You asked for it
UNCORKED:SHAUN WHITE INTERVIEW
You've seen him at the top of Olympic podiums, on the cover of Rolling Stone, attached to the arms of starlets, making cameos in Hollywood flicks, flying twenty feet above the deck of the Winter X Games halfpipe in the tightest pants ever, getting arrested on the TMZ homepage, hawking gum on network TV, being featured on 60 Minutes, driving a Lamborghini, headlining Lollapalooza, and dropping into a vert ramp inside the Staples Center, and yet you've never seen Shaun White like this. Here, Shaun White peels away the layers of celebrity, Gore-Tex, and misconceptions for a frank conversation that has been 27 years in the making. This is Shaun White, uncorked and on the record.
words: Pat Bridges
photos: Gabe L'Heureux, Ryan Hughes, Mark Imanuel
Could you say and spell your name?
Shaun White. S-H-A-U-N W-H-I-T-E.
How’s that twenty-five inch stance treating you?
Twenty-five and a quarter. It’s big. I have always kind of had this stance going. I don’t know why. It feels strange when I don’t. I once got on Danny Davis’s board and I didn’t know how he could ride it. It was reverse camber with a zero-zero stance. The feet were just straight and he had this tiny stance. It seemed so bizarre to me.
That has to be a lot wider than how you stand on a skateboard.
Oh yeah. That’d be the tip and tail of the skate almost.
What’s going on with the Air & Style?
I went from being a competitor to hosting the events in Beijing. I really liked that role. That relationship worked well so I was like, if I’m going to do all of this, why not become a bigger part of it? I went to them to just purchase the rights to do a U.S. event, but once that door was open I figured why not just buy the whole thing? I’d rather be a part of it everywhere than just in the U.S. It is exciting! I want to take it and make it into something slightly different than what all the others have been.
So there will be an Air & Style U.S.?
Well, we don’t have one right now; we are trying to figure it out. I’ve been having meetings with people who put on all sorts of events—mostly musical events. I want to take the Air & Style U.S. and make it into something more interesting, like a giant music festival along with a sporting event. I already own a portable vert ramp that we can set up. Do you remember back in the day when I got knocked out at the MTV Sports and Music Festival in Texas?
Those MTV things were amazing. I remember being right in the mix and skating at the ramp and then going and watching the concert. It was all of these really cool things happening at the same time. I want to bring that sort of vibe and element back. That’s what’s fun for me right now, being a newer musician as well as an athlete. Going to Coachella and Lollapalooza and these big events is something that I always dreamt of doing and now I can. We haven’t picked a venue yet. There are all of these things behind something like the Air & Style that you don’t think about. Like, where are the bathrooms going to go?
Will the Air & Style U.S. involve snowboarding or is this just a skateboarding play?
Of course it will involve snowboarding. The Air & Style ramps can be built and ridden in up to 90-degree weather. You could even put one on a beach. My plan is to make the Air & Style U.S. much bigger than what the European events even are. For example, imagine downtown Los Angeles and you put a giant snowboarding jump there and a skate ramp and then like five different stages with, you know, a fashion show also going on. I want all these different things coming together because that is me, that is my life. I like to go shopping in different cities when I travel. I like to go snowboarding. I like to go skateboarding. I like to play music. It is very exciting to be stepping into that scenario rather than just being a snowboarder and this being just another snowboarding event.
You dropped into your first U.S. Open halfpipe when you were eight.
Not as a competitor though. I was a forerunner. That was terrifying.
You are now 27. How have you avoided getting burnt out?
I go to the mountains and do that life and then I leave and go home. Growing up I lived at the beach, so I always had other stuff going on. There was school, there was soccer, there were all these different things that I did and now that I am older it is the same. I can only snowboard for a bit until I lose motivation. I used to think that getting burnt out was a bad thing. Even just to mention it. Sponsors or whoever would be like, “Oh, he’s burnt out.” I’ll never forget I was hanging with Blotto, Trevor Andrew, and Keir Dillon down in Argentina on one of the first photo shoots that I got to go on. I was so excited, and they had all started keeping journals of their trips. Blotto took Trevor’s book and was like, “Whoa, look at this first page!” Trevor had taken a couple Burton stickers and used them to spell “Burnt Out.” Blotto was just like, “Wow, that’s a hell of a way to start the journal.” I just remember thinking that was such an awful thing. I set out to prevent that by keeping relationships that I have at home separate from this world of snowboarding, and continuing to skateboard. I think skateboarding is what keeps me going because I get to stop and go do that and completely forget about everything we do at the mountain.
