Shaun White wants to grab breakfast. He doesn’t have much time. Maybe 45 minutes. Conquering the world demands a tight schedule.
And White is late, so when he rolls into the Good Life Café in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., it’s without the normal trappings: no hat to cover his Little Orphan Annie hair, no scarf to obstruct the most famous face of the Winter Olympics. Just White at his most basic: rock-star uniform of skinny jeans and fit T-shirt, ubiquitous publicist at his side and a dude-archetype voice that makes White snowboarding’s version of a family board game, appropriate from ages 9 to 99.
He surveys the restaurant. White hasn’t been here in years. He used to come to Mammoth when he was a kid. White piled into a conversion van with his mom, dad, brother and sister, drove seven hours to the mountain, snowboarded all day and jumped back in the van at night to sleep. When his mom tired of cooking inside a vehicle, they splurged and ate at the Good Life Café, its name evoking something they desired.
On this morning, White’s greatest concern is the menu. It’s vexing him. So many possibilities.
“Want to split some French toast?” he asks.
“I thought you were going to get your omelet,” says Crystal Garrett, his public-relations handler.
“Well, I was,” White says. “Until I saw French toast.”
Such wavering is rare for White. He is perhaps the most decisive person the sport of snowboarding has seen in its relatively short life, and he is certainly the most cutthroat. White isn’t just the best halfpipe snowboarder in the world. He is the CEO of a wildly successful business: himself. He united his preternatural talent, goofy charm and beyond-his-23-years savvy to play Midas on everything, from his 2006 Olympic medal to his endorsement deals. Though his sport operates on the fringe, White carries undeniable star power.
So amid gawks from around the restaurant, and even the waitress, White concentrates on breakfast and stammers out his order. Sirloin and eggs, the steak medium-rare, the eggs sunny. Oh, and an order of French toast for the table.
“I couldn’t pick just one,” White says. “The pressure got to me.”
“You could’ve just made your own omelet,” Garrett says.
“That’s dangerous business,” White says. “I don’t live on the edge like you.”
Wednesday night at the Winter Olympics, White will live in a nebulous place beyond the edge, somewhere between insanity and death wish. He plans on performing a trick called the Double McTwist 1260. White invented it earlier this winter on the $500,000 private 22-foot-tall halfpipe Red Bull built him. To properly hit a Double McTwist 1260, White must launch himself off the Cypress Mountain pipe’s lip, turn 3½ revolutions, flip twice and land on a 1-inch-thick slab of composite.