NEW YORK -- Taxi drivers jump out of their cabs to hug a surprised Shaun White.
The snowboarder and his red, flowing locks became familiar to many folks who had never given his sport a second thought before his gold medal at the 2006 Olympics. A popular ad pitchman with his own clothing line and video game, White appreciates any opportunity to expand snowboarding's audience.
This week, he's leaving the mountain for Manhattan, competing on a nine-story ramp with the city skyline as the backdrop. The competition, Red Bull Snowscrapers, will take place at a park on the East River on Thursday night.
"It's important to do things like this because it stirs it up and gets people out of their element, shows them something new," White said Wednesday. "Our sport's always changing, so it's nice to show them something different."
White is 22 and already has been a professional snowboarder for nine years. The Flying Tomato is aiming for the Vancouver Games a year from now, his second Olympics.
He concedes he enjoys looking around and taking in the scenery when soaring through the air on one of his tricks. This view will be a bit different from what he's accustomed to.
The fans gazing at the sight of the snowboarders won't be the same as usual, either. The rare appearances on the East Coast always seem to draw big crowds, White said.
"There's so many fans," White said, "so many people excited to see us ride and do our thing because you don't really get us out here that often."