Little-Known Facts About Shaun White

When Shaun White qualified for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing for his signature halfpipe snowboard event, it marked the fifth time he would compete in the Olympics. The three-time Olympic gold medalist first competed in Turin, Italy, during the 2006 Olympic games while still a teenager, winning gold in the halfpipe. But with an Olympic career spanning 16 years, Shaun White has become one of the most recognizable faces of those competing for the United States in the Winter Olympics. "I'm proud that at my age, I'm still doing this sport," White told the Associated Press ahead of the 2022 Olympic Games. "I'm honored and the most proud of being able to stay on top of a sport that's ever-changing. And for this long, to show up and do some heavy tricks with the younger riders, that's very inspiring to me."

At age 35, White may have arrived in Beijing with four previous Olympic Games under his belt, but he's not the oldest snowboarder in Beijing. That honor goes to fellow American Nick Baumgartner, who, at the age of 40, is the oldest snowboarder in Olympic history and likely the oldest competitor at the 2022 Olympic Games across all events (per NBC Sports). Still, since turning pro at the age of 13, White holds the record for most Olympic gold medals in snowboarding with three, as well as for 15 X Games gold medals (13 for snowboarding and 2 for skateboarding).

Humble beginnings

Shaun White was born in 1986 in San Diego, and he had much to overcome in his first years in life. Before he even reached his first birthday, a congenital heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot required two open-heart surgeries to help correct the problem, according to Men's Journal. A third one came later as a young child. And, if that wasn't enough, he had to wear leg braces as a child to correct bow-leggedness, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Still, the White family was determined to provide Shaun as normal a childhood as humanly possible. He told Jimmy Kimmel in an interview that his parents informed him at an early age about his condition, but they "really let me find my own limitations," to which he attributes his athletic abilities.

As reported by Heavy, Shaun's mother, Cathy, was a waitress; his father, Roger, worked for the San Clemente water department. With three children, discretionary spending was at a premium, so by the time Shaun turned 6, his parents bought a van that has become a critical part of the Shaun White biography. On weekends, they'd make the three-hour trek to the San Bernardino Mountains for time on the slopes. To save money on hotel bills, they'd camp in the van overnight and wash up in the resort bathrooms before hitting the powder the next morning.

He was named after a surfer

The inspiration for Cathy and Roger White to name their son Shaun came from Roger's dream as a youth to become a professional surfer. That dream never materialized, so the couple named their son after South African surfing legend Shaun Tomson (per Twitter) in hopes that they could will their child into surfing excellence. "Shaun was supposed to be a surfer," Roger White told the San Diego Union-Tribune (via Romper). "I wanted to be a surfer, and my dad was never behind me. I was hoping to get Shaun into surfing. I put him on a boogie board when he was really young, about 4 years old."

That hope was quickly dashed, however, after a major wipeout at the age of 7. "The day I actually first surfed. My dad got me a hard board and I'll never forget because it had the Tasmanian devil on the front," Shaun White told Surfer Today. "They sent me down a giant wave, and I just got tumbled immediately; came up for air, couldn't get it, tumbled again, got tumbled, swirled again. I came up, finally got air, and right as I did the board hit me in the face." Angry and bleeding, Shaun determined that was enough of giant waves and opted for big air by turning to snowboarding.

Red Bull built him a $500,000 private halfpipe

During the winter of 2009, Shaun White spent a good part of the winter training on Silverton Mountain in Colorado training on his private — and secret — halfpipe. The massive 22-foot wide pipe came with an estimated $500,000 price tag, all of it entirely picked up by then-sponsor Red Bull (via Essentially Sports). The pipe even came with a huge foam pit at the bottom, so White could perfect his new groundbreaking trick — the Double McTwist 1260 (two flips and three and a half spins) — with an added measure of safety until he nailed it.

The pipe and trick were shrouded in secrecy so White could debut the latter at the 2010 X Games without anyone seeing it coming. White said it was important to "take the distractions that are normally in my year and just take them out of the picture and let me really explore the boundaries of what I can do and the tricks that I've contemplated over the years" (via YouTube). The sessions were filmed and eventually edited and packaged for television, and he won gold in the superpipe with his perfected Double McTwist 1260 (per YouTube). As reported by Onboard Magazine, he's since gone on to make "The Skyhook" his signature trick (via YouTube).

Carrot Top inspired him to make a major change

Although the name Shaun didn't have any connection to snowboarding (yet!), he certainly picked up a number of nicknames on the powder over the years. Because of his incomparable talent when he was just 7-years-old, "Future Boy" was the first for Shaun White. Before long, he accumulated "Egg," "Senor Blanco," "The Flying Tomato," and "Animal" — the latter two for his red hair.

