"Snowboarding to me is not all about competitions, and it never was. There's this whole other part of snowboarding that is more about ... cruising around and having fun, and that's really where I plan on taking my snowboarding next." Pearce
Anyone expecting Kevin Pearce's first runs back on a snowboard to be tentative got left in his snow dust Tuesday at Breckenridge after he strapped in and went racing down the mountain, leaving fans and film crews to play catchup. Nearly two years after the traumatic brain injurythat sidelined one of the world's best halfpipe snowboarders, keeping him out of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Pearce is officially back in action.
"It felt pretty crazy, and it's amazing to know that it was all still in there," Pearce said, tapping the side of his head after burning through several runs with a small army of his fans and supporters. "I lost a lot of things up in this brain of mine, but it's good to know I still have the snowboarding. It would have been hard if I had gotten out there and couldn't even turn down the hill. I can't even begin to imagine how I would have felt, but it's all still there."
Just to be safe, Pearce started his day with a few morning warm-up runs at Vail with a much smaller group including his brother Adam, longtime sponsor and mentor Jake Burton, and the Frends crew (Danny Davis, Jack and Luke Mitrani, Mason Aguirre and Scotty Lago; motto: "There is no 'I' in Frends") that has stood by him through it all.
"This morning was cool because it was the crew that has gotten me here," Pearce said. "Along with all the work that I've done, it's been them. It's unexplainable to even try to say the amount that they've done for me."
Pearce reserved special thanks for his brother, who went with him to his physical therapy appointments every day, eight hours a day, for three and a half months as he began his rehabilitation; and for Burton, who custom-made a kid-sized board for him when he was just getting started and has stood behind him ever since. "Jake's just been such a big idol of mine for my entire life, and to have him up there with me this morning was really special," Pearce said.
Still, Pearce said his much-hyped afternoon ride at Breckenridge, where the Winter Dew Tour's Nike Open starts Thursday, was even more important to him. The "I Ride 4 Kevin" stickers that became iconic around snowboarding events in the days, weeks, months and years after Pearce's injury were replaced Tuesday by "Ride with Kevin" stickers, and some of his biggest supporters were among the posse of friends, Frends and fans following him on the mountain.
"Some of the people that I was most happy to be with were the team managers and the people I've worked with as my sponsors -- Burton, Volcom, Nike, Oakley, Amp Energy, Frends -- all these companies that have stuck there so close behind me this entire time and had my back, and not just bailed out because I wasn't able to snowboard," Pearce said. Even the simple act of putting his sponsors' stickers on his new board had him feeling stoked, he said.
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