And music now appears to be another opportunity you have to forget about the mountain. How did Bad Things come together?
I won a trophy guitar at the X Games. It was a Fender Stratocaster. Billy Anderson brought it home for me and I think it stayed under his bed for a whole year because I couldn’t play it. All of the sudden, everyone around me started to play and I was like, man, if I was at a house and saw a guitar I guess it’d be cool if I could play one song, just one song. I immediately got hooked on playing. I tend to make up competitions that aren’t there. So, there was a kid in my neighborhood that was really good at playing guitar and one of my best friends who skateboards was also playing guitar, so I was like, I have to be better than them. I had made up this motivating competition with me and my friends that only I was competing in. I would literally practice every day and every night. Slowly but surely, I got comfortable enough to play with other people. Anthony from Bad Things grew up on the street above me when we were little kids and he went to school with my sister. When I hurt my knee at the X Games I was stuck at home with nothing to do but play guitar, and this blonde moved in across the street. This girl and I eventually ended up dating for a couple years. Her dad was a music producer, so their garage was just littered with guitars and all sorts of instruments. I would go over there and hang out and play all day long. Through her, I met this girl Lena, who now plays drums for us. So I would play with those two.
Things really took off when I moved to Los Angeles because I was able to meet the lead singer, Davis LeDuke, and our bass player, Jared Palomar. Jared is awesome. He is a talented guy. He plays piano, he can sing, he can play bass, and he is the most experienced out of all of us. He’s the guy that knows everyone. He knows the roadies, knows the people that run the show, knows the other bands members ’cause he has been on the road for years. That is kind of how it all came together. We played and got better and got the right people involved. It’s something that I have held pretty tightly because it is such a fun thing to do. I would hate to make it into something that people didn’t see as legitimate. I did an interview with Rolling Stone about the Olympics. They obviously brought up the band and they asked me if Bad Things would have a record deal without me being in it. I said for sure, I mean half the people in the band have already had big record deals, they have already been on tour, they have already done this thing. I am just kind of like another guy in the band, which has been great. Fuck, it’s fun man. You’ll love this: touring with Bad Things I got to be back in the van. My whole snowboard career started out in a van with my parents, sleeping at the mountain. I think it tripped people out to know that I was in a fifteen passenger van with Bad Things driving around the East Coast. Like loading the gear in and out of the venues, you know? We were staying at the Holiday Inn Express. We were doing it right. I didn’t want to be like, “Okay, you guys stay here and I’m gonna be over at the Ritz Carlton.” I would have never wanted it to be like that. We are a group. That was exciting for me because it was like getting to relive those moments of when I first started snowboarding.
What has it been like for you to go from being in total control as a champion of two individual sports to being part of a group dynamic and not being the guy at the front of the stage?
I’d be lying if I said it was super easy. I have totally sat there and been like, “I don’t know about this song and I don’t know about that song,” but at a certain point you have got to let it go and let it happen. That has been the best part about guitar for me. When I started playing I was like, “Man, I don’t think I am going to be the best at this,” because you cant really win at music. Who’s the best guitar player? It is all opinion. But I have had a lot of musician friends who were like, “Man, it is so nice that you can go and win something and be the best.” I never really thought of that. It is super humbling to be in a project with other people, but it’s hard as well. My hours are completely different than theirs. We have one guy that doesn’t go to bed until eight in the morning, every single night. They are just different types of people and you are trying to like corral all of them and make it happen.
Is there a certain added pressure in it though? For everyone else in the band, this is kind of their ticket. If the band is successful, yeah that’s great, yet you are successful no matter what because of skating and snowboarding.
They made this their life long before I came along. One dude has a tattoo on his face. He’s made a firm decision to make this his life.
With a face tat you’re either working in the back of the house or you’re standing at the front of the stage.
