The following interview is one in a series of discussions had with snowboarders who have transcended the traditional boundaries of sport and come to represent something ... more. In trying to define the somewhat indefinable spirit of snowboarding, to put words to the feeling that propels us at the deepest level, we sat 10 riders down and asked them this question: Why do you snowboard? This is one response.
From a young age Kevin Pearce was passionate, excitable, and often very gifted at whatever he put his attention towards. Though dyslexia made school a challenge, a liberal upbringing by his ultra-supportive parents and older brothers in rural Vermont gave Pearce the freedom to pursue what felt right, instead what was expected of him. In snowboarding he found the perfect avenue for his creativity.
Guided by passion and intuition, he moved through snowboarding's ranks until he became one of the world's best halfpipe competitors.
"Being successful at snowboarding gave me this feeling and this confidence that I had never felt before," says the now 24 year-old Pearce. "I couldn't help but follow that feeling ... because I knew it was right."
As Pearce buckled in at the top of Park City's superpipe on the last day of 2009, how could he have known that, in trying to perfect a newly-learned double cork 1260, his world would change forever? He was just doing what he loved, what he did every day -- what was right.
It would be two years before he strapped in again.
After my injury happened a whole new perspective emerged. I now realize how lucky I truly am. I was on this road to go to the Olympics and do all of these crazy, amazing things, and to have that all taken away in a heartbeat has given me a new outlook on life.
This recovery has taken so long and I have had to work so hard at it, but you know, it's no different than any other obstacle I have had to overcome. That's just the kind of kid I am. I will meet the challenge the best I can.
It's really hard to understand how amazing the life of a snowboarder is and how lucky we are to have this thing until you are forced to look at it. In my case, I lost it all for a minute, so I had no choice but to face my life. I have seen it from the outside and now I get to appreciate it on a different level. Snowboarding is so amazing!
I don't blame all the pro snowboarders and my homies who live this lifestyle and don't fully get it. It's just they have no way of really knowing what it is they have. I had no idea what I had! I thought I did, but you can't capture the feeling of how special it is until you look at it through different eyes.
I am traumatically brain injured! There's no way around that. I am going to be brain injured for the rest of my life. I have come to terms with it. This was very hard to do, but there is really no other option but to accept it and know that this is what my life is going to be and that I have to deal with it.
I'm not going to lie. When I talk about snowboarding and my life, at times it is very hard. I put so much into it, to get where I was... and to think about where I could be right now?! Sometimes it brings me to a place of wondering 'what if'? So it's a constant challenge to live with this. I have to constantly remind myself that there is no point of wondering those things because they didn't happen and they will never happen. So why go there?
I feel like the next step will find me, just like snowboarding did. These things come natural. I never set out to be a pro snowboarder -- that found me. I started out small and kept on the path that kept me happy and it worked out. I know that I will always be a snowboarder. To what extent I don't know, but this is who I am. I'm not going to try and hold on to something that isn't there, but for me snowboarding is always there.
The most important piece of advice I have for someone who loves snowboarding is to put everything into it, everything you have. Give it all you've got. That way, regardless the outcome, you know you did your best and there is no argument against that!