Shaun White - The King of the Mountain
Shaun White is an American athlete who is regarded as one of the greatest action sports athletes of all time. A five-time Olympian, White won gold medals in the half-pipe event in 2006, 2010, and 2018. He is one of the most decorated athletes in X Games history, becoming the first athlete to compete in both the Winter and Summer games and has won 15 gold medals, an all-time X Games record. White announced his retirement from the sport of snowboarding prior to competing in the 2022 Beijing Winter games, his fifth and final Olympics. Born in San Diego, California, Shaun turned professional at the age of 13. At 7, White signed his first sponsorship deal with Burton Snowboards. His current and past endorsement deals include or have included Burton, Oakley, Target, Red Bull, Hewlett-Packard, American Express, CELSIUS, KRAVE Jerky, Ralph Lauren and OMEGA.
White has been named among Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s 100 Most Powerful and Marketable Athletes, Forbes’ Most Valuable Sports Brands and 30 Under 30, among others. He has won 11 ESPY Awards throughout his career.
White has helmed the Air + Style festival of music and snowboarding since 2014, when he took ownership and moved it from Austria to Los Angeles.
Born with a Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart defect for which he required two open-heart operations before the age of one, White is an advocate for children battling illness and is an active supporter of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Center, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and Make-A-Wish Foundation.
In January 2022, White announced the launch of his own active lifestyle brand called Whitespace. The company celebrated the launch with 50 limited edition signed snowboards, which sold out in minutes. In October 2022, a full-range line of outerwear, snowboard hard-goods, athletic equipment and streetwear apparel were released. For more, visit www.whitespacesnow.com.
ELEVATED sat down with Athlete, 5-time Olympian and 3-time gold medalist Snowboarder, philanthropist and entrepreneur, Shaun White, on his latest endeavors, projects and career perspective.
Tell us about life since the last Olympics, what has been your focus and inspiration?
Retirement life has been great. I’d like to say that it’s been quiet, but I honestly feel like I’ve been busier since I’ve stopped competing! As soon as I retired, it was nonstop. Before I finished, my girlfriend told me to make a list of some places I had never been to that I wanted to see, so I did and we just went for it! As soon as I landed from China, we went straight to the Super Bowl in LA and it’s been nonstop since! And I finally am getting to enjoy all those small moments I’ve missed through the years like friends’ birthdays, time with my nieces and nephews, stuff like that. It’s been great though.
I think the biggest surprise for me, at least, was getting used to the different type of downtime. I spoke to a few other professional athletes who are now retired and they all gave me the same piece of advice: be comfortable in the nothingness. Enjoy the time off. I would be lying if I said that wasn’t hard to do at times (laughs) but I think I’ve done a good job with it so far.
You founded and launched your brand Whitespace, tell us about this?
I launched Whitespace in January 2022, just in time for my fifth and final appearance at the winter Olympics. We are selling snowboards, goggles and performance outerwear. We just dropped our second collection this fall, and are now offering women’s apparel for the first time. It’s me and my brother, Jesse, doing all of the product development design, and marketing for the entire operation. It’s been great working with him every step of the way. We’ve started working for a number of amazing riders, given support and mentoring their careers and have our eye on a few more we want to bring on. So while I’m not competing physically anymore, the drive to win is still there and it’s been great putting all that vision into something tangible.
What makes Whitespace unique?
As we continue to evolve Whitespace will be heavily invested in developing best in class products for everyone. With all products we make, there is a passion for evolving and innovating to help all riders have the best experience possible on and off the mountain.
We are beyond excited that we recently added womens outerwear and base layers to our new FW23 collection. We developed this collection for the woman who wants to feel good while riding. We developed these styles for the woman who is searching for advanced tech innovations paired with on-and-off hill style.
With over 30 years of on-snow experience we were inspired by the women closest to us. This collection is not for the elite performers in our field, but for women who want to feel comfortable, warm, and stylish while riding or hanging on the hill.
The new collection was developed with an entirely female team to ensure fit and function were always paramount. Paying special attention to advanced patterning, placement of trims, and fit - this line was tailored made for on-hill comfort, quality, and style.
I also think my deep expertise in the sport, and what a ride not only wants but really needs in a product, is really what makes Whitespace products unique.
Did you always plan to develop a brand following your snowboarding Olympic tours?
It was always a thought in the back of my mind, and I’ve had a few capsule collections with various brands in the past, but I never had the freedom to start my own company. For years, I had always been signed to brands where I was just the face of someone else’s products. When I found myself in between snowboard sponsors, I thought to myself this is perfect timing to take everything I’ve learned from years of snowboard experience, and my experience working with different brands and start my own company.
When I was a kid, I was sponsored by brands starting when I was like seven years old. So I just wore whatever I was allowed to wear, one brand at a time. Then all of a sudden, I took a little change in my career trajectory and started designing clothing for different brands. That allowed me to actually be a designer and wear whatever I wanted. It just really opened up my horizons to what else was out there, trying different brands and different styles—different fits, different fabrics, different styles. I started spending a lot more time in New York and Japan, both of which are very different from my hometown of San Diego. Now, the whole thing with Whitespace is that fashion needs functionality because I have to be able to perform in the gear. It has been an amazing thing to have that learning curve with other brands and take all that knowledge and put it toward my own thing.
Founded in 2022, Whitespace is an active lifestyle brand created by Olympic gold medalist, Shaun White. The signature brand inspires focus and motivation that clears the noise, turns doubts into drop-ins, and unlocks the send. Rooted in snowsports, Whitespace makes premium gear and apparel for snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking, hiking, training, as well as casual streetwear for everyday life.
What will we see next from Shaun White?
Even at a young age, I’ve always loved spending time creating. Whether it’s working on new products, music, video projects, fashion, and even Interior Design. It’s something I’ve always cared about. And now I find myself with a lot more time to spend in this arena. Which has been super rewarding.
Why did you first get into Snowboarding? And how old were you?
We did an extended family get together at Big Bear. And since we had such a good time, my family kept going on the weekends. On one of the trips my older brother Jesse decided he wanted to try this new thing called snowboarding. I’ve always looked up to my brother and begged my parents to let me do what he was doing. I was about five years old when I first got on snowboard and I was hooked. Shortly after that my entire family started to snowboard, so it became our family pastime.
What do you love about Snowboarding and ski culture?
For me, I’ve always loved that it’s a social activity where you get together with friends and family and enjoy the outdoors. Also there’s an element of exploration. Riding a mountain you have never been before or finding a hidden trail. And I don’t think there is anything that can compare to a powder day. That smooth sensation of floating while throwing huge plumes of snow into the air with every turn.
Where is your favorite place to snowboard in the US, and Internationally?
I love to ride in Colorado because there are so many different resorts to choose from. Internationally I’d have to say there’s some amazing mountains in Canada and I’ve got a soft spot for riding powder in Hokkaido Japan.
How Snowboarding shaped your life and perspective?
Snowboarding taught me to channel my focus and energy and to push forward when confronted with what seemed at the times like immovable objects in my path. I also care so much about my family and having my parents with me every step of the way.
What motto do you live by?
“Life’s not happening to you it’s happening for you” -Tony Robbins
Now that you are no longer competing, what is one guilty pleasure you treat yourself to?
I have to say I’ve always had a sweet tooth…. So now I always check out the dessert menu.