Shaun White has gotten into the action sports retail game with a new company, Shaun White Supply Co. The SWSC product line includes skateboards, protective gear, ramps and BMX bikes, among other things, and will be available at sporting goods stores such as The Sports Authority and Sport Chalet, as well online at shaunwhitesupplyco.com. SWSC officially launches on Thursday in conjunction with the Las Vegas stop of the Dew Tour. We sat down with the skate vert champion to find out more about it.
ESPN: What prompted your decision to leave Birdhouse and start your own skateboard company?
Shaun White: It just kind of happened naturally. With Birdhouse, I felt like I wasn't doing the relationship justice because I'm so focused on so many other things. So instead of the old style of endorsement, of riding for a company that's already out there and trying to blend with their ad campaigns and style of product, I'm just creating my own thing. I'm really excited about it.
What's the story behind Shaun White Supply Co.?
Well, first we took all the products that our distributor makes and tested all of it. There has been some really bad product out there on the market, and our goal was to make sure that the first-time skateboarder was getting something different.
If people get introduced to the sport in the wrong way they're not likely to come back to it. It's like people who go surfing for the first time and think they hate it, and when you ask them why they say, "Well, I went out alone and it was cold and the waves were huge and I almost drowned." And it's like, wow -- no, that doesn't sound like fun. Someone should have sent you out on a mellow day at a good break for learning, with good friends who know what they're doing, and you would have had a great time. You would love surfing.
That's what we're trying to do with skateboarding. We took these boards and changed them so they would actually work right. The kingpin on a lot of the complete boards being sold was actually longer than the truck, which basically makes it impossible to grind. So we shortened those and then put bigger wheels with faster bearings on the completes. Bigger wheels make it so you can roll easier over rocks and bumps and things like that easier. Because the average kid isn't going to get insane in the street right away and need little wheels. It's just a lot of simple things that make a better board.
Are you going for the beginner market with this, then?
No, not at all. That's just what we wanted to approach first, because I saw what was out there and I didn't like it. I wanted to change it immediately. I don't skate a complete board because it's not what I, personally, need. What I need is very specific. But we have three tiers: beginners, mid-range and advanced. The beginner tier is the complete package -- deck, wheels, trucks -- and at the top end you can just buy the deck and set it up how you like.
So if people buy the top-end vert board, will they be buying the deck that you skate?
That's the goal. It's like, if I run out of shoes, I literally go into Target to get new shoes because it's faster than getting some sent to me. If I break my board snowboarding, I can go into a local shop and get my pro model, which is the one that I use. Everything I skate is in sport specialty stores already.
Is Burton nervous that you're going to branch out into snowboard production?
No, not at all. They're stoked. I'm in a long-term contract with them, and this doesn't cross boundaries. It's all skateboard and summer action sports products.
Are you worried about how people, especially "core" skateboarders who are notoriously sensitive about just about everything, are going to react to the line of scooters?
Of course I'm nervous. No one likes criticism. I'm not trying to encourage kids to go to the skatepark on scooters, but it's one of those things -- you see them at the park anyway. And if you're at the Boys and Girls club and you can't skateboard then you can grab a bike or a scooter. It's the culture of camaraderie, being able to just be at the park and have fun and hang out, even if you're not the sickest skater. That's the whole idea behind it. But I'm definitely putting it out there, and whenever you do that you're going to get a backlash, but [laughs] it's not like it's the next sport I'm taking up or anything.
You're working with the Boys and Girls Club, too, right?
Yeah. I used to go to the Boys and Girls Club when I was younger. My dad went to work all day and then my mom would be headed to work when he was getting off, so my sister and I hung out at the Boys and Girls Club. I got extra help getting my school work done there, and so I thought it would be cool incorporate a charity element and work with them.
Do you think you'll start sponsoring athletes of your own some day?
Maybe in the future? I'd love to see what's out there with young talent and give someone the start that they need to be a pro in this sport. When I was seven years old Jake Burton gave me snowboards and it blew my mind and brought me where I am today. I'd love to be able to do that for someone else.
Anything else you want to add?
I'm just really excited and hope that people like the product. I'm going to be skating it all season. The official launch is October 13, in conjunction with the Las Vegas Dew Tour, but it's all available on the website already right now.