Yeah. I’m not only intrigued by their way of doing things, but it’s interesting to me to be around a guy who could just do that.
Well, there are pro snowboarders with face tats. Quite a few, actually.
I’m sure if I wanted to do something like that it would still be my decision to do it. Like cutting my hair, I said fuck it. I just cut it. I didn’t care. If it’s something I wanna do, I go do it. That’s why I was always fascinated by Danny Kass. Danny always did exactly what he wanted to do. From my side of things, it always looked amazing. Who knows what it was like actually being Danny and trying to run a company and trying to do all these things as well as have a snowboard career. But I don’t feel responsible for the band except for the fact that they are my friends. It is funny because the band isn’t a sure thing. Nothing is. It is the double-edged sword that I am even in the band. It’s like, you get the listen, but you get the extra hard listen.
Tell us about dealing with that skepticism.
I just assumed that was going to happen, so I was prepared for it. I play a lot of the lead parts to show that I can actually play. That is why headlining Lollapalooza was so insane. We got there and we were playing the Kids Stage, literally it was called the Kids Stage. We didn’t care. We just wanted to play. Any gig. We’d played for fifteen people in some café in Canada. At Lollapalooza, we got there, were playing the Kids Stage, and the headliner dropped out last minute and they gave us their slot because we put on a great show on the Kids Stage. It was a right place at the right time scenario and then we had an amazing show that night and got all of this exposure from it.
How does headlining Lollapalooza compare to winning the Olympics?
It was like the first time I’d ever won the X Games. The only difference was that it lasted longer. The crowd kind of goes down with the slow songs then comes back up with the faster songs. It’s a full experience rather than six hits and that’s it, because the halfpipe is over really quickly. I still find that I play better when there is a crowd, just as I ride better when there is a crowd. There are similarities to the sporting element as well as the musical side of things. I take the same attitude into it, but with music I can have a couple beers and go do it.
Do your bandmates know how driven you are to succeed?
They get it, but I don’t think they realized to what extent in the beginning.
At 27, have you peaked physically?
I don’t think so.
I only ask because I think I peaked when I was 12.
I get sore faster and I get tired faster, but knowing that about myself, I can then go change those things.
What is Shaun White Enterprises?
It always sounded funny when someone would refer to me as a brand ’cause I was like, “I’m a fucking person. What are you talking about? I’m me.” Then I slowly started to understand what they were referring to. Shaun White Enterprises is a group of people who I trust that make it possible for me to be hands-on with everything I am associated with. It also helps me focus on the skating and snowboarding and allows me to do music and follow other interests.
Did you know there would be backlash when you came out with scooters?
I did it anyways.
The idea behind Shaun White Supply Company wasn’t that we were building a skateboard company. That is kind of how it was marketed in a way, but we were building a product line for kids. We have also partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of America to donate product and money, which we have done. I was just in Washington DC presenting scholarship money to the Youths of the Year for being outstanding teens in their communities. They have done these amazing things and I presented them skateboards and scholarship money, and I went with them to meet the president. That’s what I always envisioned it being. When making scooters came up, it wasn’t like I was trying to support scooters at the skate park; I can’t stand that. I skate there, too and it bugs me. But for me it was like, you are donating these things for Boys and Girls Clubs where kids are going to use them. I did say no to rollerblades because I just had to morally draw a line. I have never really been a big fan of rollerblades. They were like, “Rollerblades are huge in Europe!” I’m like, “I really don’t care. We’ll let the scooters slide, but I’m not doing rollerblades.”
Is it a trip to see your face at every grocery store checkout counter in America?
And at every gas station?
It has been a couple years with the gum deal now, but it’s still pretty funny.
Well, you do chew gum. Everybody chews gum. If you didn’t have a Stride gum endorsement, you might not have the Air & Style.
For sure and that is what’s cool. I mean yes, we got the scooters but I made a decision to do that at one point and I stick with my reasons. It’s the same with the gum. I love their ads, I like their gum, and it was the right time to do something with that. And they let me make my own flavor. It was awesome.
How do you make your own flavor? Mine would be cooked bacon.
