The story of Shaun White’s family feels like something you would see in a movie. Growing up, Shaun’s parents Cathy and Roger White took their family on many adventures. Shaun, his sister, Kari and brother, Jesse loved being in the mountains with the snow, but the family could not afford to stay at the California resorts. Cathy and Roger got creative and purchased a used van where the family could stay at the base of the mountains.
Shaun, who is from San Diego, California, has come a long way since sleeping with his siblings in a used van to become one of the most successful snowboarders of all-time. Shaun is now one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, but his family has been involved in his life away from the competition in a variety of ways.
His brother Jesse, who he credits for motivating him to take up snowboarding, remains Shaun’s best friend and business manager. Cathy spent time as the manager of Shaun White Enterprises, and Kari went with her brother to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
Learn more about the family that inspired Shaun’s snowboarding career.
1. Shaun’s Parents Purchased an Old Van Nicknamed “Big Mo” For the Family to Stay at the Base of the Mountains
Shaun comes from a working-class family, and money was tight raising three children. Growing up, Shaun’s mother waited tables, and his father worked for the water department. Despite not being able to afford staying at the resorts, this did not stop the family from getting to the mountains to be in the snow. Shaun’s parents purchased a used van, nicknamed Big Mo, to stay in on their trips.
Shaun has used his upbringing as an inspiration to take chances, including joining the band Bad Things, as he explained to The New York Times.
“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 told The New York Times. “At that time I didn’t know I was going to turn into a successful athlete. I was just a kid. That’s what’s exciting right now. I’m not trying to say that the band’s going to turn out to have superpowers. I’m just saying, I’m back in the van.”
The band did not have the same sort of success as his snowboarding career. Bad Things produced two albums in 2014, including their self-titled record after signing with Warner Brothers.
For all of his accomplishments, Shaun explained in an interview with CNN the highlight of his career was winning his first gold medal in Italy during the 2006 Olympics, and watching his father cry.
I remember getting to the bottom of the halfpipe and I’d just won the Olympics. You see your family, everyone is crying and you can handle that — your mum, brother, sister. Everyone is so overwhelmed with joy.
But when your dad is crying? There’s something about the dad tears that really get you. He’s the tough figure in your life and he’s just bawling and it cuts to the core of you.
2. Shaun’s Older Brother Jesse Inspired Him to Start Snowboarding
Snowboarding fans have Shaun’s older brother Jesse to thank for inspiring him to take up snowboarding. Shaun’s website details how he began the sport after watching his brother.
Growing up near San Diego, two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White first tried snowboarding in an attempt to emulate his older brother Jesse, and immediately showed an uncanny talent for the sport. With Shaun instantly hooked, the White family began making the three-hour trek to the San Bernardino Mountains every chance they could.
According to IMDB, Jesse serves as Shaun’s manager, and has been involved in a variety of Shaun’s ventures. According to The New York Times, Jesse once worked for snowboarding company Burton, and helped Shaun design boots that sold out in an hour. The duo also designed glasses for Oakley, and Jesse was heavily involved in Shaun’s partnership with Target.
In addition to having a strong business sense, Jesse appears to have a unique sense of humor. Jesse described his hobbies in an interview with Target as, “Scuba diving, werewolf hunting and impersonating Abe Lincoln.”
3. Shaun’s Parents Invested an Estimated $20,000 a Year Into Shaun’s Career, Despite Having Limited Money
According to Life Engineering, Shaun’s parents were willing to invest $20,000 into their son’s future, despite being on a tight budget. Shaun now has an estimated net worth of $40 million, so he can more than pay back the favor.
Cathy later became the manager of Shaun White Enterprises, which is the umbrella organization for White’s business ventures, before the company became too big for just the family to run it. White explained to The New York Times why it became time to hand the organization off to someone other than his mother.
She’d [Shaun White’s Mom] call saying, ‘Your brother wants to spend this much money on a Pantone book!’ And I’d have to go back to him and say: ‘What’s a Pantone book? Why’s it so expensive?’ ” And if he wanted to take a flight somewhere, “maybe to see a girl, and she’d be like: ‘You’re going to Vegas? Why?’
Cathy created a personal gift for her son knowing Shaun wanted to read fan letters, but rarely took the time to do so. She spoke with ESPN about the scrapbook of fan letters she created for her son.
“I know he wished he had time to talk to all his fans, but he’s just so busy now,” Cathy told ESPN. “So I wanted to make it easier for him to look through all their letters and notes. It’ll just take time!”
4. Kari White, Shaun’s Sister, Is the Founder of a Dog Accessory Company Called Mayor B
Like her brother, Kari White also found inspiration from their days traveling the country as a family in a van. Kari is a California-based creative whose endeavours include her company Mayor B, which specializes in designing dog accessories including collars and beds.
“I feel like my childhood was one big road trip,” Kari told MyDomaine.com. “Every chance we had my family would pack up our van and drive to Yellowstone or Mt. Hood; looking back it was such an amazing time.”
According to My Domaine, a lot of the products are high-end accessories like her signature Tour Bed, a trunk-style dog bed that runs $1,500. Kari also sells prints of her bulldog Rambo dressed up in various costumes. Here’s an awesome photo of Rambo in a speedo from Kari’s Instagram account.
5. Shaun Is Passionate About Making Snowboarding a Family Event
Snowboarding became the currency for his family to bond, and the legendary snowboarder believes the same thing is possible for other families. Shaun explained on his website that he wants to bring the sport to more families.
I want people to be introduced to snowboarding in the right light, because in the wrong hands it can look dangerous or like some daredevil kind of thing. When I was growing up, snowboarding was something we all did together — it was this experience we all shared, and I’d love for other families to see that.
Shaun may be a competitive snowboarder, but his introduction to the sport was informal with little pressure from his family. Shaun recalled his early memories in an interview on his website.
“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,” Shaun explained on his site. “I was introduced to the sport in such a casual way, but it really took hold off me.”