Truckee’s Dave White Jr. claimed five gold medals and won the overall award in the adaptive class during the USASA National Championships
Fighting back tears, Truckee snowboarder Dave White Jr. realizes his attempts to climb toward the start line of the final event at the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association National Championships are unrealistic.
After four straight days of competition at Copper Mountain Resort, an exhausted White, known as the Cerebral Palsy Shredder, had gone to the slalom course by mistake, and was now looking at the giant slalom starting area far above as a suffocating feeling took hold — a yearlong goal of winning the overall adaptive title was dissolving in front of him.
“I could see the top of the giant slalom course and all of a sudden my anxiety kicked in full notch, where I had a small panic attack. Tears filled up my goggles, I started hyperventilating, and then I tried hiking up the mountain, but literally every step I took, I slid down like 20 feet. I was freaking the hell out,” said White, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 3, stemming from a massive brain hemorrhage at birth. He also has ADHD and suffers from anxiety.
“In my head I was telling myself, I worked so hard to get this overall achievement award, and I’m going to blow it by having a DNS … I was freaking out because that was such a stupid, small blunder,” White continued. “That thought of working so hard to achieve that goal of mine, and being so close that I could taste it, that I could feel it, only to be thwarted by accidentally going to the wrong course just really freaked me out and got my heart and anxiety racing.”
Luckily, one of the course officials saw White struggling and radioed the top of the venue to let officials know he was on his way.
On the chair ride up, White refocused, did some meditative breathing to calm down, and then sent one of the best giant slalom runs of his life to claim a fifth gold medal at the national championships.
Upon realizing he’d achieved his goal of winning the overall title, the tears of anxiety that had only moments ago streaked his face, turned to ones of joy.
“I kind of cried and I knew that I was going to get my fifth medal, and get that overall achievement award,” White said. “I don’t think it really hit me though. That’s one of the problems with having anxiety and ADHD, a wonderful goal that I had achieved, but I found it hard to be in the moment. Maybe it was because I was so tired, but it all kind of went by so quickly.”
In the four previous days, White had claimed gold in slalom, halfpipe, slopestyle, and boardercross, topping a small field in the adaptive division.
Last year, White represented the area at nationals, competing in the adaptive class, but didn’t win any medals.
He did, however, notice an athlete from South Tahoe claim an overall title in her division.
“I saw she got this big plaque,” said White. “This year I thought to myself, ‘How about I make that my goal for nationals?’”
In preparation, White upped his training regimen during the summer, which begins every morning by stretching his body out to relieve built-up tension due to having cerebral palsy. He also earned his first snowboard sponsorship, being picked up by Donek Snowboards as one of their adaptive riders.
“When Donek picked me up I really felt like I accomplished something,” he said. “I never pictured myself as a sponsored athlete.”
This past winter, White made it to his second straight national championships, qualifying out of the South Tahoe Series.
Then, just before the first event at Colorado’s Copper Mountain, White received more good news. In an email from the Challenged Athletes Foundation, White was named one of the foundation’s Heroes of Sport, earning him a $1,500 grant.
White then went on to win gold in each of his five events to cap off a whirlwind week at the national championships.
“I’ve never won a national award of any kind,” said White. “Growing up I wasn’t the kind of athlete that won awards. With the cerebral palsy I was always the last-place ribbon type of athlete. Winning those medals and all the work that I’ve done over the course of this year, training and whatnot, all coming to fruition was so overwhelmingly joyous.”
The national championship wins are among a long list of accomplishments for White, who had doctors tell his parents when he was young he’d never be able to walk, let alone ride a snowboard. In past years, White has set and obtained goals of gaining his professional international snowboard instructor certificate, riding from the top of a mountain after being dropped off by helicopter, and even writing a children’s book.
“I’ve always been like that,” he said. “Maybe it’s because I’ve had so many challenges in my life that I’ve had to overcome — a lot of physical challenges and a lot of learning challenges. With my ADHD, with my anxiety, executive processing disorder, I’ve had to overcome so many obstacles in my life. I’ve always tried to find something new to accomplish.”
Next up, White plans on running a half marathon this summer. Running, in particular for White, has always been a painful activity, but it’s a challenge he’s embracing.
“I’m going to continue my training from snowboarding, but focus it on running, which is actually extremely difficult for me because I have completely flat feet,” said White. “I’ve had four different surgeries on my ankles and feet altogether. It will definitely be a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I’m ready to face.”
White also has his eyes on adding to his growing trophy case.
“To be honest, it’s because they give out medals,” he joked. “I’m kind of on this medal high. I’m looking for where I can find my next medal.”
Spreading a message
Aside from White’s athletic endeavors, he’s also cultivated a community through social media centered on self care.
“I’m always trying to build a larger community of people who find themselves faced with either physical disabilities or learning disabilities/anxiety or ADHD. There’s so many people out there who go through somewhat similar things on a daily basis that I do. It’s just really cool to find out how they use their disability to an advantage and what they are able to accomplish with their own personal obstacles,” said White.
“Lately I’ve been trying to promote a lot of self care. I got a lot people, these people that I’ve never met before, they all started commenting and sharing their own self-care methods of how they deal with their every day lives and every day stresses. I found a lot of similarities amongst a lot of people as far as what they do for self care … that was pretty cool. I thoroughly enjoyed that.”
Through his Instagram page, CerebralPalsyShredder, White is able to spread a message that having ADHD, cerebral palsy, anxiety or anything else doesn’t have to limit one’s dreams.
“When it comes to social media, I find it’s cool to spread awareness about what people with cerebral palsy can do, what people with anxiety can do, what people with ADHD can do, because there’s so many different stigmas mixed with stereotypes out there,” said White. “If I say, ‘Yes, I have cerebral palsy,’ most people think I’m in a wheelchair and I can’t move, which is the case for a lot of people, but that’s not the case for every person with CP.
“That’s why I do what I do, to help bring light to the fact that a lot of people can overcome whatever is thrown at them.”
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.