How Olympic Snowboarder Shaun White Got His 4 Nicknames and Which One He Declared ‘Dead’

Shaun White has dominated the sport of snowboarding since his Olympic debut in Torino, Italy, back in 2006. He has become the face of snowboarding and has wowed fans with his tricks on the halfpipe. The athlete has also gained quite a few nicknames over the years. But he got so tired of hearing one and declared it “dead.”

Read on to find out what he’d rather be called instead and how he earned his other nicknames.

Shaun White poses with the American Flag and his snowboard at PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics
Shaun White poses with the American Flag and his snowboard at PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics | Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The ‘Flying Tomato’ wasn’t the first nickname he had

Shaun’s father, Roger White, had aspirations of being a professional surfer. His dream never materialized but because of his love for the sport, he named his son after South African surf legend Shaun Tomson. Roger has hoped Shaun might want to get into surfing, however, that hope was dashed after an experience when Shaun was just 7 years old.

“The day I actually first surfed my dad got me a hardboard and I’ll never forget because it had the Tasmanian devil on the front,” Shaun told Surfer Today. “They sent me down a giant wave, and I just got tumbled immediately; came up for air, couldn’t get it, tumbled again, got tumbled, swirled again. I came up, finally got air, and right as I did the board hit me in the face.”

He then started skateboarding and snowboarding and by the time he was 9 began training under legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk. Shaun earned the nickname “Future Boy” as he was pegged as the future of the sports because of his talent.

The nickname Shaun declared ‘dead’

Shaun White running one hand through his long hair during a party at a nightclub in 2010
Shaun White running one hand through his long hair during a party at a nightclub in 2010 | Steven Lawton/FilmMagic

During his appearance at the Winter Olympics in 2006, Shaun garnered world-wide attention for his amazing moves on the halfpipe and his hair. At the time he sported long red locks and for that and his skills of flying through the air, he was nicknamed “The Flying Tomato.”

However, the name became something he got pretty tired of hearing all the time. He explained to Rolling Stone that he “used to embrace it, even wearing headbands with a flying-tomato logo but had grown tired of it.”

He later spoke to ESPN about another nickname he’d rather be called telling the outlet: “I’ve actually got a new nickname that’s kinda been catching on. There’s a drummer for the Muppets called Animal, and apparently I look like him. So, Shaun ‘Animal’ White is the new nickname. That other name (Flying Tomato) is dead.”

Shaun eventually cut his signature locks and donated his hair to Locks of Love. However, he’s still sometimes referred to as “Flying Tomato.” He’s also been called “Egg” for how his skull looks with a helmet on top.

Shaun said he’s retiring following the Beijing Olympics

Shaun White practicing ahead of Snowboard Halfpipe in Beijing
Shaun White practicing ahead of Snowboard Halfpipe in Beijing | Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will be the last for the snowboarding great.

In a news conference, Shaun said: “I think this will be my, well this will be my last competition too, which is pretty special.”

NBC New York noted that his decision to leave the sport came to him suddenly while he was on a chairlift going over an empty mountain.

“I was just watching … the sun go down and it just hit me,” Shaun recalled. “It was very sad and a surreal moment but really joyous as well.”

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