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Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast Episode 35: Shaun White

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Men’s Journal’s Everyday Warrior With Mike Sarraille is a podcast that inspires individuals to live more fulfilling lives by having conversations with disrupters and high performers from all walks of life. In episode 35, we spoke to Shaun White, five-time Olympian and three-time Olympic gold medalist in half-pipe snowboarding, about his latest venture, Whitespace.

Listen to the full episode above (scroll down for the transcript) and see more from this series below.

This interview has not been edited for length or clarity.


Mike Sarraille:
Hey guys, welcome to the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior. I’m your host, Mike Sarraille. We’ve got Shaun White. Sean, thank you for joining us, man.

Shaun White:
Of course. Thank you for having me.

Mike Sarraille:
Well, dude, so as you go through the numbers: 15 gold medals from the X Games, two of those in skateboarding, 11 ESPY awards—which I tried to do research if that’s the most ESPY awards ever given—five-time Olympian, three Olympic halfpipe gold medals. You put yourself in the category with one of your mentors and somebody else, a term that we often use called the GOAT…Tony Hawk, Tom Brady. Dude, you are the GOAT, probably the best that’s ever been and, in my opinion, the best that will ever shred on snow. Did you ever sit back and think about that?

Shaun White:
I mean, I dreamt I’ve always wanted to be that ever since I can remember as a kid, I just wanted to be a pro snowboarder and at the time that didn’t really mean much. It was pretty wild sport, big characters in the sport, and not a lot of mountains really wanted us around, and not a clear path for traditional sports where it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, you join, or whatever you play in school, then hopefully you go onto the team.’ There wasn’t that clear-cut path, so I remember wanting it to happen, but it just didn’t really seem like the Olympics was an option at the time. So I wasn’t like, ‘I’m gonna be an Olympic champion.’ It just wasn’t in the cards. And so as those opportunities presented themselves, I was like, ‘Wow, okay, I gotta take full advantage of this and really lean into it.’

Because the other options at this point, friends of mine, they say that metaphor of burning your life. If this doesn’t work, we’re sinking. It’s over. I was in it from the start. And so to be called that now is pretty wild. I mean, I would never have even taken that information in the beginning, but now that I’m at a point in my life there, I can look back and then be thankful for all the things that have gone down and the sport I was in and everything I’ve accomplished. So yeah, I’m really proud of it.

Mike Sarraille:
Well, and not to put the nail in the coffin, but Tony Hawk is sort of synonymous with skateboarding and you paved the way for snowboarding. I mean, you guys will always be the iconic figureheads of those two sports. And it wasn’t always snowboarding. You grew up in San Diego, you actually started on four Wheels. Oh yeah. Before you got into to snowboarding. And you actually had the pleasure of meeting Tony Haw at a young age and he gave you some mentorship and advice. How pivotal was that to your direction within the sport? Well,

Shaun White:
It was pretty wild. I mean, think of the characters that were in the sport at the time, you know, had these pretty wild guys. I remember my hero on snow was a guy named Dian Sanders. He had a, he had a black mohawk and he had shaved his front teeth to be fangs. I was like, This guy, he could only do these layout back flips over. So I was like, That’s the guy. Anyways, he’s still amazing. But Tony Hawk was, he was a family man. He was a dad. He was carried himself in a certain way. He had respect among his peers and he carried that status of being a legend at that age. And so I remember meeting him and just being like, Wow, this guy is, he’s a class act. And he’s going through, I, I think shortly after this had landed, or if not right before this had landed, the 900, his video game came out.

Shaun White:
He was everywhere. He was blowing up and he was going through everything that I was kind of about to go through, which I didn’t realize at the time, but having somebody around me where I’m like, Wow, this is how he interacts with fans and this is how he balances his life to still keep his family in the mix and oh, this is what he does within the sport. And I was like, all those little details to kind of look at, He drove a nice car, but he didn’t drive the craziest car. He, he really kind of set that tone of what life sustainable kind of that life and that sport, which wasn’t really around at that time. So it was really a really amazing thing to meet him and be able to be in his sphere at that time.

Mike Sarraille:
It’s interesting looking back, talking about Tony Hawk is one I grew up in San Jose, Northern California heavy skate culture up there as well is those sports were also had to use the word again synonymous with punk rock, penny wise, bad religion is, he didn’t really fit that punk mold for skateboarders. He was always sort very clean cut in what I got from him. And that’d be interesting. It seemed like he had a laser focus, but you had that same focus where he blocked out all that, the persona and everything. It’s all I care about is the sport and the execution of my skills.

Shaun White:
Yeah, no, I mean there’s the obvious enjoyment of the sport. It feels good to flying in the air to me was the ticket. That’s all I wanna do. Whether I was on a bicycle, on a scooter, on a whatever, I have photos of me jumping ramps and little things in my neighborhood on my bicycle. And somehow I convinced, I don’t know why my parents at all, the parents in the neighborhood let this happen, but I convinced them to let me line up the children in the neighborhood to see how many kids I could clear on my bicycle. I have photos of this. It’s like, it’s insane. But then again, strangely, the neighborhood had this confidence like, Oh, Sean can do it. You can do, I’ll put my child down, there’ll let <laugh>, let me jump over. But I think from a young age I realized that one, I had a bit of a talent for eyeballing speed and distance and these things and I had great balance.

