Shaun White Talks Tony Hawk, Olympics, Sports GOATs in B/R AMA

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJuly 29, 2020

Shaun White, of the United States, celebrates his gold medal win in snowboard halfpipe at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
Jonathan Hayward/Associated Press

Shaun White is one of the most accomplished American athletes of all time. The California native is best known for his skill as a snowboarder, which includes winning three Olympic gold medals in the halfpipe. 

From 2002-13, White won 18 Winter X Games medals (13 gold) between the superpipe and slopestyle. He also won five medals in the vert as a skateboarder during the Summer X Games. 

As White continues to prepare himself for a potential return to the Winter Olympics in 2022, the 33-year-old took time from his schedule for a B/R AMA to answer fan questions about a variety of topics, including Tony Hawk, sports GOATs and much more. 

The following is the full transcript from the AMA session.   


@just_in_time: What was the most valuable thing Tony Hawk taught you as a mentor?

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Tony never really sat me down and said you should do this or do that. He was always leading by example. It was just so awesome to be around somebody gaining this level of success, going through things I was just about to go through myself. People approaching him at dinner, he's trying to eat...but he stayed true to who he was. I remember we were in a limo heading to a concert, and the driver said oh my gosh I'm so sorry it's not fresh ice. Tony was like, what are you talking about...I'll eat this dirty ice! I used to sleep on the floor in my buddy's house so we could skate. He was still the same guy through and through. It was the little things I'd pick up along the way, staying true to who you are. I pack my bags, I pick up after my dog, not much has changed too dramatically in my life. I could get a slew of people around me to do the mundane things in my life, but i like the feeling of being normal and doing normal things. I just don't feel like through the fame and success and media pressure, I feel like I've stayed the same. I learned that from Tony at that time.

We were doing an interview together and every single time this question would pop up, so what do you think about shaun white being the next Tony Hawk? And he'd say, I think that's terrible. I was like, what do you mean? I wanna be my idol. He said, I don't think anyone should be the next Tony Hawk. I think Shaun White should be Shaun White...he was very wise in those situations, very inspiring. He set me on my own path.


@lucasgottshall: Favorite "behind the scenes" moment at the Olympics?

There was this guy at the olympics that owned a restaurant nearby and he had named one of his burgers the shaun white burger. I went in there to get the burger, cause obviously, you gotta try your own burger. On the menu it said only available for shaun white, and people were messaging me this photo. So i go in there, the guy loses it, he's so excited. I have the burger, and it was pretty good. And then during the thing I read below, it said there's two meat patties in this burger, and he hopes to win a third if i win my third came with two chicken wings, oddly enough because i fly a lot through the air, it was very involved. I win the medal, i come back to the restaurant, and he burst into tears. I put the medal on him, he made me a triple stack burger.


@beneg92: How do you deal with the intense pressure of competing at such high stakes competitions like the Olympics?

Luck favors the prepared, so obviously a lot of prep goes into it. by the time i get there, it's more about relaxing and just letting all that prep take over and you just do what you do. You've already learned the routine, you know the tricks, you just have to let it happen. More than 50% of it is the mental game, letting go and letting it happen...the olympics is one of those where nothing can really prepare you for that, you just have to get there and figure it out for yourself. I feel like when I do get back to the olympics, I have a leg up on the competition who are there for the first time.


@just_in_time: Do you belong on the Mt. Rushmore of athletic GOATs? If not, who do you put up there?

I'm not a self promoter, so i don't know if I'd put myself in there. Part of being a competitor, you always think you can do better, like a musician leaving the studio, it's not done. You want to keep growing and continuing to do more. I'm proud of what I've done but... I'd say Ali, Jordan, Tiger Woods, and then myself. Just fill it out.


@Steve_Perrault: What do you remember from the CNN interview where you said "I'm talking about Mountain Dew, baby!" That was hilarious.

It was so funny because I had been doing these back-to-back interviews and I didn't realize this until after the Olympics that it's just this giant media tour. They fly you around, you do interviews all over the world. I'm attending fashion shows in Milan, it's nuts. They throw me on CNN and I think I had been watching a lot of Dave Chappelle at that point. The host, I think her name was Robin, was just like "What are you talking about?" Because I was mentioning I had been flying around and people were excited to have me on the plane so they were like "Whatever you want! Like, how many snack packs do you want, we'll bring them all out." I was getting the real royal treatment. She tried to act like I was getting served alcohol and I was like what are you talking about. I think I was actually talking about Mountain Dews at the time, everybody thinks I was talking about drinking but I really was talking about Mountain Dews, baby. I was 19 and so serious about competing so I was definitely talking about Mountain Dew and they were a sponsor of mine. Whoever Mr. Mountain Dew was at home must have been like "Yes!"


What is your favorite moment of your career?

