Snowboarder Back from the Dead

RAINbow (WaikenaeKaiti)

Snowboarder Back from the Dead

By Scott Kara @scottkara

5:30 AM Saturday Jul 20, 2013


Snowboarder Kevin Pearce with brother David at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Photo / AP

It could have been a scene from a movie. A thrill-seeking pro snowboarder suffers a traumatic brain injury. After emerging from a month-long coma, he is still a man of empty-eyed stares managing only the faintest of hand movements. He finally becomes responsive after hearing his favourite song … and heads on a path to recovery.

No, that particular scene isn’t in The Crash Reel, a film about the life of former champion American snowboarder Kevin Pearce, but it did happen.

His older brother, Adam, played Neil Young’s The Believer to him in hospital. Kevin started mouthing the words to the song.

That was more than three years ago – and he’s still recovering, but more than anything, he misses snowboarding.

“It’s crazy how much I miss it. I do. It’s hard not to be able to do it anymore. It sucks, to be straight up with you,” says Pearce on the phone from his home in Vermont, before coming to New Zealand this week for a screening of The Crash Reel at the Auckland Film Festival.

He’s been to New Zealand many times before, such as the time he won the NZ Open in 2006.

The film documents Pearce’s story, from his freakish early promise as a snowboarder and his rise to the top, his accident and rehabilitation, and his pigheaded determination to get back on his board, despite warnings another head injury could kill him.

On December 31, 2009, during a training run, the then 23-year-old landed face-first (yes, he was wearing a helmet) on the heavily compacted snow of a half-pipe in Park City, Utah. At the time he was one of America’s top snowboarders, almost certain to make the US team for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and a potential gold medal winner. For the record, when Kevin was only just out of his coma, his main rival, Shaun White – the rock star of snowboarding, although there was not much love lost between the two when Kevin started beating him – won gold in the half pipe at Vancouver.

“Snowboarding was my lifeblood,” he says. “That was what I was putting all my effort, time and energy into and not having that means my life has changed in such an enormous way.

“It’s wild to have such a major accident happen to you at such a young age, but then be able to come back and have a full recovery.

“At the same time though, it’s not like I’m totally back, but it is like I’m totally back.”

Basically, what he’s saying is, he’s bloody thankful to be alive. Last year, Canadian Olympic skier Sarah Burke wasn’t so lucky.

After being in a coma for nine days she died from injuries sustained in a training accident, and The Crash Reel features many other athletes with brain injuries who haven’t recovered as well as Kevin.

The film is a moving and action-packed documentary told by British director Lucy Walker with a mix of chilling realism (there are many bone-crunching crashes) and a carefree tone, which is fitting given the casual nature of Kevin and his other snowboarding mates.

Walker, whose 2010 documentary, Waste Land, about Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, was nominated for an Academy Award, pieces together everything from hilarious Pearce family footage of Kevin’s early daredevil heroics (like jumping off roofs on to trampolines), to the many clips of him from competitions around the world, and the drunken shenanigans he and his mates got up to on their travels.

The film is also a touching tribute to his family – mum and dad, Pia and Simon, and his brothers, Andrew, Adam and David (who has Down’s syndrome) – without whom he may never have made such a recovery.

“Oh God, dude, tell me about it. That’s what was so cool about this film is that it shows what I went through, but also what they had to do to help me make it through it. They’re amazing people and it’s so amazing to be able to share what they have done for me.”

Not that Kevin was an easy patient. He had such a “connection” – or perhaps addiction – to snowboarding that he was determined to do it again despite warnings from his doctors and the tearful pleas of his family.

And he did snowboard again, albeit gingerly and briefly. Still, even though he was clearly not up to it, he loved being on the slopes.

“It’s brutal because I feel like I can do it, and I feel like I should be able to do it but then there’s this part of me that knows it’s not possible.”

By Scott Kara @scottkara EmailScott

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About craig lock

ABOUT c the Author Craig has a 'passion' for writing books that tell stories about people doing positive things in this often so hard, sometimes unkind world, occasionally cruel, yet always amazing world - true stories that leave the reader feeling uplifted, empowered and hopefully even inspired. and from and Craig Lock loves to encourage and empower people to be the best they can possibly be, and to create what they want in life. Craig has learnt plenty from the "school of life" (still "battered and bruised") and also from a few "hard knocks on the head". He is an extensive world traveller (on a "shoestring budget") and failed professional emigrater who has spent most of his lifes savings on airfares. He is still sliding down the razor blade of life on the beautiful undiscovered island that is New Zealand, somewhere near the bottom (rude!) of the world near Antarctica. There he talks to the 60 million sheep! Craig has been involved in the corporate world (life assurance) for over twenty years in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. However, through a strange set of circumstances and finding himself in a small town near the bottom of the world ...and with nothing else to do, he started writing. That was five years ago. Five published books later and having written another twenty manuscripts (on widely differing subjects - well what else is there to do here?)... this is where Craig is in the "journey/adventure" that is life. Craig has taught at the local Polytechnic, as well as running a successful creative writing course (not teaching sheep!). He was the author of (as far as we know) the first creative writing course on the internet Craig has many varied interests and passions. He is particularly interested in the field of psychology – studying the human mind and what makes different people "tick-tock grandfather clock". He is fascinated by the "overlap between psychology and the dimension of spirituality". One of his missions in life is helping people make the most of their hidden potential and so finding their niche in life... so that they are happy. Craig’s various books probably tell more about his rather "eventful" life best (no one could believe it!). He writes books with serious messages and themes, then as a contrast "rather crazy, wacky stuff"…to keep him sane here. As an ‘anonymouse’ person wrote: "All of us are born mad; some of us remain so." Well nothing else much happens in quiet provincial New Zealand, other than headlines like "Golf Ball Thrown at Policeman" (it missed, btw!) and "Beach Toilet Closed for Season." True! The various books* that Craig “felt inspired to write” are available at ebooks (digital books) Paperbacks (see and"craig+lock"&sitesearch_type=STORE and All proceeds go to needy and underprivileged children – MINE! “When the writer is no more , the value of your purchase will soar! “ “Together, one mind, one life (one small step at a time), let’s see how many people (and lives) we can encourage, impact, empower, enrich, uplift and perhaps even inspire to reach their fullest potentials…and strive for and perhaps one sunny day even achieve their wildest dreams.” PPS Don’t worry about the world ending today… as it’s already tomorrow in scenic and tranquil ‘little’ New Zealand
This entry was posted in brain injury, brain injury survivors, closed head injury, inspirational stories, stories of courage and hope, survivors, TBI, traumatic brain injury, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Snowboarder Back from the Dead

  1. “There is excellent medical care immediately post-trauma. However, there is little follow-up after the initial trauma. Every day I have to come to terms with my brain injury, to learn. I don’t handle interruptions. It’s like being in a movie. Each person with a brain injury is different…and is affected in different ways. I do one thing at a time – break into little tasks. I really live in the present. No-one ever explained to me how to cope, how to deal with everyday living. I had to learn strategies for myself.


  2. Hello there! I know this is kinda off topic but I
    was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form?
    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having
    trouble finding one? Thanks a lot!


  3. Thanks for finally writing about >Snowboarder Back from the Dead | Sharing some Information and Thoughts on Head and Brain Injury <Liked it!


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