In Defence of Shaun White

Shaun White – shit hot.

This week, pictures surfaced of Shaun White’s private training facility off the backside of Perisher Mountain in Australia. You could almost hear the collective cracking of knuckles, as snowboarders worldwide got ready for another round of ‘White Bashing’. Cue the inevitable flood of comments, tweets and Facebook posts running along the usual lines of: “he has no friends/zeaches/is always injured” so on so forth.

And whilst I’m not about to start the El Blanco fanclub (kicking people in the shins is a dick move) I personally have had enough of all this White bashing. From what I can work out, he’s the only rider aiming for both slopestyle and superpipe medals at most major competitions on the WST apart from the occasional crack from Peetu Piiroinen. When was the last time we saw McMorris in the pipe or Poudlatchikov on the booters?

My PB for air out of the pipe currently stands at about 3 inches out of the lip and I imagine the majority of you have about the same. Shaun can get 24ft out of the pipe. When you consider that a superpipe is 22ft; he’s about 46ft off the deck on his first hit. The technicality and board control required to get that kind of amplitude is quite frankly Herculean, the minutest error in your line or body position and horrendous accidents can strike as unfortunately and unexpectedly as Kevin Pearce’s, or as tragically as skier Sarah Burke’s. Merely to be in the top 10 in the world in superpipe is an incredible feat, let alone being the undisputed best.

Shaun prepares to drop in at the X Games under the watchful eye of his coach. Photo: Gabe l’Heureux

And then he goes on to do a pretty good job of slopestyle as well. I’ll admit, his rail game is a little weak, but he’s still a killer on the kickers. Inverts and spins in the pipe are a completely different ballgame to straight kicker tricks. Apart from the feeling of rotation, the way the trick is executed is completely different. The way the landing comes round is completely different. The line you take is completely different. There are few riders that can translate their skills on a slopestyle course to a superpipe and visa versa. He might have been a little off the pace of late, but you can bet he’ll be leading the charge once again come the Sochi Olympics.

Shaun can get 24ft out of the pipe. When you consider that a superpipe is 22ft, he’s about 46ft off the deck on his first hit. The technicality and board control required to get that kind of amplitude is quite frankly Herculean.

So, we’ve got a guy that has proved that he is one of the best, if not the best in the world at the two major competitive disciplines in snowboarding. But wait, let’s also not forget that Shaun is a pretty damn good skater as well, snapping up medals in skateboard vert in summer X Games, becoming the only dual board-sports winner in the history of the X Games.

Why is there so much hate for him still?

Well, the most recent “charges” relate to his training habits, so lets look at them. Firstly there’s the “accusation” that he doesn’t like to ride with other people. Well, he’s openly admitted that he can’t train with other riders he finds it too difficult. The exception appears to be Iouri Podlatchikov, who I might add also isn’t the most sociable of shredders. But if he’s open about not liking it, why do we continue to crucify him for it? We don’t hold it over Jake Blauvelt or Jed Anderson for saying that they don’t like riding competitions anymore, so why do we do it for Shaun? Personally, I think criticizing someone for a ‘flaw’ that they’ve openly admitted is more of a dick move than not riding with people, because that’s not how you like to ride. Wouldn’t you agree? I mean isn’t snowboarding supposed to be all about doing what you want?

Shaun White’s private pipe in Perisher.

Then there’s the whole “private facility” thing. Well, if your sponsor asked you if you wanted a private training facility to learn new tricks, would you turn it down? If your motivation was medals and competitions and your sponsor was willing to give you the best training platform to achieve those goals humanly possible, wouldn’t you take it?

Many people have also pointed out that the last time Shaun got a private park built, he thanked the sponsor by dropping them a few months later. But let us not forget that Red Bull aren’t holier than though when it comes to contract dropping though. They dropped twin-tipper Tanner Hall just after his return to competitive skiing after an injury that saw him out for 3 years.

And while I’m not hoping to turn everyone into ginger wig wearing zebras, I think the least we could all do is show Shaun some respect for what he’s doing. He’s pushing the progression of snowboarding, which I think is the most important aspect of being a competitive snowboarder. Even if we don’t like him, the least we can do is respect him for the athlete that he is.

What do you think? Is Shaun White treated unfairly by his fellow snowboarders? Is his influence on the sport positive? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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