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Shaun White
"Skating vert, like being in really big ramps like that, just helps with snowboarding...."

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"You can maybe skip three days of homework ...."

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"Well, every year Burton has an avalanche course ...."

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Übergrom
He can pull McTwists, backside 700s and rodeos. He travels the world as a professional snowboarder: he has competed in Japan, Europe and all over the United States. He skates and surfs and gets good grades.

White
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Proving himself on the amateur circuit as the 1998 USASA National Overall Champion, 13-year-old Shaun White started competing with the big kids last year (though he was excluded from the Grand Prix because he's too young). Though he has not yet earned himself any prominent podium spots as a pro, he's certainly getting noticed in the pipe and beyond.

In February, White took third in Japan's Nippon Open and 6th in a Volcom slopestyle event. He took 10th in the Vans Triple Crown of Snowboarding halfpipe comp at Breckenridge, after nailing each run and stunning his peers and the crowd alike.

Because his winter schedule poses some pretty impossible conflicts with his school schedule, White's home-schooled for a large part of the year, but does spend as much time as possible in the classroom.

He owes much of his progress as a snowboarder to his 19-year-old brother, Jesse, who taught him to ride.

"He taught me all the grabs and spins and stuff like that. He told me to do stuff and I'd go try it and maybe land it," says White.

In fact, his riding posse consists of both his parents, his sister Kari (2000 US Open Junior Halfpipe Champ) and Jesse (who rides for Burton). The whole clan travels to contests together whenever they can.

"...snowboarding's like the last thing we'd ever talk about. You know, it'd be like 'oh, dude, that teacher's so mean,' you know, just normal stuff...."
— Shaun White

"We all ride together and take the same lines. Snowboarding together is such a great bonding experience for us," says his mom, Kathy.

That's a pretty nice luxury, considering most people have to spend hours defending the sport to their 'rents. Plus, this Southern California kid also skates and surfs (like a pro) and has that multisport balance advantage, too.

But all those things alone could never have gotten him where he is today. This boy's got some talent in his genes. No doubt.

"He's just a natural at everything," says Jesse. "He was hitting jumps on his second day." And landing them, too.

While it might have only taken him minutes to get the hang of riding, White made a point of progressing as quickly as possible. He enrolled in Windell's Snowboard Camp in Mount Hood, Oregon and has been going back each year.

Shaun White
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"We almost didn't take him, because he was only 6 or 7 at the time, and we'd never had such a young camper," says Camp Director Tim Windell. "But he was an incredible athlete, even at that point in time."

"He's so talented and yet, he's retained his youthfulness. He's not caught up in all the hype — that's what really stokes me out," Windell adds.

On a recent trip to Japan, over-zealous fans barraged White. "I went to this party, it was like the riders' party kind of thing, after the competition, and I went in there and I was like the only rider and I just got jumped. I'm shorter than them, so it's hard to get around, and it's just like, you sign somebody's arm — like a jacket or something — and eight other jacket sleeves come flying out. It's pretty funny," says White.

He might be the übergrom on the pro circuit, but back home he's just a kid.

"Whenever I'm at school or anything, or with my friends, snowboarding's like the last thing we'd ever talk about. You know, it'd be like 'oh, dude, that teacher's so mean,' you know, just normal stuff."

"He doesn't talk about snowboarding at home because none of his friends on the block even snowboard; they play war, tag and Pokemon together and they're not even allowed off the block," says Kathy.

Or they might play CoolBoarders4, the PlayStation game that White had a hand in making (footage of White and 16 other riders was used to make the video characters). If any of his friends think it's not fair that White gets to travel all over and hang out with the coolest snowboarders, they can take their frustrations out on the cyber-Shaun by slamming his character into the walls of the halfpipe. "Yeah, doooosshhh," says White, imitating the sound it would make.

"If you're going to fall on some tricks, you can make it so you don't get ruined...."
It's not that White's just a freak prodigy. He spends his share of time falling, missing transitions, missing waves. But combining the mental aspects of skating, snowboarding and surfing gives him more prowess in each sport — especially with skating vert and riding halfpipe.

"Skating vert, like, being in really big ramps like that, just helps with snowboarding, because you know, they're starting to make a lot bigger halfpipes now. So it helps me to keep speed and just know how to ride the bigger ramps.

"Just having the balance to be able to stay on the board in skating and surfing gives you an all-around much better balance. If you're going to fall on some tricks, you can make it so you don't get ruined, and kind of survive it," he says.

That's probably just what his mom is thinking about more often than not. But overall, White progresses at a pretty steady rate, with no major injuries on record.

"I think Shaun was lucky to find his balance early in life," says his mom. "I always tease him that he gets his balance from his grandparents," says Kathy White, whose parents raced on the pro roller derby circuit on the L.A. Bombers and T-Birds.

"People think I worry about him too much, but it's like 'hello, he's my kid. It's my job.'"

Next up on the White's rock star schedule are trips to Norway (for Terje Haakonsen's bro-down, the Arctic Challenge) and to Whistler for the Sims World Championships. You'll be seeing and hearing a lot more of this little man.

— Mary Catherine O'Connor, MountainZone.com Staff

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