That's tough. I would say either this last olympics because it was such a victorious comeback for me since I lost the one before and got injured and went through all this crazy stuff...but I would honestly say my first olympics. I was 19, had no idea what I was in store for. Everything was so fresh and new and fun. I was thinking to myself, how cool would it be to win the olympics. My brain could only grasp that, how very cool it'd be. afterward I remember sliding down to the finish area, I knew I had won and i'm thinking oh this is cool, and I pull up and my whole family is there in the front row. And they're all crying. and you can't help it, you know, when your dad is crying? So I start getting emotional, and my mom leaned into me, crying into my shoulder saying "you'll forever be shaun white olympic gold medalist. This title will live forever." I was awestruck by that. It meant a lot to me that everybody was there, freaking out and crying. There was so much it took to get to that place. Snowboarding was an unappealing sport for a long time.


@brandtgray2: Who inspired you to snowboard?

That inspiration came from my brother. He was always doing the newest and coolest things. He's seven years older than day he said I'm gonna do this thing called snowboarding. I was like, I gotta do what he's doing.


@HomerJaySimpson: What type of music do you listen to?

It's all over. I love oldies...James Brown, Al Green. But I found a love for classic rock and rock music from playing instruments. I play guitar, I'm learning piano currently. And man I love hip hop too. I'm kind of the all genre kind of thing.


@AthletesOfChrist: What's your favorite place to snowboard?

Mammoth mountain. I love it up there. It's so close to my home. There's cool stuff around the mountain too, you can go out to these natural hot springs in the middle of the wilderness.


@adavis68: What were you feeling after you won your first gold medal?

It was seeing the family and then honestly I didn't really believe it until the next day. Because you're thrust into this thing that's like...when you're going to the airport and it's the switch backs of rope extensions that you have to walk through. There's no one in the line but you still have to walk through this corral, they have one of those but on each side of that it's littered with camera crews from around the world. You win, they throw flowers in your hand, i think they play the anthem and things...and then you walk through this corral. They're like, you're live in Sweden! Everywhere you can think of in the world, you're live all of a sudden...i was up until at least 3 or 4 in the morning doing interviews...i didn't believe until i woke up and saw the medal on the dresser next to me. That was the craziest thing, the disbelief of it all.


@jack_penny: Why did you cut your hair?

Great question. We got to a point where I'd lived so long with this long hair and i was ready for a change. I went to this event in las vegas, and do you know who carrot top is? So man. I run into the Carrot, and he's just like, talking to me and 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...and it was like seeing the ghost of christmas omg, there's still time, i can change. So i get home, and i don't wanna just lob it off for no reason...i realized i could donate my hair and they make wigs out of it for children undergoing certain illnesses, so i ended up donating my hair and making a video out of it and posting it on the internet. 


@SportsCentral: If you could play any other sport what would it be and why?

Probably surfing. Cause boards and I get along. I'm named shaun after Shaun Tomson, professional South African surfer. Basically, loved surfing a little bit but not as much as my dad did. He always wanted me to be a pro surfer. There are moments where I'm standing on top of the mountain and I'm freezing...I'm a Southern California kid and I get to the mountain, and I'm freezing. And I look at my phone and Kelly Slater just posted from Fiji...obviously I've grown to love the mountains throughout my profession, but yeah, surfing. After that, soccer. I love soccer.


@vic4life_: Hardest trick to do?

Double flip 1440s, 1440 just describing the degrees of rotation. So spinning that much while doing two flips on a halfpipe is one of the biggest tricks right now. So yea, I would stick with that.


@Coco9: What was the worst injury you've had snowboarding?

Probably my face. I was in New Zealand a month or two before the Olympic qualifying started. I'm having the best day ever, they're pumping classic rock at the halfpipe, Dan Bilzerian just helicoptered in with a bunch of beautiful women, epic day. I clipped the top of the halfpipe and then bounced 22 feet to the bottom and just bashed my face into some ice chunks or something. Next thing I know the blood is pouring down my face. Hospital is a very loose term down in New Zealand so they helicoptered me to this other town to get put back together. That was probably the most mentally jarring because it was my face. Trying to eat soup or cereal through the stitches just sucked.


@ChickfilAisbetta: Chick-fil-A or Popeyes?

Oh my god. Probably chick-fil-A. I'm kind of an in-n-out guy, but chick-fil-A.


@Crazy_Dingus: Your thoughts on pineapple on pizza?

I'm a fan. I'm not mad at it. What's the debate, that it shouldn't be there? Lean into it, get tropical.


White was planning to compete for a spot in skateboarding at the 2020 Olympics but announced in March he decided to focus all of his efforts on snowboarding for the 2022 Games. 

If White qualifies for the 2022 Winter Olympics, it will mark his fifth consecutive appearance in the Games.