Alli caught up with Shaun White as he cruised into a mini media frenzy during the Dew Tour’s Skate Open. The season-opener was meant to be White’s return to skateboarding after collecting his second gold medal in snowboarding at the winter Olympics. But it was his out-of-place black ankle brace below his faded black jeans that made it obvious his return to skateboarding was put on hold. With a big smile and chill disposition, he greeted a throng of journalists all wondering why.
We compiled the best Q&A’s from the day’s event to share why Shaun White was never meant for team sports, why he gets heckled by eight year olds whenever he returns to the wooden halfpipe and how one strum of the electric guitar can give him the same sense of satisfaction as landing a trick.
What’s up with your injury?
I was skating in Venice. I have a home on Hollywood, and I was doing some cement bowl skating and I did the, ‘Let’s leave, let’s leave,’ to my friends, and then I twisted it. It was one of those things that I injured the same ankle before the Olympics. And what happened is when I first injured it, the bones collided and there’s a piece of bone floating around in there. So skating, I rolled it and it’s basically a lesser injury of that first one. I assumed it would go away in time.
What’s kind of transition do you go through when you switch seasons from snowboarding to skateboarding?
I can go from skateboarding to snowboarding like nothing. It’s easy. Tricks and everything comes back, instantly. Within a day or so, I’m back to where I was.
Skateboarding is so much harder. You lose this feeling that you get where, when you do your airs, that you just know that your board’s under you. You can just have this feeling, this connection. And you lose that once you’ve been away for too long. And I’m awful. I’m terrible. The first couple days back, it’s brutal. I try to go somewhere where there’s nobody there. Because there’s so many kids that skate, and they’re just so talented. They’re amazing up-and-coming skaters, and I’m just embarrassed to be around them when I first start out. They’re like, ‘Stick to snowboarding!’ You know, an eight year old yelling at me. I had it coming though, I wasn’t performing.
White may be out, but he’s down to call the tricks
What do you think about the prospect of skateboarding in the Olympics?
It’s a very strange thing because I was kinda the one where, obviously, when I came back to skateboarding, everyone was asking me what it was like. They wanted to know if I thought it was a good thing for the sport of snowboarding or not, and if they would have had fun. I was definitely able to give them stories and feedback, but it’s a very strange, kind of political thing. I’m for it. I think it’d be cool. I think it’s something the Olympics need to draw that younger audience.
Was skateboarding your outlet when you were a kid? And since you’re into action sports, does that mean you’re not a big team sports player?
I was an outlaw. It was strange. It was like the only thing that really made sense to me because it was my way. When I would show up, it was like, OK, I’m going to be as good as I want to be. I could practice when I wanted to. I could really learn the tricks I wanted to do. Take my time. Go fast. Go slow. But, the team sports were tough, like, you have to come to practice on this day, the coach says what position you play. You can never be accountable for your teammates. It was always just like, ‘Hey, they let the ball go into the net!’ It was definitely not my thing.
Do you see action sports becoming as big as mainstream sports, and it is easier now for kids to break into the sport because of that?
Definitely with more mainstream means bigger sponsorships. We’re on a Tour now, on NBC, we’re definitely breaking through the normal barriers that we need to be doing. But I’ve always felt that these sports are so powerful because they’re more than sports. It’s a culture. It’s the way we dress. The music. It’s definitely a thing where you get together with friends and go do something. And that’s how it’s been for me from the start. I’m sure when my dad was younger, you were kind of outcast if you were the skater. Like Tony Hawk’s era, he was telling me, ‘You’ve got it good, when I was in school they hated us.’ Because he was a skater, and now you get probably laughed at if you don’t wear skate shoes to school.
Bucky and Shaun chilling at Dew Tour
Would you encourage cities to build public skate parks?
Yeah. You’ll see the baseball diamonds that are kind of empty unless the whole team comes to practice, while the skateparks are packed, always. In Calfornia, I had to skate in the morning because I can’t even get a run in. Once school lets out, it’s a zoo. I encourage public parks and say it’s a great thing for the city.
How do the tricks compare between snowboarding and skateboarding?
It’s really hard to describe the two just because snowboarding’s just such a bigger scale. The halfpipe here is probably 14, 15 feet. In snowboarding it’s 22 feet tall. And once you add the slope, you’re coming out of this wall while traveling downhill. The amount of air you’re getting and the speed and everything that’s going on, it’s just a lot bigger. It’s way more time in the air with flips, and all this other stuff.
But I think each sport has its own qualities in that way because skateboarding is so much more technical. Your board’s not strapped in, you’re flipping your board while spinning and doing different things. I would say that the only common ground is just the balance and the way you turn, the way you approach the jumps and stuff like that. I think they kind of feed off one another.
When we will see you on the Mega Ramp?
I don’t know, I want to try it out. I think from a snowboarding side of things, I could figure it out. I wish I could bail out, you know, run out of something.
When are we gonna see the 10?
Hopefully soon. I’m hoping to be back by the next Dew Tour in Portland. I’m hoping to be back with my tricks.
Now that you’re off your ankle, what do you do with your downtime?
It’s been a lot of guitar, I mean I just sit at home and jam out. I’ve just been taking it easy. I avoid depressing situations. I went out with my family and they were all, ‘Hey lets go surf!’ I had to sit on the beach.
You’ve been on the Rolling Stone cover twice, how’s that feel?
It was wild, I was on the cover when I was 19, and to pop up again and have this ripping cover, it was definitely surreal. Man, it was awesome.
Tell us a little bit how music is the other alternative to skating?
It’s like an instant gratification you get. You hit the strings and the noise comes out of the amp. It’s like when you do a trick in snowboarding and the crowd cheers for you. I’m a really competitive guy though and it was a tough day when I realized I wasn’t going to be the best in guitar. I put on a Hendrix CD, and I was like, nope, not gonna be there.
Have you ever been a commentator and are you prepared to do it today?
I figured I’d be alright at it. I know all the guys, I know all the tricks and I know what’s up.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist turned announcer, what can’t White do?