Shaun White:
And then you connected me with this sport that there were no real rules. It was like I could do any tricks that I wanted to do, anything I wanted to work on. There wasn’t like you go to soccer practice and you run the drills that the coach tells you to run. This was all up to interpretation by me. And so you kind of combined that freedom with something new and something different and that drive that I had already. But yeah, I lasered in and went okay, there was the fun side. And then as I got a little older and started competing, it became like, okay, I really want to have these skills because I’m gonna go and compete. It gave meaning to learning new tricks. It was no longer just like, Oh, I wanna do this, that’d be cool. And it would feel good. I had that still. But then again, there was the bonus of getting to do it with something on the line. Some states,

Mike Sarraille:
When I interview people, it’s never with the question of, I got you but let me ask this. When we watch you in half piping, some of the stuff you pull off.

Shaun White:
Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
I mean we literally were watching like no he didn’t. No, he just did that. And there is seeing people don’t do or attempt that type of thing. So in your opinion, is there a gene missing in you called fear? It’s insane. I mean, cause the end effect is if you don’t land one of those, I mean people have been seriously hurt if not killed.

Shaun White:
Yeah, no, for sure. I mean look, I know people that have passed away by means of snowboarding skiing, you know, hit a rock. You just hit something wrong. Wild. I mean obviously there’s risk in everything. <laugh> like 50 cent can get shot what nine times. But a gray bullet kills somebody. You’re like, Dude, what is happening? I can fall from 20 feet outta the sky, outta my back and I’m okay. But a kid skateboarding down his driveway and hits his head wrong and it’s over. You were, we’re very resilient as people, but we’re also so fragile. And so I would say it sounds crazy, but I feel like everything that I’ve done has had such a calculated risk to it. I walk away a lot and I don’t think that’s what you see. I think when we watch poker on tv, we’re seeing all the hands that they’re playing, but we’re not seeing the 20 hands that they folded.

Shaun White:
It’s like you’re waiting for your moment to strike. And for me, I always just felt like I knew when the moment was and when it wasn’t. I just would go off my gut. And there’s been plenty of major competitions that I’ve pulled out of, cause I was like, I just don’t feel safe. And whether or not I could have powered through and been okay or not, I made that choice and will never know. But I do know one thing, I went on to snowboard the next day. I went on to the next event and put that behind me and I rode when I did feel confident. So I feel like there are times, but the fear thing is something that I feel like I learned to just manage <affirmative>. It was definitely there. I, I’d be lying to say I just stroll up. There’s a couple people I know that I think that just literally what you’re talking about don’t have that fear.

Shaun White:
Maybe Travis <laugh>, like he did some wild stuff or wake up and jump out of an airplane. But for me, I always felt like everything was very calculated. I was like, Okay, I wanna be here at my career at this point doing this trick and then when this happens, then I’ll be there and I’ll be wearing this and I’ll, I’ll say that and I’ll like, I really try to best create this visual of what I wanted to accomplish. And then it was my job to match that to reality and any steps that I could big or small, but the vi visualizing it all. But yeah, I would say that I do walk away quite a bit. And fortunately for me, I would never just stroll up and do a new trick. So if you see me doing a big trick on tv, that means that I’ve like, I thought of doing the trick and then I started working on any trick that was similar to that.

Shaun White:
Oh okay. That trick lands in a certain direction. So I’m gonna sit here all day. I’m gonna work on a similar trick that has the same takeoff but obviously a different landing. And then I’m gonna, so I work all the pieces of the puzzle and then I wait for that perfect moment where the snow is soft, the sun is out, there’s no wind, I’m energized, ready to go motivated, and I do it. And so I think that peak state, that peak moment. So I feel like for me yeah, it was all about timing and my job was to just get to that place as quickly as I could and utilize that sort of moment and take advantage of that moment. Luckily I grew up in California. It was always sunny, it was always nice. I mean people were like, Aren’t you from Colorado? Are you from Alaska? You grew up in Norway? I’m like, No. I grew up in Southern California near the beach. I rode at the Slush AST kind of crummy backyard mountain resort. But it was perfect for me because the weather was great. They had a high speed share lift. It was decent distance from my home in San Diego. There’s a lot of factors that came into play to make that the perfect training ground.

Mike Sarraille:
So again, what a lot of people don’t see and everyone of only sees people when they’re, they’re successful. Are you a strong believer that fortune favors the prepared? I mean did you left them up into chance that’s how you mitigated risk? Yeah. Where other athletes may jump into things, you were taking every step to make sure that you were prepared.

Shaun White:
Yeah, I mean that was the thing. I would just work it into the ground mean if this was the trick, we’re gonna do that. So I was working up to doing this trick in the half five, most recently around Las Olympics. I landed a couple of them but I didn’t end up doing it at the Olympics because the tricks changed and whatnot. But the trick is the switch double make twist 1260. And I knew that trick for me taking off switch at that angle and things. So I made a pack with myself, I’m gonna ride switch every single day no matter what. So I get so comfortable with that by the time I take it to snow and I even start trying the trick, I’m already that much further along. Any little step, any thing I can do to complete a part of the puzzle would help that overall puzzle get completed.

Shaun White:
And so for me, I think the combination of just working it and I would say quality over quantity though I don’t know, I don’t if you know this with guy people, I shouldn’t say just guys. There’s plenty of females out there. I think a lot of people fall victim to this same sort of thing. Is this, it’s a bit of procrastination. It’s like, oh well I’ll get up there. And how often are you just working on that golf swing or how often are you just working the free through? How often are you really just working that specific thing? I mean I show up, I do a couple runs to warm up and I just start throwing my hardest tricks cuz I know that when I get there I have about a two to three hour window where I’m gonna be the best I’m gonna be for the day.

