Snowboard manufacturer Burton got word of a young boy who lived in the thin, frigid air, this yea-high daredevil. It offered to sponsor him. Worst-case scenario, they gave away their product to a novelty who could garner their product some much-needed attention. Best-case? They hitched their snowboard to a star.
“It definitely starts there,” White says. He means: You don’t have to be older than 7 to realize it’s pretty cool when people give you stuff for free just for doing what you love. Only later did they pay him for it too — like, for putting his face on a pack of gum.
The Burton deal, he says, provided “that first spark, that glimmer of hope that maybe this isn’t me being nuts or going to end with me in the hospital. I love doing this sport. It began with people thinking I showed potential, with my parents supporting me. Who cared what all these other people thought? I thought then: ‘I’m going to go and do my thing.’ ”
But forget all that. According to White, it just happens. The trick takes shape in the head and comes out of the body when it’s ready. How Shaun White does what he does is easy to explain. It’s all about adrenaline and focus. Also: the fear of failure.
“I can’t do certain tricks unless it’s in a contest, because that pressure — you need it,” he says. “You get into that zone and I’m like, ‘OK, I have to land. It’s not an option.’ Tricks seem to happen easier when you’re at events. You need that contest mode to see the crowd, the clock’s ticking — all these things that make you push harder.”