The story of Kevin Pearce is truly one of ups-and-downs.
Pearce was on top of the world in 2009, having already won three X Games silver medals and en route to what was sure to be a great snowboarding career – but it all came to a halt later that year.
While preparing for an Olympic-qualifying event, Pearce was critically injured trying to perform a new trick, leading to a 27-day coma and a lengthy recovery process. It has been a long road to recovery for Pearce but he’s made the best of it and now has a new career as a motivational speaker. Combine his newfound career in speaking with his foundation, The Kevin Pearce Fund, and it’s clear just how important the 26-year-old has been to the action sports community.
And his work certainly has not gone unnoticed.
On Dec. 3, Pearce will receive the Stoked Achievement Award at the Stoked Awards in New York City. Founded in 2007, the Stoked Awards celebrate resilience, success and the work of Stoked – a program that works with low income and underserved youth to teach life skills and how to develop healthy relationships. Pearce will follow in the footsteps of Tony Hawk and Paul Rodriguez, who have both previously won the award. For tickets and more information, please visit the organization’s website.
We recently had the chance to talk to Pearce about what it means to receive the award, what it was like to battle such a horrific injury and who he is eyeing in the upcoming Sochi Games.
CraveOnline: Let’s start off with the award, what does the Stoked Achievement Award mean to you?
Kevin Pearce: It’s awesome. It’s so exciting that they’re honoring me and Stoked is such a big program that they have going on there. I just think it’s important that we have programs such as them. It’s just so amazing that I would be honored at their awards, you know, it really means a lot.
Crave: It’s got to feel good knowing that your motivational speaking and your foundation are getting some recognition, right?
Pearce: It really is cool, because I’ve been putting a lot of work and energy into that stuff and it’s cool to see that it’s paying off and that something is coming from it. All this stuff I’ve been doing is really taking off and people are excited about it.
Crave: Can you talk a little about your transition to motivational speaker and your work with the Kevin Pearce Fund?
Pearce: I have been trying to figure out what my next task in life is, really, and where I’m going to go from here. It’s been cool to kind of take it on and start this fund and you know – start helping people that aren’t as lucky as I am, and really kind of support them in any way I can. With the whole brain movement, it’s so cool because of how important I’ve learned it is and to try to start to inspire and educate people about the importance of the human brain, as brain health is something I’m just so passionate about and it means so much to me. It’s so important that it’s really been kind of cool getting involved with that.
Crave: If you could, can you take us through the crash that occurred back in 2009?
Pearce: Yeah, so I’m in Park City [Utah] and I woke up that morning and it was training day, just kind of getting ready for the qualifier coming up that would ultimately lead to getting into the Olympics. I was trying a new trick and dropped in and did a frontside-720 and was coming up the wall backwards – which is called cab in snowboarding – and tried the cab double-cork and didn’t quite get it all the way around and landed sideways and ultimately landed on my head because I didn’t get my hands down to save me or help me cushion the fall. The next thing I knew, I was in the hospital and spent 27 days in critical care in a coma and it was pretty insane how extensive an injury it was.
Crave: When you first woke up from the coma afterwards, what was your mindset – what was that like?
Pearce: For a long time there, it wasn’t like I even had a mindset. I don’t remember that time, I don’t remember what I was thinking, if I was thinking, or what was happening. That month there, I don’t quite remember any of that month, so I’m not sure what was happening at that time [laughs].
Crave: Can you explain your road to recovery, because it must have been a challenging one?
Pearce: You know, it’s been crazy how hard this recovery has been and how long and how slow it has gone and just how tough it is to recover from a brain injury and how much is involved. That’s why I’m so excited that it’s about sharing that process and sharing how a full recovery can be made if you take the right steps and put the right energy in and you do the right thing, that you know you can come back and live a healthy, successful life.
Crave: Do you replay the accident at all in your mind, thinking about what you could’ve done differently?
Pearce: No, I really don’t because it happened and that injury is there – it’s done. Going back and thinking about what I could have done isn’t going to change it. It’s like I crashed, I screwed up and that’s what happened and I’m not going to be able to change that and thinking about changing that isn’t helping with my recovery.
Crave: Have you had the chance to get back on the board – and if so, what was that like?
Pearce: Getting back on the board has been so much fun for me and it’s just so enjoyable. It’s really what I love so much, so to be able to do it again is so fun for me.
Crave: Do you miss competing?
Pearce: You know, it is a bummer to not be able to do that stuff anymore. It’s what I loved the most and what I had the most fun doing, so not getting to do that anymore is hard and it’s definitely tough but I’ve learned to deal with it and I’m making the most out of what I can do now.
Crave: Do you still follow the sport much – do you still watch?
Pearce: Yeah, I do. I do still stay involved. All my best friends are doing it, so I like to keep up to date and know what they’re doing and how they’re doing. That’s definitely something I got going on now.
Crave: Who are some of your favorites to watch?
Pearce: Definitely the FRENDS crew: Danny Davis, Jack Mitrani, Luke Mitrani and Scotty Lago. I know how much fun they’re having and how much they’re enjoying it, so watching them out there is super fun.
Crave: Looking ahead to Sochi, who do you have your eye on for the halfpipe and slopestyle events?
Pearce: Well, you know, I think Shaun [White] will definitely do the halfpipe. He’s so on his game right now and riding so well. I would expect to see Shaun and then there are a couple of guys who could take slope.
Ed Miller is a contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.
Photo Credit: Adam Moran