Get well Kevin Pearce, a true champion of friends and fun

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on January 5, 2010 5:03 pm

Kevin Pearce was injured and is in critical condition.

Those nine words rocked the entire snowboarding community.  The native Vermonter is one of the top snowboarders in the world.  He’s a two-time winner of The Arctic Challenge, a TTR World Tour Champion, and a two-time Winter X Games silver medalist.  Even with all those incredible accomplishments, Kevin Pearce is so much more.

Pearce grew up in Norwich, a single-stoplight town just 95 miles from the Jerusalem of Snowboarding — Burlington, Vermont.  It may have been a small town, but Pearce was surrounded by big dreamers.  His uncles starred in one of the first ever snowboarding movies and Mr. Jake Burton was a family friend.  

Kevin Pearce no doubt had an elevated perspective from which to watch the explosion of snowboarding on to the front pages of popular culture.  And he rode that wave to fame and glory, but he never lost contact with what makes snowboarding truly special.  It’s not the trophies and sponsorships, but the friends and fun.

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Fun.  Spend time with Kevin Pearce and you’ll hear him use that word more than any other when describing his views on snowboarding.  Have fun with it.  It’s about having fun.  Fun was the initial draw for a 5-year-old Pierce discovering snowboarding.  And today, through the grind and elevated importance of contests, Kevin Pearce continues to try his darnedest to have fun with it.  

So while the soul of snowboarding lies in a Park City hospital with an uncertain future, the hearts of a community have rallied behind Kevin Pearce.  A Facebook page, Well Wishes to our Frend Kevin Pearce, has been flooded with 16,000 well-wishers.  Simon and Pia, Pearce’s parents, said on Sunday night, “We have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support from Kevin’s friends, family, and fans from every corner of the world.”

The outpouring of love is not simply about how he rode, but it’s more about why he rode.

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Friends.  Or in this case, Frends, with no ‘i’.  It’s a collective of top snowboarders setting an example of how to approach the highly competitive nature of televised snowboarding.  The “Frends Crew” is made up of Pearce, Mason Aguirre, Danny Davis, Scotty Lago, Keir Dillion, Jack Mitrani, and Luke Mitrani.  Pearce summed up the motto to Stack.com, “Have fun no matter how serious it gets, whether you’re at the top of the X Games or just cruising around.”

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All this proselytizing for fun and friends would not have the weight it has without the results to stand on.  Pearce’s statement competition was the 2008 Burton European Open in Laax, Switzerland.  Shaun White has dominated snowboarding on a Michael Jordan level.  But with back-to-back wins against White at the BEO (Pearce won again in 2009), Kevin Pearce served notice that halfpipe snowboarding was not just about a boy from Carlsbad.

There’s a visible, shared respect between Pearce and White at the top of the halfpipe during competitions.  The two rivals even teamed up for a video segment in Mack Dawg’s Picture This (video above).

Still, however, as Shaun White has become an industry unto himself, and it’s easy to see Kevin Pearce as an ideological alternative to Shaun White.  Jake Burton set the example on how to remain core through the success, and Kevin Pearce has followed that model set by his family friend.

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What scares you?

Getting injured is what scares me the most. But you kind of just have to deal with; it just comes with the sport. I just try not to live in too much fear. I try not to think about my fears too much, because if you worry about them, things will just turn out bad.
– Kevin Pearce to Transworld Snowboarding in January of 2008

The progression in snowboarding has been so rapid that, if this were the political realm, it would be decried as socialist.  The athletes are launching to unthinkable heights in combination with tricks that keep getting more technical.  

Just a month ago, the Frends Crew posted a video of Pearce attempting a double Mctwist, and falling on his face “in a very elegant manner.”  Even thought it was not the same trick that landed Pearce in the hospital, one look at the video makes clear just how dangerous halfpipe snowboarding has become.  The fall at Copper Mountain ended with some good-natured online ribbing from friends, but it could have very easily turned out differently.

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Sadly for us, Kevin Pearce will not be displaying his incredible style, creativity, and athletic brilliance in Vancouver.  Pearce, however, never identified his worth as a snowboarder through medals.  

Come February, regardless of who stands atop the podium in gold medal glory, it’s Kevin Pearce who will be the true champion.  He never lost sight of the real prize, the true gifts of snowboarding: friends and fun.  Those gifts were his yesterday, they’re his today, and he’ll still have them when he walks out of the University of Utah hospital.

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photo: Kevin Pearce with family and friends at the US Open of Snowboarding

Zeke Piestrup ( More Posts)

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