10 Questions for Shaun White

Snowboard and skateboard champion Shaun White on managing fear, taste testing gum and what he did to his hair

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Adam Amengual for TIME

You cut your hair just seven months before the next Olympics. Have you not read the story of Samson and Delilah?

It got to the point where I couldn't sit on a chair and lean my head forward, 'cause my hair would snag. So I gave it to Locks of Love. My helmet fits better. Maybe I'm a little more aerodynamic.

You've won two Olympic gold snowboarding medals. Why not quit while you're ahead?

I was 19 at the first one. I didn't know what that meant, to be an Olympian. Then I really wanted to do it again to cement who I was. And this time it's completely different because there's another event, slopestyle.

Slopestyle has been less successful for you. Why is that?

I'd compete, but then I'd take the two or three years off around the Olympics to get ready for the half-pipe. And then I'd be thrust back into [slopestyle events], and I'd be unprepared. This time it's exciting, 'cause I like to do both.

Is it a relief or a bummer that you're a guitarist, not the front man, in your band Bad Things?

Everything I do in my life has everything relying on me. I like that I can just be a part of something. So this is therapeutic in a sense. With music, you're not trying to win. There's no winning--you just kinda do.

When you're sitting above a half-pipe about to attempt a Double McTwist 1260 with just this flimsy board on your feet, what are you thinking?

At that point you're not really thinking, you're just letting it happen. It's a mixture of being completely focused, then slightly not caring. The only comfort you have is that you can't stop time. So you're just sitting there like, O.K., I'm gonna be forced to do this. It's a horrible feeling, but then you kind of crave it afterward.

Wait, you do actually like snowboarding, right?

I like it. But I can't stay in the mountains too long. I grew up at the beach. People forget that. I'm not really the mountainy guy. I'm not lumberjacking, cutting down trees and singing the songs.

Did the heart condition you had as a kid make you more willing to just go for things?

I've always kinda had that instilled in me from my parents--enjoy yourself now, do your thing. When we started, there was no Olympics, and the X Games were ridiculous. But they were calling in sick from work, driving me to the mountains, making it possible for me to do this sport that had no future in it. And we were getting backlash 'cause I would come to school with a black eye. Neighbors were panicking, and parent-teacher conferences didn't go well.

Why would a mom buy her kids a back-to-school line designed by a guy who walked the red carpet in a vest and no shirt?

The girl I was with was supposed to wear something in that vein too, so it wasn't gonna be so strange that I was dressed like that. I'm kind of the perfect designer in the sense of function because I can actually go skate in the shoes and pants and say, "You know, this fabric doesn't work."

How did you come up with your gum flavor, Whitemint?

Taste testing. It's ridiculous and hilarious. Everyone sits around in a room: "You ready? O.K., go." Everyone kind of chews as politely as possible, you write down your comments, and you have to spit it out. In between, you have crackers that cleanse the palate.

With all your partnerships and sponsors, do you ever feel like you're more businessman than athlete?

I feel like I'm the same person as when I started. I just have more responsibilities. But I miss those times when my family and I were in a van, camping out for weeks, trying to ride the resort, and I'm brushing my teeth in the lodge lobby in my boxers.

FOR VIDEO OF THIS INTERVIEW, GO TO time.com/10questions