Shaun White:
And my energy is slowly gonna trail off through the day. Yeah. I don’t ride all day and then go, oh maybe I’ll chuck the big trick here at the last hour of the session. No, I show up, I do my little warmup or whatever I need to do to get my head in the right place. I do a couple runs and I start throwing my hardest tricks and then I get out. I don’t let my energy drop. I don’t wait to sit there and roll the dice on that last trick one more time and then I repeat the next day. I think a lot of my competitors I notice would show up and mess around all day and then maybe try a couple tricks here and there. I feel like I was more surgical about it. I was more precise. And that came from

Mike Sarraille:
It sounds like.

Shaun White:
Yeah,

Mike Sarraille:
That is one of my colleagues. We, we’ve got something called legacy exhibition guy named Anti Stop. He’s got a podcast called Cleared Hot and he broke the WSU record for height and distance. Good dude, man. Wow. We recently went to Iceland on a Scott a expedition and we weren’t concerned. There was 60 other Scott Evers. We weren’t concerned about ourselves, but the people running it were wildly unsafe. And we pulled off after the fourth jump, it was supposed to be 16 jumps. It was a hard decision. But we’re like, hey, when we don’t wanna be associated with these people cause they were just breaking basic rules and we received a lot of bad feedback. You guys fail and blah blah. It’s it. And I want people to understand that they just think fearless and nobody is. Cuz Pennywise said it best life is the most precious thing you can lose.

Mike Sarraille:
Oh man. And I know you hold that dear too, man. Of course. So you know, first debuted in the X Games in 2013 and I know you dedicated your life, man. I’m sure when your friends were off partying at times, you were sacrificed a lot of things in your life. Yeah I’d be interested in that. But first off, stepping into the X Games at 13. Yeah bro, what was that like? That had to be a little overwhelming. And at what point do you think you got comfortable? If you weren’t comfortable then how long did it take you to get comfortable at that level?

Shaun White:
I remember the thing that was crazy is I wanted to enter sooner, but I remember X Games being like, well it’s not very extreme if a 10 year old’s doing it, but 13 the year you can do that. And when I turned 13, it was just like, oh, it was a big decision for many reasons. It was like, okay, I’ve been missing days at school, families spending some money now to get me places. It’s becoming expensive. Are we doing this or are we not doing this? And yeah, maybe we can get away with a couple more years in the amateur division, but what’s the point? And I had started winning the amateur divisions with the same kind of run and tricks every year. I wasn’t progressing as much as I felt I needed to. I was kind of phoning it in a little. The only reason being is that I only rode with people way better than me.

Shaun White:
My brother, he’s seven years older than me. All his friends, I’m doing the tricks they’re doing. And then I bumped down on my age bracket and I was unstoppable. And so I think for me going into competing at those early ages and especially professional, I remember my knees shaking at the start gate <laugh>. I was like, Oh God, like I said, I was gonna do it, now I’m doing it and I’m here. And I remember being incredibly nervous. They’re pretty nice guys at the top. The riders are like you this, don’t sweat it. But I was a bit of, it was an act, not an act. I felt very serious about it. But it was a little kid doing the course, which was cool and all. But from that day forward, it was all about me trying to be taken seriously as a a legitimate snowboarder professional.

Shaun White:
And me battling, they’re like, Oh, up next future, boy Sean, what’s doing this? And it was cool obviously to be considered the future of the sport, but I wanted to be taken seriously now and my height, my size, all these things were keeping that from happening. And so I don’t think it really kicked in until I was probably 15 is when I was like, Okay, 13, 14 now is a good intro on 15, put a little bit of meat on the bones. I got a little bigger, let’s go. And I started getting I started getting second play. I always put podium pretty much every competition I entered. And then I popped one or two first place that year, which was huge. Once you taste that, it’s a reality. It’s not just like, Oh, I’d like to win. No, I actually won. I broke the seal.

Shaun White:
It is a possibility. And if I’m not going to win then it’s not. And so I really clicked in that year. And another thing I should note that year that was really big was I’d missed out on the Olympic run. So it was 2002 and I was trying to go to the Olympics and this was probably the second Olympics that had ever happened for snowboarding. It was in Salt Lake City, Utah 2002. And I missed out at the last event. I’m in first place, there’s only one more rider to go. And he barely beat my score. And I was just like devastated. I didn’t get to go to the Olympics, I didn’t get to go be a part of that. And I loved the Olympics from watching on TV as a kid. And so that really just put me in this sort of, I had learned to be comfortable with my own skin and get to this point.

Shaun White:
I tasted victory, but I still had this major upset and it just pushed me to this place that I knew was in me. But it really kicked me to that next level where I was like, all right, I’m not gonna do the tricks that they’re doing anymore that the best guys are doing. I’m gonna do the tricks that they want to do. What’s gonna be the separator? How am I gonna look if it’s being young and being looked at as this, how without a doubt am I gonna show that I’m the winner? I’m not trying anymore to be in contention, I wanna be ahead of everyone. And so that’s how I started training.

Mike Sarraille:
So the 2002 Olympic missing, the 2002 Olympics, it was a big, the inflection point.