They show up with a box full of silver packages that are labeled number 2.5, number 3376, number whatever—a variety of flavors. We would chew each piece and then we had a card that had all the numbers on it and we would write down our first impression of the flavor and then our midway impressions and then what we thought once we spit the gum out. From there it slowly got narrowed down to a certain amount of flavors. They went back and made changes coinciding with what we had written. Stuff like, “It was good, but too much of a sugary taste in the beginning.” They would do their own testing as well and be like, “These are the three best ones, so which one do you particularly like?” I’d then choose one, and that is how it has gone down for the last three flavors. So we did a peppermint, a spearmint, and then this new one is like a melon with a bit of banana. But it has kind of become something that I like to do. It’s interesting. Their commercials are all cool and creative. It’s what you would call a great deal.
These days, do you find that you are still as hands-on with everything?
It depends on what it is, but for sure. When it is a gum that I am probably going to end up chewing throughout the year, I want to be involved. If it is clothing that I am going to be wearing and stuff that I am supporting, then yeah. But I am only as good as the company at some point. As you know, there is a certain amount of trust that goes into it.
And you’ve gotten quite the reputation for being hands-on with a few supermodels as well?
Despite these off-snow commitments you still seem to have the uncanny ability to come into a contest cold and dominate. For example, you showed up at the Breckenridge Dew Tour in 2012 and with one day of practice you beat the field and went significantly higher than anyone else on every hit.
It turns out the reason I went so big that day is that I had walking pneumonia. I only had a day to practice and I rode a ton, but I really wasn’t feeling well. My legs were so sore. I woke up and called my coach, Bud [Keene] and was like, “I’m not doing the event. My legs feel like I’ve run 20 miles.” He was like, “I’ll be right over.” Bud shows up with huge bags of ice. We filled one bathtub with ice and then we filled another with hot water. I jumped back and forth between the two to get the circulation moving in my legs. I got up to the pipe and the reason why my first hit was so big was because I didn’t have the strength to speed check. I just sent it.
So when you were coming up you saw Danny Kass as the guy to beat?
And now you are the one to beat and have been for a while.
For others you mean?
Yes. Every few years, the people that are to your right and to your left on that podium seems to change, yet the constant is you at the top. How do you maintain that?
Do you know that joke where they take some absurd number and they multiply it by another number and then you do something else and you end up with zero? I truly believe that that’s what it is. It is just a very simple thing for me to know my competitors, know what my capabilities are, and know what I need to do to get to that place. Sometimes it is easy and sometimes it isn’t. I remember being at the Vail Session years ago and I saw Andreas Wiig from the chairlift, and he had a couple tricks that I didn’t and I freaked out. So I learned backside nines and switch backside nines before the event that night and I won it. That is what competition does to me. Danny Davis beat me at the second qualifier before the last Olympics. I freaked out. That is why I learned the double twelve. Whenever I am faced with obstacles I push forward. I have to take a little step back to go forward. I need to see where everyone is at in order to excel and get to that next place. Some guys are willing to go there and some guys aren’t. You see certain competitors that get into other things and that takes their focus away completely. For me, the distraction is good at times. You’ve been around this for quite a bit, you tell me.
I think there is a lot at play. In the early days you were told you were a dime-a-dozen. That drove you. It made you hungry. Instead of being told they are a dime-a-dozen, these other riders are told they are going to be the next Shaun White; it’s the flip side. One is a challenge and the other is a prediction and I think riders mistake the prediction for having accomplished something when they really haven’t.
I also think a big part of it is skateboarding. It’s a common denominator between you, Danny Kass, and Ayumu Hirano. You are all really good at skateboarding. You know how to pump the transitions better than anybody else and in turn, get speed in a way that other riders can’t.
I could see that. I also stay strong in the summertime, because I am pumping this ramp all day long. Just the strenuous activity of doing that, I’m sure has helped. I also think you kind of hit it on the head with the fact of consistently standing at the top of the podium. I find I just don’t want to let go. It’s that simple. I have always wanted to do well and I knew that the time would come when I was going to be there so I did the things that I had to do to get to that point. While everyone was kicking it having a good old time surfing, I was sitting there thinking, “I am going to be at the Olympics, so what do I need to do to get there? We should build a halfpipe. We should build a foam pit.” It wasn’t like I just pulled out my checkbook and had those things made. I took the time. The back-and-forth between Red Bull and I to actually do that was insane. I was even more impressed by the other riders that were able to get a similar scenario with the airbag without anywhere near the same amount of planning. It took us a whole year of working with sponsors to get the right scenario to do it. But that is how I do things. I think ahead.
