Roger and Cathy White are the parents of the snowboarding phenom and crossover Olympic star Shaun White, who is known as “The Flying Tomato.” They also both have interesting athletic stories in their backgrounds.
White’s parents are central to his biography; the story of the family living in a van so Shaun and his brother, Jesse, could snowboard is legendary. White, already a two-time Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding, was seeking more gold in PyeongChang at the 2018 Winter Olympics. He is also a professional skateboarder.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Shaun’s Mother, Cathy White, Says She Doesn’t Like Him Snowboarding
Although the world is dazzled by her son’s snowboarding abilities, Cathy White is more hesitant, largely out of the fear that Shaun could become injured (which, in the past, he has been). According to Biography.com, Shaun White, who was born in 1986, “began skateboarding after following his older brother (Jesse) to the nearby YMCA, and took up snowboarding at the age of six.”
“I don’t know where it came from because I don’t like him snowboarding,” Cathy said of her son’s snowboarding fame. His mother has a right to be worried. White ended up in intensive care in 2017 after a crash injured him. However, he is back on the slopes in South Korea. Furthermore, White had a congenital heart defect when born that required surgeries, according to Biography.com.
At the same time, White’s mother has described the positives of snowboarding. “We all ride together and take the same lines. Snowboarding together is such a great bonding experience for us,” she said.
2. The Family Lived in a Van at the Base of a Mountain
White was a professional snowboarder since age 14, and he was a professional skateboarder since age 17. He was regarded as a “child prodigy,” according to The New York Times.
According to The Times, the family “slept in the van at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains on winter weekends so the children could snowboard. They brushed their teeth in resort bathrooms.”
The family, which lived near San Diego, California when White was a kid, built a skateboard ramp in the backyard for Jesse. “When my career in snowboarding started out, it was my entire family driving around in a van, staying at the mountains and trying to make it happen,” Shaun White told The New York Times.
According to his website bio, “the White family began making the three-hour trek to the San Bernardino Mountains every chance they could.”
“My mom would put me, my brother, and sister in the car and we’d drive up and ride the mountain all day, or spend the weekend if we were really going to live it up,” White says in the bio. “I was introduced to the sport in such a casual way, but it really took hold off me.”
3. Shaun White’s Mother Was a Waitress Whose Parents Were Roller Derby Stars
Shaun White’s mother, Cathy, was a waitress, according to his website bio. Biography.com reports that Cathy White ordered her then 6-year-old son “to slow down by telling him he could only board backward, or switch, a skill that would help further his career.”
White’s website bio says his parents ended up buying the van because their jobs didn’t afford them much money. “Because they couldn’t afford to stay at the nearby resorts…his parents eventually bought a used van so the family could camp out at the base of the mountains overnight,” the bio says.
“Shaun and his siblings were born into a family of talented people,” reports the-house.com. Cathy’s parents, the site notes, “were well known stars in roller derby.” According to MountainZone, Cathy’s “parents raced on the pro roller derby circuit on the L.A. Bombers and T-Birds.”
According to the site, “Shaun learned to snowboard from his father at the young age of 4, and he quickly became a shadow in everything his older brother Jesse did. His mother, Kathy, said that to keep him out of trouble she bought him a snowboard and told Shaun to copy everything his older brother Jesse did.”
4. White’s Father Worked for the Local Water Department & Was a Talented Surfer
Shaun White’s father, Roger, worked for the San Clemente water department, according to Shaun White’s website biography. Roger White had his own athletic talent. Roger “was an exceptional surfer back in the 1960’s,” reports the-house.com.
According to The San Diego Union Tribune, “Roger, who grew up in Coronado, fell in love with surfing while riding the local breaks between Imperial Beach and Del Mar. After graduating from Coronado High, Roger went north to Monterey Peninsula College and charged the cold waters of the Santa Cruz area.”
“Shaun was supposed to be a surfer,” Roger White told the newspaper. “I wanted to be a surfer, and my dad was never behind me. I was hoping to get Shaun into surfing. I put him on a boogie board when he was really young, about 4 years old.”
5. Shaun White Has Two Siblings
White’s older brother Jesse worked for Burton and helped his brother design a pair of snowboarding boots, according to The Times. Jesse worked for Shaun White Enterprises but then left to “try something new,” The Times reported. His brother is seven years old than he is and he also has a sister named Kari, who is two years older.
According to his website bio, “White first tried snowboarding in an attempt to emulate his older brother Jesse, and immediately showed an uncanny talent for the sport.”