Shaun White discussed myriad topics at the Forbes Under 30 Summit on Tuesday, including skateboarding at the Olympics and what’s next in snowboarding.
There was more from the 28-minute conversation. Here are other noteworthy tidbits from one of the greatest U.S. Winter Olympians:
On becoming a businessman: “The time came where they wanted me to do signature products. I’m thinking, wow, what do I do in this scenario? So I went to my older brother, a really talented artist, really great guy. He helped me with all those things. As you start to develop your own products, and you test them, you send them out there into the world. There’s some kid sitting there looking at this entire rack of clothing or goggles or whatever it is, and he picks your goggles. I mean, there’s something special about that connection to the fan, or to the consumer. For me, that’s when I really thought, wow, I spent so much time sitting here, trying to get this company to think the way that I do, it would be so much easier to cut out that middle man and do my own thing and do my own product lines.”
On the Torino 2006 Olympic title at age 19: “It was heavy. I don’t know. I think everything just changed. It went from me going outside to being kind of recognized, or maybe recognized, to I was going to get spotted. Somebody was going to say something to me. People had won before me, but there was something about the way I could talk to the audience, or my fans. I always felt like the same guy, just extraordinary things kept happening to me through hard work. Something about, I had huge red hair and all these things. So I was recognizable. It really took off for me.”
On White’s owned Air & Style brand versus the X Games or Dew Tour: “I just see us as such a completely different thing. We’re new. It’s fun. It’s fresh. We can be kind of nimble and do different things, where if you’re X Games, you’re embedded in this thing. Your name is extreme games. You’re stuck in this kind of playing field, where I feel like we can kind of dance between genres of art and music and fashion and all the things that kind of represent the sport. It’s kind of like taking an old brand that somebody already knows, and it’s like, ‘Wow, these are mom jeans, I don’t wear these jeans.’ You know what I mean? And then somebody trying to like revamp that company. It’s almost a lot harder to turn the ship around than just build a new one in that sense. At least that’s my take on it.”
White said he learned to play the bright yellow Fender Stratocaster guitar he won as a Winter X Games prize by practicing in hotels and airport lounges, but he kept it a secret from the media at first.
“I didn’t want somebody to like corrupt it in a sense and put me on stage with a guitar trying to do a really terrible cover of Led Zeppelin or something,” he said.
Also Tuesday, White repeated that losing in Sochi was one of the best things that could have happened to him. Video of that response here. He expressed similar sentiments in interviews around this time last year.
And finally, White praised 1996 Olympic tennis gold medalist Andre Agassi. The two are noted friends and have snowboarded together. White said he was inspired by reading Agassi’s autobiography, “Open.”
“He started to win when he really realized that tennis wasn’t his life,” White said. “It was just what he did. It allowed him to kind of go onto the court and leave it on the court. You know what I mean? He would do his match, and he’d be like, you know what, win or lose, I’m going home to my family and the people that care about me and my life. That really struck a chord with me, because that’s how I felt from the get-go. Well, I do snowboarding, but this is who I am, and this is what I’m about. And so for me to play music or for me to design clothing, or fashion, things like that, it’s not out of the wheelhouse for me, because this is who I really am.”