Interview: Eric Blehm

From the February 2002 issue of TransWorld SNOWboarding

Shaun Roger White has been an envoy of the youth brigade since mags started running buyer’s guides with kid-specific sections. Born August 3, 1986, he started skating and riding at ages we all wish we had. Shaun lives in Del Mar, California, and is sponsored by Burton, Oakley, and Volcom. Currently his passport is nearly full, but he’s not old enough to drive. Rewind to the 1995 U.S. Open: Jake Burton Carpenter explained, “We’d have little kids warm up the crowd and let them know that the serious shit was about to happen. This time was different. Simply put, Shaun went off. The whole experience reminded me of going to a concert where the warm-up act leaves more of an impression than the band you went to see.”Fast-forward to the summer of 2001, when Tony Hawk asked Shaun to join him on his Super Tour. Hawk recently claimed that White could easily make a career out of his skating alone: “Shaun is vert’s dark horse … the top skaters widely regard him as a prodigy, but you rarely see him at big skate events.” Terje confirmed White’s skills-adding, “Puberty will make his riding even more scary.” Fellow Volcom teamrider Bjorn Leines wraps up the kid phenom with (to borrow Terje’s term) “scary” facts: “Shaun is a prime example that age doesn’t matter. It wasn’t too long ago that I saw him busting out nosegrabs and stalefishes at Summit, and thinking he’d be a force to reckon with in the near future. That future is now.”

What was your first hookup?
I remember that I really wanted to snowboard but we couldn’t find a board my size. After searching around for a while we heard that Burton was just starting to make kids’ snowboards. My parents sent in a video of me riding, then I kinda got sponsored. My first package was a snowboard and some clothes. I was so stoked. For a week or so I’d run home every day from school to see if another package would show up.

Tell me about the family?
My brother Jesse was the first to snowboard. Then my dad and I started riding, and finally my sister and mom. I feel real lucky to have a family that snowboards and is as close as mine.

What came first?
Skating or snowboarding?
I started skateboarding first at the Encinitas, California YMCA when I was six. My brother skated first, and I started after him. We would go to the YMCA every day and just skate for hours.

You’ve probably been the highest-profile young rider in our sport. Is that tough to deal with?
It’s hard growing up in the spotlight ’cause I feel like I always have to perform, even when I don’t feel that good. But it’s helped me learn to keep pushing myself. It’s also cool when kids recognize me-but it’s weird ’cause they know all about you and you don’t know anything about them. I appreciate my fans, though, and I try to be as cool to them as I can. Sometimes it’s hard to talk to people you don’t know-kids have taken this the wrong way and think I’m cocky, but whatever. I try to be nice to the people that I meet.

Do you ever get vibed by other kids?
Pros?
All the pros are cool, they treat me like an equal and they respect me. Most of the kids I meet are cool, too. But you run into people who just like to put you down. Sometimes it sucks ’cause I meet people who judge me just because I’m in the spotlight. It’s really hard to know that people hate me even though I’ve never met them.

What do you do for schooling?
I go to Torrey Pines High School in San Diego, ninth grade. It’s pretty cool.

So, you’re in Japan right now. What are you doing there?
I’m on a Burton demo tour. Everyone on the team is here going to shops and hanging out.

You’re missing school, though. How do you keep up?
I attend an independent school that’s affiliated with Torrey Pines High when I’m on the road. Weekly due dates for homework and tests. It’s hard work, but I get it done.

What do you like best about traveling?
It’s cool to see the different people and cultures. The experience of being in another country anmeeting so many cool people-I feel really lucky.

Worst?
I think the hardest part is pretty minor. Stuff like jet lag, living out of a suitcase, always moving around. Overall, I like traveling way too much to complain.

Do you like Japanese food?
I love eating sushi, but some stuff is just too crazy. Stuff like live fish and eyeballs-I’m not into that.

You’re traveling around the world, competing, riding, skating. Do you feel any pressure?
I put a lot of pressure on myself; I’m always trying to push the level of my riding. I feel lucky that my parents don’t put a lot of pressure on me.

I imagine you’ve been able to make some decent money off snowboarding. Where does it go?
All the money I have has gone into the bank. I have a college fund and stuff like that.

You’re fifteen, right?
What kind of vehicle are you looking forward to?

I don’t turn sixteen for another year. I’d like to get a Corvette, but I’m probably going to get a piece of crap car that I can hit walls and elderly people with.

You spent your summer on Tony Hawk’s tour?
Tony is really cool. When he asked me to go with him, I was so stoked. My parents let me go for three weeks. Bam! The guys took good care of me.

Did anything funny happen on the Tour?
Every day on the bus. The best was setting off a fart bomb on Sal Masekela’s face when he was asleep. But after that, I got ruined with peanut butter, jelly, strawberries, and Alka-Seltzer.

I heard you pulled a trick in skateboarding that Tony said has never been done. Can you explain it?
I really didn’t even know that I invented a new trick on the vert ramp. I was trying to learn Cab sevens, and it turns out that the grab I was doing melon had never been done before.

It’s been said that you have the ability to take either skateboarding or snowboarding to the top as a career. What’s the difference between the two?
I think in professional skateboarding it’s a lot harder to earn your place. There’s more work involved. If I could, I would love to be a professional snowboarder and skateboarder.

Back to snow. List five things that you want to accomplish in the next few years:

Win an Olympic event some year-that would be an amazing. I also want to boost 30 feet on a quarterpipe so I can get the gold watch from Oakley, make up my own trick, learn 1080 flip in the pipe, and win a big-air event. There is still so much to learn.

What kind of normal stuff do you to do at home?
I like to skate at the Encinitas YMCA, surf when I can, hang out with my friends, and go to the movies.

Downing wants to know who you’re going to take to your prom.

I can’t get into the prom ’cause I’m a freshman, but I’d go with Mandy Moore. My brother thinks we should hook up. Check her out at mandymoore.com. Way out of my league.

Craig Kelly wants to know: “Do you ever wish you could slow the pace of life down so that you have more time to enjoy each of the fun times to its fullest?
“Yeah, I think we all wish we could do that. Especially when you’re riding with your friends having a good time. Or when you’re on a trip having a having fun and wish it could last for longer. But I always know that after one good trip there is going to be more to come.

Question from Tony Hawk: “How do you do heelflip Indy to fakies?
“You just go up, and when you’re in the air, kick your legs around, your board should flip or something. Then just grab it and land it. But actually, I wanted to ask Tony how long it took him to grow his sweet haircut in The Search For Animal Chin. Because I’m trying to grow one myself.

Not too many people can dis Tony Hawk … I’m not dissing him, I’m serious. Next time I see him, I’m gonna be running neon-green shorts with my pads spray-painted pink.