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Shaun White Interview

He wins gold medals in snowboarding and skateboarding, cuddles up on-screen with Mila Kunis, and fights crime with LeBron James (maybe). What can’t he do?


You’ve got a pretty distinctive look. Is it possible for you to go out skateboarding without getting mobbed?
I was actually just skating here in New York, and it wasn’t too bad. There’s not really anywhere I can go without being recognized, but if I put my hair up, that cuts the crowd in half. Today I was rocking the topknot look, like a samurai. It’s pretty savage.

How does skating compare to snowboarding? You’re about to compete in the Winter X Games, and last year you won gold at the Summer X Games.
Oh, man, that was the best! The hardest thing about skateboarding is consistency: The slightest flick of your foot or gust of wind can send your board flying, so it’s really anybody’s game out there. I wanted that gold real bad. It was almost more of a celebration than winning the Olympics.

What’s the difference?
You show up at the Olympics, and you’re no longer you; you’re an American Olympian. You’re part of this greater whole, and the individual doesn’t matter. So I’ll be cheering for the curlers, for the downhill skiers. There’s really nothing that can compare to stripping away your identity and competing as an American. You basically show up and leave all your baggage at the door.

What do you think about skateboarding being added as an Olympic sport?
I dunno. I mean, I love the sport, and if it gets in I would definitely go, but as far as campaigning for it? I’d rather just go outside and skate. Still, the Summer Olympics would be out of control. I already have the X Games Winter and Summer medals, but to do that with the Olympics? I don’t even know if there’s ever been an athlete who has done that.

Are you a fan of other sports?
No, not really. Which is bad, because I run into these other athletes all the time and I don’t even know what teams they’re on. I’ve always been a guy who wants to play sports, not watch them. I’d rather just go out and play soccer.

You’re a soccer player?
Yeah, I played soccer for years, before skateboarding took over. I was pretty good, man. Wild style. I had all these cool moves. I even did the front-flip throw-in.

You’re a big guitar player, but do you listen to music when you compete?
In a practice scenario, I usually either have a loudspeaker blasting stuff or I’ll wear one headphone. I don’t like to wear two, because I want to be able to hear the people around me and know what’s going on. But in competition? Nah. I worry that if I was listening to one of my favorite songs and I fell, it would totally ruin that song for me. Every time I heard it I’d be reliving that fall. I’d hear the chorus and would just
start crying!

You had a pretty big role in Friends With Benefits, playing an asshole version of yourself. Do you have a lot of acting experience?
Ten years of theater, bro! Shakespeare, Hamlet, the whole deal. Actually, no, I just watched a lot of Billy Madison growing up.

It must have been pretty fun. You know, hanging out on set with Mila Kunis...
Well, yeah! That was really cool. But it was bizarre too, picking fights with Justin Timberlake, and Woody Harrelson is there trying to break it up. It was wild.

Are you like that character in real life?
No! I’m playing a version of myself, but I wanted to be really pissed off. It would’ve been lame if I was a nice guy, even though I’m pretty mellow in real life. I mean, I was never the guy in the club who could roll up on babes.

When you started competing as a kid, did you imagine you’d end up where you are now?
No way. When I first started X Games, snowboarding wasn’t in the Olympics; we weren’t even allowed on the mountain. And now there are camps and schools where you can send your kids to learn how to skate or snowboard. In California there’s skateboarding and surfing P.E. at school! That’s pretty insane. Meanwhile, when I was starting out, I’d be at some event in Japan, trying to learn algebra.

At this point you’re one of the world’s top athletes. Do you and guys like LeBron James and Michael Phelps have some sort of Justice League of Athletes?
Who told you about that?! The first rule of the Justice League of Athletes is you don’t talk about the Justice League of Athletes.