Shaun White:
Yeah, it’s a big motivator. So at 16 I won pretty much everything. I entered at about an undefeated season. I remember getting two silver medals at the X Games that year in 2002 and then being like, I’m coming back here and I’m gonna win the double gold. And I did it cuz I did pipe and slope at the time. And that was just huge. I had arrived, it was just like, here I am, I’ve finally got the strength. I was on the cusp of winning and then I just pushed it over the edge. So that was a real defining moment in my career to have that upset and not let it break me and then push forward to, well that was a clutch moment,

Mike Sarraille:
Dude in one competing at that level. I hesitate to say the word failure but I’m a believer that failure is life’s greatest manner. It’s also life’s greatest motivator. Let me ask you this. So when you said, Hey, I’m gonna level up the skill to which no one can compete, did you have naysayers like, Hey Sean, why don’t you focus on the basics and just become better at the tricks everyone else is doing? Or people in your corner saying, okay, hey man, then we’ve gotta dissect these, let’s create these new maneuvers, these new jumps. And what was that process? It sounds like very innovative. Yeah, what you did. I mean to find the

Shaun White:
Sport at the time, there’s not coaches. I mean the Olympic team had coaches. I never really had a coach. I had my older brother in my corner who was always super motivating and just kind of there with me and he’d give advice on tricks. So he was the closest I had to a coach and we worked together to, he was amazing artist. And so he would create all the designs and, cause I had certain at this point, so a signature snowboard or pro model boot or sunglasses, whatever it was, he would be the art force behind me to help me get those things done. And so we kind of created this little ecosystem of business around my sporting life, which was cool cuz snowboarding isn’t really, the field of play isn’t really where you make your money. There’s no team that’s gonna sponsor you for zillions of dollars.

Shaun White:
It’s you’re your own individual person out there trying to make it and you know can win surprise money here and there. But usually the sponsors are where you’re gonna make the most money. And obviously in a sport that’s not so well known and whatever, it was important to try to make a living so the party could keep going. I could keep riding. But anyways, I think at that point, doing those tricks, that was all just me. It was strategy, It was like, okay, we’re here. And I was already kind of doing similar tricks. I remember just seeing my run, I’m like, what was different about his run compared to mine? Maybe he went a little bigger maybe. And I think that’s what I touched on it a second ago, but I glazed over. It was like, what’s the separator? What’s the thing where you look at and go, Oh my god, that was different.

Shaun White:
That was something unique. It’s like whatever you do, what are you gonna do that separates you from the path, from the herd? And so that’s where I was like, okay, well he’s got all these tricks but he won’t have this trick. And I know that because I’ve watched his writing, he struggles with this trick, he struggles with spinning in this direction. So that’s where I’m gonna stake my claim. And I know my other competitors are strong here, but they’re also not strong in this place. So if I can take the top three guys, it’s usually the same guys and go, okay, let’s pick ’em apart. Let’s see what their strengths are, what they’re working on. I see them every day at the mountain. What are they working on? What are they trying? What do they wanna do? Okay, well if he learns that, then obviously I should be here learning one step above that.

Shaun White:
I would just calculated it all. And I don’t know what it came from, whether I just love board games, I love being strategic, but I think there’s plenty of times where I stepped down on the mountain and I don’t think I was the best, but I just wanted it more. And I found that kind of separator. There’s one story I’ll tell you that’s really fun cuz I was at the X Games and there was this jump, it was called the channel gap. And basically they built the jump and then they cut the middle out of it and you’d go from one side to the other. And it was a really amazing course. And while we were doing training is a guy, Travis Rice, amazing snowboarder, you’ve seen him doing this huge back country videos incredible writer. He tried to jump the channel and didn’t make it.

Shaun White:
And so the word got out within the ranks of the riders like, Oh my god, did you hear Travis didn’t make the gap. I’m not going near it, I’m not going near it. And so everybody kind of wrote it off and I heard them saying that. And to me it was like, Oh, don’t invest in Apple. No, I’m gonna, Yeah, yeah, okay. That’s where I got, No matter what we do, if I do something in this space, even if it’s just something, it’s gonna be different than everyone else. And so I ended up having a pretty similar run to my competitor. We were toe to toe that season, but I had something cool over that specific feature and that won me the event. So I was always looking for that thing that was gonna be unique. And I think as well as my riding, there were other things that made me stand out.

Shaun White:
And it’s not things that I really focused on too much, but it just naturally sort of happened. I looked different, I had red hair and so I leaned into it. I had long red hair I and I got really into playing guitar and rock and roll, all this stuff. So I had this vibe, but this just these little things to separate me from the pack that made me look unique and then in turn feel unique and to lean in that. And then I really kind of cultivated this, well this is who I am and this is what I’m about and this is the performance that I’m gonna deliver if I am that person that is unique. And it started to feed itself from within and over the years just kind of put me in a different place. I mean there’s plenty of people that have won the Olympics before me and will continue to win the Olympics after me. But the rarity of actually going on beyond your sport and having success in those things. And I think a lot of that came from I think being myself and choosing a different path, like you said. What was that thing of going well shit, I’m gonna <laugh> do the tricks they’re not doing. Something in me was like, I gotta be different. I gotta be me, I gotta be unique. And that really served me through my career.

Mike Sarraille:
So this may be a stupid question, I’ve always wondered this, to what degree are you familiar with physics and geometry? I mean, were you guys breaking down the double 1260 and even the triple? I mean were you using simulators or anything or was that just walking and feeling it out additionally? Did you guys along those lines?

Shaun White:
A great question. So in the beginning you would just chuck it, you would just hope and pray that it worked out. But we were really doing double flips at that point. I mean, double flips, maybe a couple were attempted and most of them were in the back country. So back country snowboarding, you’ll snow 10 feet and somebody will hit a jump home pit. You jump <laugh>, soft pillowy setup and being able to come out safely even if you land on your head or something. So the tricks are far more advanced in the slope style arena, the jumps arena because of that. And so what happened was we were gearing up for the 2010 Olympics of Vancouver and I remember thinking, gosh, I wanna win this next Olympics. How do I separate myself from the pack? How do I do something unique that’s maybe never been done before?

