Truth is, you always worried a little about Shaun White. When did he do his schoolwork, or his chores? I mean, how many storied adolescents have we seen turn into dysfunctional adults? Besides me, of course.
Turns out little Shauny grew up just fine. The quintessential California kid with the flowing Amy Adams hair never became the hot mess we might’ve feared. In fact, the kid has become that most coveted of American ideals — his own brand — while always managing to be the most candid interview of any “yo-duuuuuude!” Winter Games.
But maybe the former San Diego prodigy has a God complex after all. White is, in fact, bringing snow to the Rose Bowl this weekend, a bit of meteorological horseplay that shakes up the conventional wisdom once again.
Call it “Coachella in the Snow,” or “Snowchella.” Anyway you look at it, the sports/music event he’s creating is audaciously out there, just as White has been for the past dozen years.
For a week now, a 450-foot-long ramp has been rising in the prairie outside the Rose Bowl. To tell you it’s 16 stories tall doesn’t quite convey it. The thing’s not just big, it’s Jurassic ... an oversized flying reptile.
Sage Kotsenburg, the flying ace of the 2014 Winter Olympics, will be among the 32 snowboarders and skiers competing there Saturday and Sunday in the last leg of a three-city international tour; the overall winner pockets $50,000.
Surrounding the ramp will be three stages featuring 18 live acts, including Kendrick Lamar, Phantogram and Steve Aoki.
Haven’t downloaded much Phantogram lately? Don’t dance to Surfer Blood? Oh, give it a chance, because crews have been rigging this ramp for a week, and that can’t be easy. Soon, they’ll frost the whole thing, and turn these maniacs loose on the course, where judges will score them in amplitude, style, difficulty, landing and overall execution.
Yes, amplitude ... snowboarding’s vertical leap. And, for the record, this event does not take place inside the Rose Bowl, as some promotions would lead you to believe, but in the areas surrounding it.
What Mother Nature can’t seem to provide on this most bereft of L.A. winters, apparently Shaun White soon will.
It’s part of a winter sports competition called Air + Style that originated 21 years ago in Austria and has been overseas since. Having purchased the event, White now is able to blend his passions — snow and guitars — into something he believes in.
“It’s the perfect mash-up of sports and music and the culture of snowboarding itself,” he says by phone. “The bands themselves are incredible.”
It’s a professional rebirth of sorts for White, not that he’s ever really disappeared. He faltered in the Sochi Olympics, failing to medal and ending his long reign as an Olympic champ. The Winter Games are still in his plans in three years, he says.
Now 28, White calls this business project an evolution, and the result of the usual soul-searching he does after competitions. Win or lose, he often wonders how he’s going to get back to the level of excitement — and focus — that such games demand.
“I’ve always felt like a guy who extraordinary things have happened to,” White says of his latest venture.
His whole crazy pioneering career started with family trips to the mountains. On a whim, his parents took him up to Snow Summit, a standard starter hill for SoCal kids.
The timing was perfect. Famed snow park architect Chris Gunnarson had created courses there that thrilled young boarders, propelling snowboarding into America’s next obsession.
That’s right: Think of Snow Summit as boarding’s Kitty Hawk.
In 2003, an Air + Style event would become White’s first major win.
Over time, he would become the fresh young face of the sport, his trademark hair trailing him like the flames of a roadster.
When he was 16, he won his first guitar at the X Games, which led to his love of music, another dose of the fortuitous whimsy that has marked his life.
“I learned to play in airports,” he says now. “A two-hour layover? I’d just get out my guitar.”
In music, he found relief from the risks and pressures of board sports.
"[Music] wasn’t about being best,” he says. “It was about doing something creative and rewarding.”
So that’s the secret, and a clue into why he’s been able to keep his feet on the ground while being the main show in the flying circus of winter sports.
“You know, I always follow my instincts,” he says.
Air + Style: Los Angeles, Saturday and Sunday outside Rose Bowl.
Doors: Open at 11 a.m.
Tickets: Start at $50; children under 10 free with paying adult.
Concert lineup: https://www.air-style.com