to believe, with all that he has accomplished, but Shaun White of Carlsbad, Calif., just turned 22 in September. He’s been a pro in both sports since he was in his early teenage years. He learned skating first, of course, at just 7 years old, but he has had more competitive success on the snow.
Shaun White’s entry into the X-sports came quite simply. He grew up near the Encinitas YMCA, one of the few “Y” facilities you will find with a vertical ramp. With his older brother, Jessie, he started skating. Then he discovered snowboarding when he was 13, and with his skating experience, he was such a quick study that he turned pro in the snow at 14.
The powder took priority for a while for Shaun White, but by the time he was 16, he went back to skating long enough to join Tony Hawk on tour. He was a veteran two-sport athlete at 16! Since then he’s pretty much been a snowboarder who also excels on skateboards. In this sense, he is similar to Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders from the 1990s, who were football players who also excelled at baseball.
Shaun White is all the more amazing because he had two open-heart surgeries before he reached age 5 to cure a congenital defect. He also surfs. Pro surfers beware! His hobbies include playing the guitar.
Shaun White recently won the 2008 Laureus World Sports Award for the best Action Sportsperson of the Year. Get this, he has not one, but two, Wikipedia sites on the web. The one with just his name focuses mainly on his skateboarding, and the one that includes snowboarding, well, you can figure that out!
Despite good reason to have a big head, Shaun White remains modest and always expresses thanks for his family’s support. If you happen to run into him and his veritable “shock of red hair,” just think twice before saying, “Yo, Flying Tomato.” He used to like the nickname, but now he’s sick of it.