Shaun White:
Because at this point we’d already kind of done everything that there was to be done. Now it’s time to invent, to create. And people were doing these crazy things in slope styles. I was like, okay. So I remember it’s like a year or two in advance. I like called the sponsored mine. I was out surfing with the buddy and I was like, I just won this last Olympics. It was getting hard for me to show up to the local resort. I was pretty well known and people trying to get selfies on the side of the half pipe while I’m in the air, people talking to me while I’m just like Louis Hamilton training for the F1 and the everyday streets lot. You just can’t do it. You need to focus in or trying to do the hot, whatever it is. So anyways, I came up with the idea with a friend of mine.

Shaun White:
I was like, why don’t we build a private halfpipe and why don’t we put a phone pit? They’re doing it in gymnastics, they’re doing it in motorcycle riding, why don’t we do? And so we put this little project together and made it happen. And at that training camp, I invented probably three or four new tricks that really changed. One the way in which we did it using a foam pit. That type of training changed the sport forever. And then the tricks that I created really set the tone and path for the next 10 years or more in the sport.

Mike Sarraille:
But yeah, I’m trying to remember when you got injured. That was right before the 2014 Olympics.

Shaun White:
Yeah, that was right before 20. No, that was right before 2018. That was the Korea Olympics.

Mike Sarraille:
When you launch from the pipe, did you ever have a feeling, oh, like oh no, this one’s off. Did you feel that? Or you or just it sort

Shaun White:
Of happened, it’s just like, anyway, if you ever shot a basketball or kicked a soccer ball right away you’re watching, you’re like, Oh, I felt off. I didn’t connect, you know, swung and hit the ball. But you just know you nicked it, you can feel that. And so for me, everything really slows down and I’m like, oh my god. But I’m like 20 feet in the air <laugh>. So I’m like, all right this isn’t good. And I’m committed to the tricks. I’m coming around, I’m just kind of bracing myself. And of course I was correct. I was about four or five feet over the deck of the half pipe. So the wall of the half pipe itself is 22 feet tall from the flat bottom up to the top. And then I’m flying out of the halfpipe at least a good 17 to 20 something feet every try.

Shaun White:
Usually the standard air is I’d say 14 to 20 something feet. And so when I came around, I clipped the top of the half pipe. Now half pipe riding’s really intense because you have to really feather your jump every time you wanna jump off the wall, push off the wall enough to get back into the halfpipe, but not too much because if you land low, you lose all your momentum and speed for the next wall. And it creates this kind of chain reaction of making it harder and harder to do your tricks. Now you’re set up poorly for the next trick, but if you don’t push off enough, you can hit the top, which is called the deck of the pipe. And so I’m flying through the air, double flip and coming around and boom, I hit the top of the wall, which really twisted up my back and whiplash in my neck.

Shaun White:
But then I bounced from the top of the wall, 22 feet to the bottom where my face pretty much broke my fall. And I mean I just looked like I ate a grenade. I mean my lip was busted open, my nose was split through the stem and then I cut through my forehead, I bit through my tongue and I had these pretty terrible bruising in my lungs. So I was like, I had a lot of blood, I was spitting up. But yeah, I mean just like somebody running a red light things can go south pretty quickly. And we tow that line of the danger of it all. And sometimes it goes the other way. The car crashes and it’s what you do before, you know, put your seatbelt on, you put your helmet on, you put your stuff, whatever you gotta do but you can still crash and it can still be an awful experience.

Shaun White:
And it’s just kind of how it goes. We take the risk and I mean I celebrate my career cuz out of this long, long career, I haven’t had too many of these moments but this one was really bad. It was right before the qualifying of the Olympics, maybe a couple months. And my face is blown apart and I’m just like, it wasn’t the worst, I think physically jarring injury, but it was the most mentally, cuz it was my fate. <affirmative>. Every day I’d wake up and look in the mirror and I’m like, Oh my God, what did I do? What happened? Thankfully I had great surgeons that put me back together down there in New Zealand, but it just was this reminder of what can go wrong? And I did the severity. And so coming back out on the snow was a pretty heavy decision. It was like, okay, well obviously this wasn’t a thing that happens very often, but if I step back out on the snow, I gotta make a firm decision.

Shaun White:
This is what I want do with all of my heart because if I’m not fully in it, this could easily happen again. And I have to be fully in it because in some small way I gotta be willing to let this happen again. There is a risk of this happening again, this horrible, horrible experience happening and repeating itself going for these big tricks. So I made that decision and just pushed forward. But that was another defining moment. I know you wanted to touch on some of those. Obviously the Olympics and Sochi was a big one, but this one was also a heavy one and people don’t really think that that would be something that would really help me in the long run. But I swear it really helped me in the wrong, Trust me, if you would’ve told me, look at the silver lining or hey look at the bright side while I’m sitting in the hospital and my face hanging open, I would’ve flipped out on you.

Shaun White:
But I’d been in this position enough to know I’m as something. I’m being taught a lesson here. Something’s happening, life’s happening for me right now, not to me. And I gotta know whether it’s the decision to retire and to back away then that’s totally cool. And if my gut’s telling me that, then okay live with it. But my gut is telling me that hey, this happened for a reason and what is that reason? And to me, it wasn’t to retire, but it was like how badly do I want this? I’m getting older. I had not done well at the previous Olympics and I told myself I really wanted this but do I want it or do I need it? What’s the difference and are you willing to, are we gonna let this shut us down or is this gonna be the thing that goes like, I’m not gonna let this have happen to me for nothing.