When you were an 8 year-old there weren’t nearly as many kids riding at that age as there are now. Yet these kids aren’t having as much of an impact as they could.
How bad do they want it? That is the only thing that I can say to that. Even being a musician and hearing about good bands, a lot of it isn’t talent at that point, it is work. How determined are you as a musician to make better songs, to be in the right place, do the right things? How bad does that halfpipe kid want to do it? Does he think it’s cool? Does he think it’s rad? Does he like getting some money, getting some girls? What is his goal? Is he showing up at the pipe going, “I’m going to beat Shaun,” or is it more that he is being told that he is going to do that. There is a difference. I wanted to beat Danny Kass more than anything. I’m sure my parents wanted me to win and do well, but I personally was like, “I have to beat Danny Kass.” He was my biggest challenge because he was the only one that was around my age.
At the top of the pipe at the X Games, you don’t think that hunger is there with your fellow competitors? Some must have that hunger.
How hungry though? I don’t know. But I’m sure it is getting to that point because of the Olympics. Riders are going from being kids to now being the pros that I compete with. The crazy journey it takes from being a little kid to becoming an adult is a heavy task on its own with figuring out what person you are going to become when you are older. Then to do it with those pressures and how you deal with that and how you deal with, you know, partying, all comes into play.
I really see slopestyle as an interesting challenge for you.
Slopestyle courses aren’t a consistent and stock venue like halfpipes are.
That’s why I can just show up to the pipe and know it is going to be great and just do it. With slope I’ve got to learn the course. I have to find which rails are which ones, what angles they are at, how much speed everything takes. It is a way different scenario. It’s not like halfpipe with one hit to the next hit, to the next hit, to the next hit. In slopestyle you can have like a weird rail hit and then pull it all together at the end because you get to do four turns before the next jump.
Meaning if you lose speed on your first hit in the pipe, you are still going to be feeling that on your last hit.
In my opinion your absence from the slopestyle scene, after having such a dominant run, opened the door to a new generation of rivals. There is wave of kids who have come up in slopestyle without that intimidation that I think has kind of played to your favor in the halfpipe.
I had a five-peat or whatever in X Games slopestyle before I ever had it in the pipe. I have always considered myself a slopestyle rider, but it’s just that you get so much more recognition for riding the pipe. I love the challenge that there are now new slopestyle guys. It is definitely a new playing field. When I left slopestyle, Andreas and Travis Rice were the ones to beat at the X Games. Then I take off two years right as that crazy arc of doing double corks takes off. The last X Games slopestyle that I won, you know, by the skin of my teeth, I won because I did a hard way seven over the transfer gap when it was me versus [Scotty] Lago. I picked the one feature that everybody was intimidated by and I did something hard on it. Everyone had freaked out because Travis Rice ate shit on it. He fucking did a back three on it and caught himself on the wall. I was like, great, that is where I am going to make my stand. If that hadn’t been in there, maybe I wouldn’t have won. Last year’s X Games was pretty funny.
With lots of drama.
It was everywhere I turned. Everywhere I turned I was being told either someone said this in an interview or the Kevin Pearce movie came out saying things.
So they showed The Crash Reel at X last year?
They did and everybody is like, “Oh, did you hear?” and I am just trying to get from the event to my car and over the loud speaker they are like, “There’s Shaun White. Speaking of Shaun White have you seen The Crash Reel yet?” This is how I felt at the X Games. I felt like I was attacked. It was the first time in a long time where I showed up the day of a contest and I didn’t care in the slightest. I didn’t have the will to win. I knew I probably could win, but I didn’t even want to take it there. I remember after slope I just went and watched Billy Elliot and had a good cry. Billy just wanted to dance man (laughs). It was heavy. And then I was back, I was kicking.
It appears to me that slopestyle is currently presenting you with a different set of challenges, partially because you aren’t setting the conversation in it when it comes to tricks.
