Shaun White: A Local San Diego Celebrity

Snowboard Men's Halfpipe - Day 6
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Shaun White is a snowboard and skateboard athlete and is one of the biggest and most recognized stars in action sports. He was the gold medal winner in the half-pipe competition at the 2006 Winter Olympics in ​Torino and 2010 Winter Olympics in ​​Vancouver. Shaun was the first person to compete at both Winter and Summer X Games in two different sports.​

Early Beginnings

Shaun White was born Shaun Roger White on September 3, 1986, in ​San Diego. He was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot and he had two cardiac surgeries before he was a year old. He grew up in Carlsbad, a beach city just north of San Diego.

He first got into skateboarding after following his older brother, Jesse, to the nearby Encinitas YMCA. After he took up snowboarding at the age of six, his mother ordered him to slow down by telling him he could only board backward, or switch, a skill that would help further his career. Shaun started entering amateur competitions a year later. After winning almost every snowboarding competition he entered, Shaun White became sponsored by Burton and turned pro when he was just 13.

Shaun grew up in a family of five: Mom (Cathy), Dad (Roger), Sister (Kari) and Brother (Jesse). One of the family's favorite pastimes included skiing. When White first started snowboarding, his career put a significant financial burden on his family, costing his parents $20,000 a year, according to USA Today. In the infancy of his career, the family would drive up to ​Mammoth every weekend and sleep in their 1964 Econoline van (a.k.a. "Big Mo"), cooking meals on a stove in the back. Cathy spent her weeks shuttling back and forth between bringing Shaun to Mammoth and waiting tables in San Diego.

Snowboarding Career

After winning five national titles as an amateur, Shaun captured his first major win as a pro in 2001 at the Arctic Challenge. He earned his first Winter X Games medal when he was 16. In the 2003 Winter X Games, Shaun won the gold medal in the slopestyle and the superpipe and also took the Games' best-athlete award. A month later, Shaun became the youngest snowboarder to win the US Open Slopestyle Championship. Shaun has medaled every year he has participated in the Winter X Games. 

Double Threat

Shaun also has made his mark on the skateboard scene. Professional skateboarder Tony Hawk befriended the nine-year-old at a local skatepark and mentored the up-and-comer, helping Shaun turn pro in skateboarding at the age of 17. In 2003 he became the first athlete ever to compete and medal in both the Summer and Winter X Games in two different sports. Shaun claimed the skateboard vert title at the 2007 Summer X Games, making him the first athlete ever to win Summer and Winter X Games titles. White skates professionally in the summer, leaving him roughly six months on the snow each year.

Training Location

Red Bull, one of Shaun's principal sponsors, has built him a private halfpipe complete with foam pit at Silverton Mountain in southwestern ​Colorado. Dubbed Project X, the pipe was built on the backside of a mountain in an inconspicuous avalanche chute, reachable only by helicopter and snowmobile. There, Shaun worked on perfecting his double-cork maneuver. The game-changing maneuver involves two off-axis rotations or diagonal flips.

Earnings and Charities

From his relatively modest beginning, Shaun reportedly earns more than $9 million annually, primarily from endorsement deals with Burton, Hewlett-Packard, Oakley, Red Bull, and Target, putting him second behind skateboarding legend Tony Hawk in Forbes' 2008 list of the highest-paid action sports stars. White also owns a Lamborghini and several homes, including one on the beach in Carlsbad. Shaun still finds time to give back, frequently stopping by Target House as well as supporting other organizations such as Tony Hawk Foundation, Heartgift, Make-A-Wish Foundation and Summit on the Summit.

Nicknames

Known for his shock of red hair, Shaun was given the nickname "The Flying Tomato," or Il Pomodoro Volante in Italy where he is popular. Although he used to embrace it, even wearing headbands with a flying-tomato logo, Shaun supposedly has grown tired of the somewhat clumsy nickname. Shaun was nicknamed Future Boy when he first started competing as a pro.