Shaun White:
I’m gonna push through. And that’s what my gut was telling me at the time. And I tread lightly when I tell this to people cuz that’s not always the answer. It could have easily been, look, push the brakes. It’s too much. Like I said, I walk away a lot from dangerous situations. But my heart of hearts was saying that this happened to me for a reason. That I needed to make a firm decision in my life that this is what I needed and I had to push forward. And now without a doubt I’m gonna do this cuz I want to do it and I have to do it. And that’s what it was telling me at the time. So it really cleared that seat of doubt in my mind going into that Olympic run, which I really needed to motivate. And

Mike Sarraille:
For the listeners, he went on to win the

Shaun White:
Gold in 2018. Dude. And the story is I, I’ll jump on it real quick, but I hadn’t really done that trick since that incident. I maybe did it once or twice at the training for the Olympics and during the qualifying events. But all these crazy situations got in the way and I had never done the actual routine. And I waited all the way till I was at the Olympics. I had this pact with myself. I was like, I’m not gonna do it unless the conditions are perfect and I’m ready and it’s perfect has to happen. I’m gonna do it again. And that only happened one time before this Olympics. So I’m there at the Olympics and I got one run to go my back’s against the wall. And I’m like, all right, <laugh> like now or never, I have to do this run for the first time in order to win the gold.

Shaun White:
And man the clouds parted song I recognized came on over the loud speaker. The flags were blowing. It was just that perfect. I don’t know, you’ve seen the movie Bagger Van or it was that perfect shot? Yes, yep. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for and thank goodness it’s today, but this is it. And I put down the run of my life and won the gold. It was, I mean, till this day I watch it and I get anxiety cuz it was so intense and it was such a moment and I’m just so thankful that I was able to pull through. But a lot took me to get there. And afterwards when you see me crying, I mean it was an emotional journey to get to that place. It wasn’t a crazy physical one, It was getting my head right, falling in love with the sport again. All these things to get to that point, to have that perfect moment in the crash was part of it. So if I would’ve sat back and been like, that shouldn’t have happened and I never should have, no, it did happen. And what’s next? How I just click into gear now? Okay, what’s next?

Shaun White:
What path are we gonna take now? Rather than looking at a door closed, it’s a door open but it takes time to learn that.

Mike Sarraille:
And I remember watching that, how the world was watching that we saw it in you in the emotion alone and as they say, the crowd went wild. Yeah. So eventually the world was also watching cuz there’s speculations at the Olympics on your final run. <affirmative> obviously it does not get more emotional than that when you’re leaving what is definitely one of the loves of your life. How did that weigh on? You mean what were the thoughts when you knew you were proverbially hanging up the cleats and moving on to other ambitions in your

Shaun White:
Life? Yeah, so I mean from 2018 winning the gold and then on my way to this next Olympics, I think what had happened to me was I lost the love of the sport and just that motivation, that drive, I had the tricks to win. I just didn’t have the drive to put it down when it really needed to be done which is hard. It’s losing your superpower. And I’m like, oh my god. Okay, so how do I bounce back from that? That’s so cheap. 2014 I found the love of the sport again. Things were great. New coach, physical therapist team built around me. I’m back on the snow. I’m loving not only my life on the snow but my life off of the snow, relationships, family members, all these things that I needed to clear up that I’d been putting on hold that don’t go away, they just fester.

Shaun White:
And so I addressed a lot of things in my life and I’m just a happier person in general. Found the love of the sport again. And then boom, I’m tested with that injury we just talked about in the hospital. Well how much do you really love the sport? Come back to win that Olympics. And what was left afterward was still that love and appreciation for the sport. And so I’m like, God, I’d love to just continue on. And so that run up to this last Olympics, halfway through the season, old injuries are flaring up, it’s getting harder to do certain TRAs things just aren’t clicking. They used to. And I’m reading the signs and just like I was put into check, I was put in a check a couple times training for this last Olympics and my gut was telling me, Hey, it’s time to think about walking away and what would that look like?

Shaun White:
What does that feel like? And the more I sat with it, it just, it spoke to me and that’s what was calling me. But taking my last competitive run and sliding to the finish and seeing my competitors and I mean most of the people that were there were coaches that I used to compete with the camera guys that <laugh> known for years because they, I’ve seen them over X amount of Olympics. It’s just wild to see the time that has passed by. I mean a lot of my competitors were like, God, I didn’t tell you this before, but I would run home from school every day to play your video game. Man, I used to wear your go goggles. I had your video this movie part you did. And I would get all my friends from the community, we’d all get together every night and stay up late and watch your movie part and just how I’d influence them and their life and career and the ripple effect of it all.

Shaun White:
And so it was a very sort of humbling and beautiful moment to hang it up and to have that sort of reaction from everyone. And it’s nice. I mean I feel fortunate I’m in a career path where I got to decide. No one called me into an office and was like, Hey, how do we tell you this? It’s over. You’re being traded or it’s done. No one’s picking you up. Or I got to decide. It wasn’t like a big injury. Put me out and it was all over. It was all my choice. And through that I got to really, really enjoy that final run, that last dance. It was great. I would’ve liked more out of my last front. I definitely had a little bit more in the <laugh> tank, but you don’t always get what you want and that’s okay. Life has that way of, you’ve had enough picturesque moments.

Shaun White:
We’re <laugh> enough’s enough, can’t always get what you want but you it. It’s that ability to be appreciative of what you do have. And so it was great, it was beautiful and my only regret of it all is that my family and friends couldn’t have been there. Covid really put a dam on a lot of people’s lives and people lost. And so that really changed things. I feel like it might have been a little different if I had my team support there to really back me up in that moment. But it was beautiful, it was great. And now I’m sure we’ll talk about it, but as I was going for that Olympics, I was kind of a free agent in the market for snowboarding equipment. And ever since I was a kid, I’ve dreamt of having my own brand. I was a kid, I had no idea of how to do it or where, when and what.