But, it isn’t a game that I haven’t played before.
But with slopestyle there is a greater depth of rivalry. You opened up the door to Mark [McMorris], Seb [Toutant], Torstein [Horgmo]…
There are a lot of guys compared to pipe.
It seems as though anybody who can do a triple cork has a chance to win.
Totally. At the beginning of last season I was like, “I have to learn this, this, and this and I will be set.” Then that 17 year-old Japanese kid, Yuki Kadono, won my Air & Style event in China with a triple and I was like, “Shit, now I’ve gotta go learn that!” I thought it was going to take a lot longer for people to catch on to triples. I didn’t realize that doubles have been around so much longer in slope than in pipe. They were first doing doubles in the backcountry. It was the guy with the chin who first did ’em.
Yeah. When he did it everyone was like, “Holy shit! What was that?” It was funny because he wasn’t even a backcountry guy or a jumper. He was a jibber. Then Rice caught on to it and [David] Benedek was doing ’em and it really took off at that point, right at that time I ducked out of slopestyle to just go do halfpipe. When I came back to slopestyle last winter, I was like, “Oh my God!” I’ve not only got this double cork mountain to climb, but triples are already on the cusp. The challenge of learning all those tricks and getting to the point where they are at in the amount of time I have had has been a dramatic thing. It has been relentless. It has been like I have to do this one, then that one, then I’ve got to go for the next one, and then perfect them. Then I had to do them in a run. For me to not even make finals at last year’s Winter X and then to go win the slopestyle at Euro X I think freaked everybody out. That one-year climb from taking two years off was pretty heavy.
But everyone probably knew that somehow you could do that.
I was written off. I think a lot of people were like, “It’s too far gone, he can’t do it.”
What does it mean for snowboarding to have slopestyle in the Olympics?
I mean, it is just another event, but it is cool that we are getting the ratings. It is rad that we are able to command another discipline. I have even heard talks of them trying to put big air in just to get more snowboarding involved. For me, it is going to be the third time around and it’s nice that it is going to be different and there will be a bigger challenge than just going to do the halfpipe.
You could also double the amount of medals that you have.
This is true. I am jealous of the fact that Michael Phelps had like 12 races. Like, he better win one of those fucking things with that many races.
There has been a lot of talk about Sochi not being up to the task of pulling off the Games. Last year they had to cancel some of the test events because of conditions, even.
They did the pipe and I heard it was pretty good. They did cancel the slope.
Isn’t the test event to show that they can hold the actual event?
I’m sure when the world is watching there is a bigger motivation to make it happen, so I’m not concerned that it isn’t going to happen. It will happen. Just like the pipe at the Vancouver Olympics was dog shit until a miracle happened where the sun came out and the pipe froze and it stopped raining for a good hour or two and they were able to hold the event. I mean, that is kind of how it went. The first day I got to Vancouver there was a river of water running through the middle of the pipe. I was like, “How are we going to ride this?” It was awful.
A lot of people feel that you are the one dude who could say something and have the ear of NBC or the ear of the IOC to affect change. An example of this is how the FIS and skiers govern snowboarding in the Olympics. Why aren’t you more compelled to be vocal and use your influence?
I guess in the beginning I never really cared. I never really thought it made a difference. I didn’t understand the whole skiers against snowboarding thing. Literally, to me, it was just a piece of paper that said these people run this and all that meant is that money wasn’t going to certain people and they were unhappy about it. I didn’t have a crystal ball and I didn’t really see what the problem was. It’s like, what is the problem? What is wrong? What needs to be fixed? What is the difference gonna be? Are we not going to be doing World Cups? It’s just going to have a different name. It’s going to be the same event. I like to snowboard so I show up and I ride the course. However it gets made, I am there to ride it. It’s just like skateboarding. Those dudes that built those ramps were big fans of mine because I wouldn’t say a thing. I would just show up, skate the ramp, do the event, and leave. I wouldn’t have to have a big hissy fit about the coping being too big and the seams being wrong and blah, blah, blah. It became more apparent to me to be involved once the TTR started to come around, but they wronged me from the start, so I was just kind of like, “Fuck you.”
