Shaun White’s Dad Was Almost a Professional Surfer—Meet His Family of Athletes
If you asked him, Shaun White’s parents—his mother Cathy White and his father Roger White—are reason he’s a five-time Olympian today.
Shaun, who was raised in San Diego, California, is the youngest of three kids. His older brother, Jesse White, who is seven years older than him, taught him how to snowboard. “Jesse taught me all the grabs and spins,” he told the San Diego Union Tribune in 2001. “He told me to do stuff, and I’d go try it and maybe land it.” His older sister, Kari White, who is two years older than him, is also a snowboarder. Though he trained with his siblings when he was younger, Shaun credits his parents for his success. In an Instagram post in January 2022, Shaun revealed the emotional words his mom told him after he won his first Olympic gold medal at the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics.
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“In honor of the 2022 Winter Olympics being a couple of weeks away, I decided to take a look back over the years. Nothing compares to my first Olympics!” Shaun captioned an Instagram video of him competing. “I was 19 and had no idea my whole world was about to change. I won this competition with my first run out of two and got what’s called a ‘victory lap’ I dropped in, did some big airs and sprayed snow into the crowd. I slid into the finish area where my family was waiting and I’ll never forget their faces crying with joy. The magnitude of what I had just done hit when my mom hugged me and said, ‘From now on, you will forever be known as Shaun White, the Olympic Gold Medalist.'”
With three Olympic gold medals and various world records, there’s no doubt Shaun is one of the most successful snowboarders who has ever competed for Team USA. But who are Shaun White’s parents, Cathy and Roger White? Read on for what we know about Shaun White’s parents and how they raised him to be the superstar athlete he is today.
Who is Shaun White’s mother, Cathy White?
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Cathy White is Shaun White’s mother. Cathy worked as a waitress when Shaun and his three siblings were younger. When he became more successful, Cathy ran Shaun’s business operations until 2011 when he consolidated his business dealings under the umbrella of Shaun White Enterprises and hired Keith Yokomoto, the founder of ARTISTdirect, as his chief operating officer. “She’d 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?’” Shaun recalled to The New York Times in 2014. “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?’” During the Turin 2016 Winter Olympics in Italy, The New York Times also reported that Cathy sewed Shaun American flag bandanas so he would stop ripping the sleeves from his T-shirts to cover his face.
In an interview with The Mercury News in 2014, Cathy revealed that didn’t approve of Shaun snowboarding. “I don’t know where it came from because I don’t like him snowboarding,” she said. (According to The New York Times, Cathy, however, preferred Shaun to snowboard than to ski because of how bad and dangerous he was at skiing when he was younger.) Biography.com also reported that Cathy told Shaun, who started snowboarding when he was 6 years old, “to slow down by telling him he could only board backward, or switch, a skill that would help further his career.”
Though she didn’t approve of snowboarding a career for Shaun, she did note how the sport made their family closer in an interview with Mountain Zone in 2006. “We all ride together and take the same lines. Snowboarding together is such a great bonding experience for us,” she said. She also told the site that Shaun was the only member of his friend group as a kid who snowboarded. “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,” she said.
In an interview with The New York Times in 2014, Shaun, who was raised in San Diego, revealed that he and his family would sleep in a van parked at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains, three hours from San Diego, on winter weekends when he was younger, so his family could snowboard. They used resort bathrooms to brush their teeth. “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,” he said. Shaun confirmed the story in his bio for his website. “The White family began making the three-hour trek to the San Bernardino Mountains every chance they could,” he said. “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. I was introduced to the sport in such a casual way, but it really took hold off me.”
In his bio, Shaun also wrote that his parents bought a van because they couldn’t afford to pay for the resorts in the San Bernardino area. “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,” he wrote. Shaun also isn’t the only athlete in his family. According to The-house.com, Cathy’s parents were “were well known stars in roller derby.” MountainZone also reported that Cathy’s “parents raced on the pro roller derby circuit on the L.A. Bombers and T-Birds.” “I think Shaun was lucky to find his balance early in life,” Kathy told the site. “I always tease him that he gets his balance from his grandparents,”
Who is Shaun White’s father, Roger White?
Shaun White’s father is Roger White. Roger worked for the San Clemente water department, according to The New York Times. According to The San Diego Union Tribune, Roger grew up in Coronado, California, a city near San Diego, where he surfed at Imperial Beach and Del Mar. He graduated from Coronado High School and attended Monterey Peninsula College and would surf in Santa Cruz, California. “Shaun was supposed to be a surfer,” Roger 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.”
According to Mountain Zone, Roger taught Shaun how to snowboard when he was 4 years old. Shaun took an interest in the sport because of his older brother, Jesse, who is seven years older than him. Cathy also told the site that she bought Shaun a snowboard when he was younger to keep him busy and out of trouble and told him to copy what Jesse did.
In an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2017, Shaun credited his parents for his career. “My parents are the ones that really made me who I am,” he said. “Obviously, they didn’t put these limitations on me. It was obviously explained, ‘Hey, this is what happened. You should be cautious.’ But it wasn’t this, like, hovering over me to make sure I wasn’t getting into trouble or working out too much or doing anything too active. But they really let me find my own limitations. So, that’s kind of why I feel like I’m so athletic now and just did whatever I wanted to do because they never put that limit on me.”
Total Olympics by Jeremy Fuchs
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For more about the Olympics, check out Jeremy Fuchs’ 2021 book, Total Olympics: Every Obscure, Hilarious, Dramatic, and Inspiring Tale Worth Knowing. The book, which was called an “indispensable Olympic resource” and “pure fun” by The New York Times, follows the history of the Olympics, from how it began in a a Victorian English town called Much Wenlock to the discontinued sports that are no longer around like tug of war, firefighting, painting and, yes, live pigeon shooting. The bestseller, which features hundreds of true tales and historical photographs, also includes stories from both internationally known and little known athletes like gymnast Shun Fujimoto, who led his team to victory with a broken knee.
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