Shaun White:
And after riding for different brands for so many years, I’ve learned so much on product development and creating my own lines. That’s what things for them. I was like, wow, why don’t I take a moment and create something to myself and something for myself, a brand that can live on past my snowboarding career. So I linked up with my brother who was always really creative and we worked together in the past and I was like, if I’m gonna do this, I want family. I want my brother in it. And so we came together to create what’s called white space.

Shaun White:
I would call it snow. Our roots are in snowboarding, it’s more of a lifestyle act of wear brand that’s rooted in snowboarding. And my goal was to make equipment that was cool enough that you could go mountain biking or do whatever in it or wear if you’re cold in the city. But it had also the ability to perform at the highest level in the coldest and craziest weather situations, which I encounter that same jacket I could wear around New York City. I could take it up and go riding Alaska with it. Bringing that quality to people and using my years of expertise, writing, putting all that into boards. And I don’t know if you’re getting how calculated I am with the sport. I’m the same way with every day I can’t turn it off. How do we take this material and make it better? How do I take this board and deliver a better performance the separator that everyone else isn’t doing that we’re looking at.

Shaun White:
So it’s just that same sort of mentality. And what’s beautiful about it is I can keep that portion of my brain working at something else that’s not snowboarding specifically competing, but still in that same world. And that part of me is not left dormant. So now that I’ve retired, I don’t feel this weird loss of a part of me. I’m still competing, but just in a different way. And the beautiful part of it is I talked about the ripple effect of seeing some of these athletes when I got to the bottom of the pipe and they told me about how I affected their careers. I mean I was gifted a snowboard from Big Burton when I was seven years old. Look at that. That’s a crazy career path that was altered by his ripple effect. And my life has never been the same since. And so for me now thinking that these products that I’m making can alter someone else’s life, that next generation, I mean I get chills talking about it, but it’s something beautiful and something exciting to look forward to and all our stuff’s coming out this fall. So it’s all finally happening. It was just an idea and now it’s coming to fruition. So it’s been really great. It’s really rewarding on many different levels.

Mike Sarraille:
I’ve noticed that about great athletes is you almost get an MBA in branding and I mean Erin Andrews look at her, she basically has created a whole female line based off sports that that’s absolutely question it. Yeah. And I’m so excited man. For you is the website up whitespace.com or?

Shaun White:
Yeah, I think we’re using whitespace_create for Instagram. But you can easily go to shaunwhite.com, then click the link and I’ll take you over to what we’re doing with. But yeah, I mean you learn so much from working with these brands and obviously I was very invested in the things that had my name on it cuz my name’s on it. I’m like, I’m not gonna just put something out there that somebody’s gonna use I haven’t been involved with. So I would get in there and no matter what product it was, I would just be fully in it. And this one’s great cuz it, it’s different than a protein bar. So not that that’s not to any of those things, but this is what I do, this snowboarding, it’s the boards, it’s the gear, the I’ve been in the gym, I’ve been training, I know what it needs.

Shaun White:
And so it’s not me doing something that’s not authentic to me, which is really nice. I’m not trying to wear different skin in it. And even the name is so great white space is referring to, it’s a creative term for a blank canvas. It’s a gap in the market, a space for something new to be created. And I always love that meaning obviously white is my name, but that element of creation cuz our sport’s so unique, it’s one of the only sports where I could show up and try something new, invent a new trick and you can be the best in the world all of a sudden, not just brute strength or something. You gotta have this artistry to it, your interpretation of style. And with snowboarding it was always, that for me was always, there was no coach telling me how to do it.

Shaun White:
There was no set rule path. And so anyways, with the branding it’s like we’re trying to be unique and different from the pack like I said before, what’s the separator? What’s gonna make us different and what’s the messaging behind it? But yeah, I’m so thrilled about it. It’s given me this whole life boost of excitement, my life and working with family’s been great and I know this is gonna happen cause I’m so visual. But I know our boards have this kind of signature stripe down the base. All the boards have the same base graphic. And it was modeled after a design that I did earlier in the season before I even thought of doing white space, I randomly put a white stripe white space down the base in my board and it just all kind of came together. It was like perfect. But I know I’m gonna be riding down the mountain and I’m gonna look up at the chairlift and I’m gonna see all these stripe bases and I’m gonna, I don’t know, it’s such a cool connection with people when you’ve worked on something and then you see somebody enjoying that product and having their own life experience. There’s a cool connection there. So that’s that sort of dream moment waiting for. So anyways…

Mike Sarraille:
Dude, I’m excited for this stuff to come out. Cause I don’t know, for me, I remember getting my first pair of Jordans when I was young and I would only use those things on game day and I would clean them afterwards and it’s gonna be the same effect on the next generation of snowboarders. Cause they’re gonna have the white space board and they’re thinking of Sean White, much like Jordan established basketball. He did in a sense sort of redefined basketball and in the generations going forward then hey regardless you had a different career path. You would’ve been successful in business because of your personality and all the leadership principles and traits that you’ve lived your life by. You just took a different approach than most business leaders and it’s gonna be good to see this man come out. Dude, I know you also have a documentary and you probably can’t give us much detail, but yeah, what can you share with the audience? Cause I know who’s producing it and this thing is, this thing is gonna be a documentary on the level of the one they did

Shaun White:
Before. So it’s very exciting. I hope I’m allowed to talk about it. I’m gonna talk about it cuz why not? But basically my life story, it’s something I haven’t really told. I’ve told the run up to the Olympics, this and that, but I wanna pull the curtain back on all of it. This is how I was really feeling, this is what was going on. This is like, and it’s wild to look at it cuz it’s not what you would think really. It’s a family story. My whole family started snowboarding at the same time together in a sport that wasn’t very mainstream or accepted. Everybody pretty outlaw sport at the time. And how that kind of changed not only me but my family and then in turn my success and altering the sport itself and now the sport taking off with me. And it’s a really beautiful thing to talk about.