Why should I support an organization that can sit there and look at a guy like me who has won every single event in the world but go, “You’re not the World Champion.” Oh, because you made up a competition and you are saying I am not the best because I didn’t go to your event? And the whole stuff with Kevin Pearce happened, which kind of left me with a sour taste in my mouth, as well. But I sat down and had meetings with everyone. Literally, I met with the FIS, who is the Olympic governing body right now, and the TTR. It was just the most convoluted thing. The TTR was like, “We should control the Olympics because we are snowboarding.” They are puffing their chests up to the FIS and the FIS is like, “Why should we give it to you? We already have it.” Has anyone ever come to me with a legitimate proposal to be a part of that? No. It’s not like I am sitting around going, “Man, I really wanna get in a meeting room with these guys and hash this out.” God knows I would rather live my life and go compete and enjoy the sport that I love on a simple level than have these meetings. But yeah, I do have the voice to get heard. I just don’t know exactly if I would know what the issues were that we’d be arguing. It’s funny you bring this up because becoming a part of the Air & Style has made me think more about it.
Because the TTR are involved with the Air & Style and it’s now bringing it to this place. I am sure if the TTR didn’t do what they did with Kevin and I we’d probably be in a different world right now. But they chose that path from the very beginning. Why would I want to go and dive into it with all these guys and try to change the rules for everyone and be like, “I am going to go make it better for all you guys, don’t worry.” Why? What is the reasoning? The only reason that I find is that the sport has given me so much personally. It has given me success and wealth and these certain things, so I go, alright, there is the obligation to go change it and make it better but I can’t do that until I know what to do, as well as how to do it.
Do you want to elaborate on your history with the TTR?
They were the enemy in my mind. That is where the Kevin stuff came from. Right now I have Rolling Stone calling and they are like, “So is it true that, you know, this incident with Kevin.” This is allegedly what was said in The Crash Reel. I haven’t seen it but they said he beat me at an event and I was so upset that I called home and he was living with me at the time, so I had my mother throw his stuff out of my house onto the lawn.
It does say that in the movie.
So I am right. Okay, but he didn’t say it. Somebody else said that about us, and that is why there is beef. I found it so bizarre because at no point did we ever live together. Kevin lived with the Mitranis or something. They would maybe come by to hang out, but he never lived there, ever. I just found it so strange that people would think that my mom would do something like that. She would be the first one to call me a little bitch if that happened. She would be like, “Are you kidding me?” My mom? There is no way. My mom, the woman that let people, strangers, that had no place to stay, from Mt. Hood sleep in the van with us is going to take somebody’s stuff and throw it out on the lawn because I am having a hissy fit. That’s my only beef. I am one thing, say I am an ass, say whatever about me, but you’re pulling my mom into this. Kevin said in an interview, “Oh, I haven’t talked to Shaun yet, I hope he is not mad.” Why would I be mad? I am not mad ever. I am just disappointed in the route that he chose to take with his film because that wasn’t true. He knows that wasn’t true. He didn’t say it, so people are like, “Well he didn’t say it.” I know that, but it is his movie. He sat down and watched that movie and let people say that. That is why we have beef.
What happened with you, Kevin, and the TTR?
As for the TTR and Kevin the truth is that at the U.S. Open, I had won both slope and pipe, so I had four finishes and was by far leading in TTR points, but I didn’t have five finishes. So all I had to do was show face in Europe at another contest and I was going to win $50,000 and the whole Ticket To Ride title. This was like the first time they were ever giving out money for the tour title and I don’t care who you are, fifty grand is quite a bit of cash just to show up. Would you book a plane ticket to Switzerland to go hang with Freddy Kalbermatten and all those dudes for fifty grand?
I would do it for $300 and a case of Heineken.
Totally. At the Open I was like, “Don’t give Kevin the overall TTR award because I am going to go to Europe to compete.” But they are like, “We really wanna make a stand here and promote the TTR at the Open because it gets the most media.” I’m like, “But it is not over yet.” They were like, “Oh, hold on.” They came back to me, I said, no. They came back to me again, I said, no. The third time, as I am walking out of the tent to go get my award, Kevin, his agent at the time, and those guys from the TTR corner me and they go, “We are giving the award out.” I’m like, “What do you mean? It isn’t over yet.” And they’re like, “Here is the deal, we will give you fifty thousand dollars if you go to Europe and we will give Kevin fifty thousand right now.” You know, his agent’s running her mouth. Everybody is kind of freaking out.
