Shaun White has revolutionized snowboarding, won the big gold in Vancouver and lit his snowboard aflame, Hendrix-style, on the cover of the new issue of Rolling Stone, joining an elite club of athletes to appear on our cover not once, but twice. And as the focused, business savvy White tells it, a lot of his recent success on the half-pipe and off can be attributed to a new addition to his life: "Getting into music has changed my personality and my way of doing things," he reveals to RS writer Vanessa Grigoriadis. "I"m far more open now." (Watch the two-time gold medalist answer readers' questions about his favorite music, his broken bones and, of course, his hair, below.)
White, who began snowboarding at six and went pro at 13, has recently returned to one of his early loves — skateboarding — but he does more shredding on one of his three Les Pauls. Jimi Hendrix, Guns n' Roses and Led Zeppelin are in regular rotation; "Whole Lotta Love" is his favorite-ever song. "I think guitar is the best thing in the world," he says. "It's the only thing where no matter what I do, I can't do it all myself."
The 23-year-old White is a bit of a loner, though. He practices his sport solo on a $500,000 private half-pipe Red Bull built him in Colorado and is known to march to the beat of his own disciplined drummer. While fellow competitors gather to watch snowboard or skate videos in their spare time, he opts out ("I'd rather do it, not watch it," he explains). Olympic teammate Louie Vito even tried to unnerve him a bit by blasting Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." in the van while White was setting his mental stereo to rock & roll. (Find out what more Team USA snowboarders were jamming to on their Olympic playlists.)
For more on White's unique journey, and to get inside the head of one of the greatest snowboarders in the sport's young history, read the full story in our new issue, on sale at newsstands today.
Also in this issue: Brian Hiatt on whether Billy Corgan can leave the Nineties behind; Tim Dickinson on the GOP's dirty war to destroy Obama; a Close-Up photo of She and Him; the hottest music hitting stores this spring; Matt Taibbi on health care reform; and an inside look at Pavement's big comeback.