Shaun White:
And I want to just be as open as I can about it now. Seeing people talk about mental health and all these things. I just wanna be able to address a lot of it and pull it back. I mean we talked about earlier, I’m like, no, I was really scared a lot of the time. I just address the fear in a certain way and sometimes it came back to bite me and other times it didn’t. Like I was okay but I wasn’t invincible the whole time. And maybe that can shed some light for the next competitor after me to take some notes and to find their own path. But it’s really exciting, It’s really fun to dig through the past and look at all these years of competing and what was driving me, me the length of hair at certain times is getting outrageous. But no, it’s great. We’re gonna be coming out on Warner Discovery Warner Brothers. Discovery is mergered into a massive platform now, so we’ll be one of their highlighted documentaries coming out. And I’m so excited. I hope everybody enjoys it and really gets a look at my life and who I am and what I’ve been about and what I’m continuing to pursue in life. So yeah, it’s a nice tell.

Mike Sarraille:
Let me ask you this I know when I retired from the Seal teams and hung up the proverbial gun belt, it took me a while, but has this documentary of forced you to reflect on your life and all the years mean, Was it a growing process for you as well? Going through the process of filming this thing?

Shaun White:
It’s both. I mean, I’m a competitor at heart, so even when I’m watching something where I didn’t succeed, there’s this part of me that’s slightly torn where I’m like, I could’ve won. Why? What was I thinking? But you’re, you’re diving through your whole life of why did I do that? And I know now what I was thinking, but at the time, you gotta remember I was operating on the tools that I had and what I thought was best. And so there’s certain things that have happened and obviously amazing career, but even at that, there’s still things that you wish and could have changed and whatnot. And so it is therapeutic in some ways and in other ways it’s like it’s really annoying cuz

Shaun White:
Yeah, I get mad and I’m like, Car I should just go back and <laugh>. It’s a mixture. So obviously it’s fun to dive through and see a lot of the old things and whatnot, but it’s tough to tell that story correctly and to be honest and to be like, well I don’t wanna convey a story that it was this. I don’t want people to think that. It was just everything was great and then it went on to the next. Now what was really happening was this, It was tough. It was hard or it wasn’t hard. It was whatever. It was really trying to tell the story that should be told. Not the story I wanna tell. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. So a lot of that is great and I’m definitely excited about it. But again, yeah, it’s really fun. I think I’m in good hands. The people that made the last hands with Michael Jordan are helping me make this project. So I feel like I’m in good hands and yeah, very exciting.

Mike Sarraille:
Well dude, let me not, you need a compliment for me, but lemme commend you for putting that out there. Cause I know it gives an unprecedented sort of peak behind the curtains of your life. And you have to be vulnerable. You have to accept being vulnerable to put something or that magnitude out for the public to see. But there will be the keyboard cowards that make comments but the good 99% of the world is gonna be appreciative of the fact that you put out there and they’re gonna learn from your wife. And I can’t wait for that thing to come out. Cause my wife and I love a Friday night at home watching a freaking good documentary. So yeah it’s gonna be epic, man.

Shaun White:
Right.

Mike Sarraille:
Well Sean, man, I can’t thank you for joining us. We do finish this with a few questions and I’m gonna ask one you’ve reflected and one of the things we ask of our guests is when all is said and done, and man that’s like 50 to 60 years down the line for you when all is said and done and that moment comes for you on your deathbed, how is Sean White gonna look back and reflect on his life and whether he lived a life of impact and purpose? What are the things that you wanna be known for? What’s your legacy that you wanna be left behind?

Shaun White:
Yeah it’s a great question. I mean, I’ve asked myself that a couple times. I was in the store and I saw a picture of Steve McQueen on the wall, and right next to that was Frank Sinatra. And then a picture next to that was Kelly Slater. And I was like, Oh wow. And I was sitting there thinking about him and that group of great men and I was like, All right, but in so many deserving ways, of course he represents certain something. And to me it was like he lives his life a certain way, style and greatness within his sport, family, man and sky. And so I was like, Wow, what if I was on that wall? What would I represent? And I think it’s interesting. I is kind of conflicted cuz I was like, gosh, I would want to be known for all the great things I did.

Shaun White:
Obviously I would love to be seen as somebody that didn’t really take the norm as is acceptable. I push the limits everywhere I can and was able to create a sport in many ways and shape it. So I’d love to be known for all those things. But also, man, I love to be known as just a good guy. <laugh>. What I mean, I was a good friend when you called me. I was there to help you move outta your apartment. I was there through a breakup. I wanna be the guy that was there for people. And that’s all in the end of the day. When you talk to people that really have it all, those are the things that are most important. It’s hard to tell that to a lot of people because they go, Well, you have it all. Well, it takes somebody to have a lot of it to know that and to really see that these important things in life it’s not as important as you think and the little things are. And so I feel like I’d hope to be remembered somebody that appreciated the little things.

Mike Sarraille:
Well, Sean we know your photos on that wall. If it’s not already up there, I put it up, people that own that. It’s just so amen. You know, come in to these interviews with assumption of who people are men. And you blown me away. And I know for our listeners, they’ve taken a lot more away than just three nuggets. Man. Thank you for the vulnerability on this podcast. Again, for the audience, go check out we whitespace creative.com or Sean White and it’ll take you there. And then this documentary is gonna be I’ll use the word epic, just like every run you made. So man, I can’t thank you enough for coming on this podcast.

Shaun White:
Thank you so much for having me. This is a blast.

Mike Sarraille:
Thanks brother. And again for all our audience, thanks for joining. This has been the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior podcast. Until next time.

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