So I’m standing there, and I’ve known Kevin since I was a little kid. I met him when I was eight when I foreran the Open. We rode on the Burton Backhill team together. I know his brother. I know his family. You know what I mean? He was my good friend. We would hang together. So, Kevin is with his agent and I am like, “Look, I just don’t feel comfortable about this because it’s not over yet.” At that point, I was surprised that Kevin even wanted to accept an award he hadn’t won yet. So everyone is seeing dollar signs and throwing money around. Finally, I was like, “Alright fine. I guess I am okay with this.” The bummer is when I said that, Kevin puffed up his chest and was like, “Whatever. I will just go to Europe and beat you.” I was like, “You don’t even know. No one explained to you the solid I am doing you right now by doing this.” So I went to Europe, won the contest, and got the overall TTR award out there, which was the sickest trip ever, by the way. It was so much fun. Then the backlash from that was incredible. It was like, “He is greedy, trying to screw Kevin over.” I couldn’t figure out why people would think that. And for me to not do my best at an event, I was just like, “Fuck you.” Tiger Woods? Are you mad at Tiger Woods when he wins? Who is showing up to lose? That is what pisses me off the most about snowboarding. Everybody is bros, but they aren’t. That mentality of “Everybody’s homeys and we are all just at the contest and it doesn’t matter who wins” is so fake.
It’s like a script.
And I used to say that too because I was so nervous with the cameras. I didn’t know what to say. Just tell them you are just really excited to be there and it doesn’t matter who wins because it’s about having fun. Everyone cares. It’s a contest, you came here to compete. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. If I didn’t want to win I wouldn’t be there. I would be with my dad riding powder somewhere. If I was truly going to just have a great time, I would call my family or a couple friends, or I would just go to Northstar and just hit rails all day. I wouldn’t go to the pipe and try to learn doubles. I wouldn’t go hit jumps. I would just hit rails and goof around and hit boxes and shit because that is fun. People go, “God, isn’t it so cool that you are all friends?” I am like, “Yeah, we are friends on a certain level but competing is competing.” They confuse the two. You know, the Lakers and the Celtics don’t get dinner after a game, it just doesn’t happen. If someone wins, I am not going to go celebrate with that guy. I want to murder that guy. Not murder but…
Well, unless it is open bar…
And with The Crash Reel they built Kevin into this superstar, but at the time, just speaking honestly about him and about the way things went down, yeah, he beat me at two events. I think it was two. Two European Opens, but Kevin wasn’t my biggest competition. He wasn’t. Louie Vito was. Louie could do two doubles and a front twelve. He was my biggest competition. It wasn’t Kevin, it wasn’t Mason Aguirre, it wasn’t any of those guys. It wasn’t Danny Davis really, though he figured it out later by the time the Mammoth Olympic Qualifier rolled around. The accident that happened to Kevin was awful. Kevin was a good friend of mine who was in the hospital. It freaked me out and I was sitting there trying to learn double twelves. It was in the back of my mind the entire time. Then with the Frends thing, one of them said to The New York Times, “He’s just not a grassroots rider.” I’m like, “One, I went pro before you and I’ve been doing this longer than you. Just because I am not from the east coast doesn’t mean I don’t have roots in snowboarding. And two, you made a company out of your friendship. That is fucking like, I dunno. That is a sad movie. I mean, I love the guys and I love the idea of what they are doing but this is literally taking a group of friends and going, “How can we exploit this to make money?” And then to have them tell me that I wasn’t core or a grassroots guy, I was just like, “What the hell is going on with this sport?” And you wonder why I go do my own thing. I’m not in the clique and it’s fine. It’s like you show up to school and all of the sudden everybody has got a sticker on their backpack that says “Frends” on it. And you are like, “Alright, I don’t have a sticker, this is getting awkward.” And it was this weird them-against-me sort of thing, which I fucking loved. As a competitor, I love it. It is the worst thing they could have done. It just made me so much better of a rider.
Does it all ever get to be too much?