Monday, July 15, 2013
Snowboarder Kevin Pearce's new film airs on HBO
(Eds: With AP Photos.)
By PAT GRAHAM
AP Sports Writer
Kevin Pearce's newest endeavor has him back on a board, "ripping" and "shredding" as he tries out new tricks.
Once a star on a snowboard in the halfpipe, Pearce now surfs the waves outside his place in Carlsbad, Calif.
It's exhilarating. It's therapeutic. And most of all, surfing takes his mind off dropping into the halfpipe as he recovers from a traumatic brain injury he suffered during a horrific fall in a training run more than three years ago.
He knows his days of twisting and turning his way through the halfpipe are gone. He's fine with that, too, made peace with it even. He's picking up new hobbies, like surfing ("I can really rip," he said), golf ("I'm terrible, but I like it," he laughed), and traveling.
These days, he's making quite a few trips around the country showing off his new film "The Crash Reel," a documentary about his return from a life-altering accident on Dec. 31, 2009, in Park City, Utah, when he miscalculated a tricky maneuver and landed on his face. The movie focuses on his recovery from the brain injury and trying to move on with his new life.
"My brain has a ways to go, but gosh, I couldn't be any happier with how well things are going," said Pearce, whose film was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January and will be featured Monday night on HBO. "It's been 3½ years and I'm still healing. It's probably the most crazy experience ever, to still be working on getting better this far out."
Ever so steadily, Pearce said he's regaining his memory.
And with it, his independence. He now lives in his house by himself, the one he purchased before the accident and didn't remember after he returned. He does have roommates -- "It's a big house, with extra bedrooms," he said -- but he can fend for himself.
"I used to take that for granted," the 25-year-old Pearce said. "Now, I appreciate it and it means so much more to me.
"This is a life-long process and my brain will always continue to heal and I will always keep getting better. It happens really slowly, but it's cool to know that it is still happening."
There was a time when Pearce was one of the top snowboarders in the world, a serious challenger to Shaun White heading into the 2010 Vancouver Games. Less than two months before those Winter Olympics, Pearce was working on a new trick when he over-rotated and badly crashed. The film depicts his journey back to health, his family playing an integral role in his rehabilitation at Craig Hospital, a Denver facility that specializes in spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.
"What my family has done for me, not even what they've done, but how they continue to be there for me and support me is amazing," said Pearce, who, started a T-shirt line called "Love your brain" to raise money to support families who face challenges similar to the ones his family did. "It's incredible how they're still there for me."
Although his doctor has pretty much advised against it, Pearce still rides his snowboard. Nothing too radical, of course, more to meander down the mountain and enjoy the fresh powder.
"I don't have much more I need to do besides that," he said.
Surfing has become one of his new passions. He's getting pretty good at it, too.
"I can definitely shred the waves," he said.
The new movie starring Pearce was directed by Lucy Walker, who has an extensive background in documentary films. And even though the cameras have long since stopped rolling, she remains in touch with the Pearce family, which provided her with ample footage for this project.
"I have volunteered for adoption into the family!" Walker wrote in an email. "The film is an exciting, engrossing narrative film so it doesn't feel like an educational piece at all, but along the way it gives an accurate and honest and thorough account of what a sufferer and a family goes through with a severe traumatic brain injury."
So far, the film has received plenty of positive praise from friends, family and even critics.
"People are into it and super inspired," Pearce said. "It's all been good."
In a few months, Pearce plans on being in Sochi for the Winter Games. He wouldn't miss it, especially with some of his good buddies possibly making the U.S. squad. Pearce is part of a tight-knit group that calls themselves "Frends" -- they leave the "i" out because they believe snowboarding should be about group fun instead of individual accomplishments.
"It's going to be pretty wild being there," Pearce said. "I know how lucky I am -- how much worse this could've turned out. I'm thankful to be doing so well in life right now and just how good everything is."
On the Web: www.kevinpearce.com