Cayman is a unique place to call home.
From pristine beaches to the friendliness of our people to the diversity of its sports scene many things make Cayman a blessed safe haven.
For visitors those positives come through even more and often drive them to come back in time.
Proof of that can be seen in the latest high-profile visitor to these shores in Shaun White.
‘This place is unreal,’ White said. ‘When I was flying in the view was crazy. I would love to come back though I don’t know when. I’m usually so busy in the winter with snowboarding.’
White is an extreme sports superstar who has excelled in snowboarding and skateboarding.
His professional career has seen him travel all over the globe ripping up snow and carving up skate-parks on his board.
In addition he has rubbed shoulders with the heavyweights in the extreme sports world from BMX/vert-ramp legend Tony Hawk to snow devil Seth Wescott.
The 22-year-old California native rose to stardom this decade; winning a gold medal in snowboarding for team USA at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. In addition he has been a force at the Winter X-Games in snowboarding where he has won 13 medals (nine gold) since 2002.
He has been just as good in skateboarding, winning five medals in the last four years (three of which were at the X-Games).
‘The Flying Tomato’, as he is known around the world, was here for a few days promoting skateboarding in Cayman as part of Skate Cayman, a summer destination skateboarding camp.
White was a first-time visitor to Cayman along with his family: mom Cathy, dad Roger and sister Kari White. Brother Jesse could not make the trip as he was finalizing details of the forthcoming Shaun White video-game in Canada.
Shaun spoke about some of the things he and his family saw in Cayman.
‘This is my first time coming here. I did snorkelling, went to Stingray City with my family and just chilled on the beach. It has been wild being here.
‘I could only spend a few days here so I still have a lot to see.’
In addition to spending time doing the usual tourist activities White also squeezed in some time at Cayman’s Black Pearl skate-park.
He was at Grand Harbour nearly all of Friday doing demos for locals, signing autographs and speaking to local kids about his life and skateboarding.
Among some of the fortunate school kids who saw White were those from Prospect and Red Bay primary school.
The skate-park is an unusually bountiful haven on Cayman. It is the second biggest skate-park in the world and boasts over 60,000 feet of concrete.
As White states that fact made his trip to Cayman an easy decision.
‘I’m not familiar at all with the Cayman skateboarding scene. However I did talk to Tony Hawk and some other pros about Cayman. The guys told me it was the second biggest in the globe and I couldn’t wait to check it out.’
White was so eager to skate in Cayman he says he was at Black Pearl from seven in the morning trying to learn the track.
‘It was tiring for me due to the time change because I was coming from where I live in San Diego on the US West Coast. But doing the early runs helped me get an idea and a feel of the park.’
It did not take long for White to fall in love with the park and enjoy somewhat of a challenge.
‘It was fun. It’s a really big park. It was really intimidating at first because it’s so big and also because I was skating on cement. But I really loved the fact you could go in there, start small and head to bigger areas at your own pace.’
Most pro skateboarders do the majority of their tricks on wooden surfaces. For White, skating on cement presented a different and trying experience.
‘The thing is wood is very smooth and it’s easy to manoeuvre on. Cement is more challenging because it’s harder to stay stable on it. Certain transitions are tougher to catch on concrete so usually I watch others skate first to learn a track.’
It seems natural that being a multi-sport star would eventually lead to a preference in one sport over another. White though states he relishes both of his sports the same.
‘I really like skateboarding right now because I’m doing it here in beautiful Cayman. But I enjoy snowboarding because you can go to cool places like Norway and Sweden and do some sick tricks.’
During his time at Black Pearl White had a chance to see some of the local skaters in action. Among them were brothers Brian and Shawn Myers (sons of police officer Steve Myers). White was utterly impressed with the kids.
‘I must say the locals were really good. The kids were very impressive, especially the younger ones.’
In fact White thinks local kids have the chance to one day go pro due to the Black Pearl.
‘For a lot of skateboarders the park is home. When I was younger there was a park near to my house and I went there everyday to practice and learn tricks.
‘The kids here have a chance to be good with the park you guys have here. The best part is guys like Tony Hawk can come here and show kids where the sweet spots are.
‘I just think that’s so cool because that gives the kids competition and motivation to keep coming out and improving. Besides these days kids need something like this park to keep them off the street and out of trouble.’
White is all about promoting and bettering the sport of skateboarding and readily gave loads of advice to Cayman’s local talent.
‘My advice to the kids or anyone from Cayman that wants to go pro is to have fun. So many kids worry about sponsorship.
‘When you stop looking for it that is when it just happens. Right now all the people here should be focusing on is doing better in the sport.
‘In this sport you have to be inspired to do new tricks. You don’t worry about it, you just do it.
‘My advice going forward would be to enter a local contest and go to events in Florida for the experience and the exposure and allow things to happen from there.’
From Cayman White is slated to travel back to the States and do more promotional work. After that he will focus his energies on preparing for the 2009 Summer X-Games in Los Angeles which takes place the end of July.
By the end of his day at Black Pearl Shaun was exhausted though satisfied. He might not have seen as much of Cayman as he would have liked but he was happy he was able to do as much as he did.
‘I want to come back and I know what to expect next time. The snorkelling was real fun and I can’t wait to do more of that.’