Shaun White’s name is attached to a wide range of products sold all around the world, but is he just cashing in on his star status? Far from it, he claims in the second of our interviews. For White, success off the slopes takes the same drive, hard work and attention to detail as winning in the halfpipe does.
In The Red Bulletin last year, you said you didn’t know if you’d reached the peak of your accomplishments or whether there was more to come. How do you feel now?
Since we’re almost in 2010, I’d say I’ve taken a big leap in a different direction. I’ve got a great feeling of confidence now. Much more so than in the past. As a snowboarder, I’ve learned tricks that I never imagined I’d do. I’ve had some injuries because of that, but I’ve pushed myself more than I've ever done before, which is cool. I didn’t ever think I was going to be in that scenario. Having the Olympics around the corner has obviously pushed all that, but it’s been nice to rise to another level. I didn’t know if I could learn any new tricks. I didn’t know if I was going to have another game. I didn’t know what was in store for me. It’s great to have moved on.
It was really cool to have the riding be the thing that changed most, though. The business side is fine and I’m happy that people seem to respond to that, but I think it’s fantastic that the original thing that brought me here [snowboarding] was the thing that underwent the most dramatic change. It’s nice. Nice to go and do things you’re good at. I have a big competitive season coming up and I’m looking forward to it.
As well as preparing for the Olympics, you’re working on Project X, the second installment of your video game, and the Burton B Movie. Is it important to be hands-on with all the stuff you’re involved in?
Yes, because people can tell if you had nothing to do with it. If I’m attaching my name to a massive brand like Target or something, you have to be hands-on to keep your identity. If you don’t, you get into that sell-out thing. It all started when I was younger and a poster went out with this horrible shot of me. There’s a clear shot of the product I was helping to promote but I looked terrible. And I was upset because no one had asked me if I thought it was cool or not. I thought, some kid is going to ask me to sign this, and I will, and it’s going to go on his wall and all his friends are going to see it and I look ridiculous in this picture. It ate at me, so I asked my agent how I could stop it from happening again. So I learned about it at a young age. Having companies give me the right to do that is a massive thing for me.
But doesn’t it mean that you’re a bit thinly stretched by all the stuff you do outside your sport?
With the Burton film, in the years before, I hadn’t really focused on my video part for it. So I was like, ‘I’m not really proud of what I did in this video.’ I didn’t really take a big part in the film. This year I had a big part in it and I have some new moves and it has a cool soundtrack, the whole deal. So I’m stoked about it.
As for the game, I don’t know how to make video games, man, but I’m really working on it. I’ve been sitting in these board meetings and I’m learning how to be part of that process. I’ve been doing the voiceovers, I’ve been up in Montreal at Ubisoft, the company that’s developing it. And then it comes out and I’m so proud of it, I want to promote it.
Those promotions always involve a lot of meet and greets. How intense do those get, getting up close and personal with the fans?
It’s a funny one, it definitely puts you right there with all your fans. It’s cool, man. I like it. It used to be an uncomfortable thing for me to do. But I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve learned to go with the flow. There are things you can say or do to make it easier for the people coming up to see you. It’s hard for them, too. I remember how it felt when I was younger and approaching people for autographs. Sometimes you’d even get shut down and that’s the worst thing ever. So I can relate.