Born and raised in the eastern United States, Kevin Pearce was entering snowboard contests before he’d reached double figures. He was the recipient of Burton’s first kid-specific board, after asking Jake Burton point-blank to make him one. Unfortunately, a tragic accident meant bowing out of professional snowboarding just as he’d reached the top.
Of the Frends crew, which also featured fellow pipe riders Mason Aguirre, Scotty Lago, Danny Davis and Jack Mitrani, Kevin was soon the most successful by far. He took back-to-back victories at the Arctic Challenge, as well as two silvers and a bronze at the 2008 X-Games. That same year he was crowned TTR World Champion, although that title was eventually handed to Shaun White on a technicality. Undeterred, KP continued to clean up at Big Air events, and was seen as the primary challenger to Shaun’s dominant streak in the halfpipe.
In December 2009, less than two months before the Winter Olympics, Kevin was in Park City, Utah when he crashed hard onto his face in the halfpipe. He suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and was in intensive care for almost a month. It wasn’t until the following June that he was able to leave hospital, by which point ‘I Ride For Kevin’ stickers had become a mainstay on snowboards and helmets across the world.
After almost two years of rehabilitation, KP returned to snowboarding in December 2011, but the extent of his injury meant that he would no longer be able to compete at the highest level. He now focuses on his LoveYourBrain initiative, which aims to highlight the difficulties faced by those with TBIs and reduce the risk of further cases.
His story was the subject of The Crash Reel, a powerful documentary from Oscar nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker, in 2013.