However, White chopped off his signature curly red hair after a chance encounter in Las Vegas with comedian Carrot Top (pictured above) scared him straight. "We're talking about our hair ... and he basically looked at me, like you could see into his soul, and was like I'm kind of stuck like this, this is my life," White wrote in an AMA with Bleacher Report. "And it was like seeing the ghost of Christmas future ... like omg, there's still time, I can change." According to NBC Sports, White donated his hair to Locks of Love, which makes wigs for children suffering hair loss, and hasn't looked back — even if he's still sometimes called "The Flying Tomato."

White crashed his Lamborghini in less than a month

After Shaun White won the gold in Turin in 2006, endorsement deals and other business opportunities began to flow in his direction. Among the first on his shopping list were a house and a sports car, and he chose a Lamborghini. White told Us Weekly in 2018 that he totaled it in the first month he had it. Then, he immediately went out and bought another one. "I didn't buy the Lamborghini to be that cool guy," White told Edmunds. "I was just fascinated. It was something I never imagined in a million years I'd own."

Even though White failed his driver's test the first time around, he didn't let that stop him from enrolling in a school to learn sports car racing and getting behind the wheel of some of the fastest cars on earth. All of it has led to some endorsement deals with automotive companies like BFGoodrich. White says auto racing has a lot in common with snowboarding. "I understand the balance ratio of just before you start to slide out," he told Edmunds. "I'm starting to feel that. Even snowboarding I'm on the border of being out of control ... It's that great fine line. It's nice to hear your tires kind of squee but not that full SQUEAL." He also noted that anticipating what's next is similar in the two sports, noting, "I can already picture what the turns are supposed to be like before I get in there."

He played guitar at Lollapalooza

In 2013, Shaun White and a group of his longtime friends formed the synth-pop band, Bad Things. The band signed to Warner Bros. Records that summer and released their eponymous album in 2014. But in summer 2013, before Bad Things even had an album, a series of cancellations led to the group taking the stage at Lollapalooza in Chicago. "Shaun White is hanging out here, he's got his band (Bad Things) with him. So we asked, 'Do you want to jump in and take that slot?' So he's going to do it," Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell said, according to USA Today.

However, not all was smooth sailing with the band from that point on. White settled a lawsuit with former bandmate Lena Zawaideh in 2017, after the drummer alleged White had sexually harassed her and reneged on payment while they played in the band together. According to the lawsuit, White made sexually explicit comments to her, sent her images of "engorged and erect penises," and forced her to view disturbing videos that were sexual in nature, The New York Times reported. White denied the allegations but later told the paper: "I regret my behavior of many years ago and am sorry that I made anyone — particularly someone I considered a friend — uncomfortable." Bad Things has not officially disbanded, but they haven't performed or reportedly recorded any new music since the allegations first surfaced.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Burton began sponsoring him at age 7

Shaun White scored a deal with Burton Snowboards when he was just a couple years into the sport, and the two had a lengthy partnership that lasted nearly 25 years. After a few years without an official equipment sponsor, White launched his own lifestyle brand, Whitespace, which will release a line of outerwear, streetwear, and snowboards in late 2022. He's already been seen on the snow with a pro version of his board, which he'll use in Beijing. "Whitespace is obviously a play on my name, but also it means opportunity, a gap in the market, a blank canvas waiting for something new and creative," White told Forbes. "Snowboarding is one of the only sports where I can invent a new trick and be the best in the world. I love that opportunity and openness about the sport." White said he hopes that he can do with his company what Burton did for him. "What if I could be that helping hand like Jake Burton was to me?"

Whitespace is the newest and most tangible part of a global brand that has become synonymous with Shaun White. According to the Los Angeles Times, he's made multiple investments in the ski resort industry, and he's also taken a stake in the roving Air + Style snowboard competition. All of it began with Shaun White Enterprises in 2012, which has grown into an empire that has generated him a personal net worth of an estimated $60 million (per Celebrity Net Worth).

What's next for Shaun White?

Although Shaun White teased an appearance in the 2026 Olympics, he also said that the 2022 games in Beijing would likely be his last (via NBC Sports). The physical aspect of the sport has had an impact on White after all these years. "I finally have to admit that I am human, and you know, crashing and landing out of the sky," White recently noted, per Essentially Sports. "All these things take a toll, and the recovery days are a lot more extensive and the injuries just kind of pop up."

White, who has been dating actress Nina Dobrev since early 2020, told Us Weekly he would "love to be a dad." After nearly three decades of dedicating himself to excel in one pursuit, White said he's ready to commit himself to a family of his own and all the challenges that come with it. "For a guy like myself that's really poured his everything into one aspect of life, which is competing in snowboarding, I feel like over the years, I've gathered a more well-rounded life with other things going on," he told the magazine. "Something like that just seems like an amazing turning of the page, a new chapter ... I wanna take this on."