Monday, August 31, 2009

Up-and-coming snowboarder talks about his dyslexia and his brother's Down syndrome

Erica Boeke's Q&A with snowboarding phenom, Kevin Pearce, in The Huffington Post:

EB: You split your time between living with your family in Vermont and your buddies in Carlsbad, California -- snowboarding and surfing. Which do you prefer?

KP: Snowboarding is my first love, but surfing is a great break. Carlsbad is a great getaway from snow and cold -- it's totally mellow. I was recently up in LA and wanted to kill myself ... I would say there were too many velvet ropes and parties for me. But I do love the west Coast, because it offers surfing and snowboarding.
EB: I know you started snowboarding in Mammoth, but what would you consider your home mountain?

KP: I don't really have one home mountain. I ski a lot in Colorado, Mammoth and Tahoe, but I love skiing all over the world: Japan, where there is an amazing amount of snow and powder; Norway; Switzerland; Austria; Colorado ... all over the world.

EB: Tell me about your family. You seem to be a very tight knit group. Your parents, your brothers ...
KP: My family is a huge part of my success. My parents had a very unique sense of raising us. Their motto was: "Do what you want, we trust you." I think this helped to shape me into the person I am. I'm the youngest of four -- two of my brothers and I have dyslexia, and my oldest brother David has Down Syndrome. The experience of dealing with these challenges with my brothers has taken me down a lot of different paths.

EB: Your dad is Simon Pearce, a renowned glassblower and designer. Tell me more about him ...
KP: My dad dropped out of high school and traveled around the world. He started creating pottery in Ireland and then opened a glassblowing shop there. A few years later, he moved to Vermont and opened a glass-blowing mill and a restaurant. It's cool. It's all hand made glass and pottery, plus everyday tableware.

EB INTERNAL MONOLOG: What other 21-year-old uses the phrase "everyday tableware"?

BACK TO KP: My oldest brother Andrew works there and David works there. It was a great place to grow up as a kid. We got to throw pots and make pots. Not many kids can say their dad's an artist, they can throw pottery and have a skateboard ramp in their barn!

EB: OK, please tell me more about this barn. What a cool place to grow up ...
KP: Yeah, it was. We had a barn in the back of our house and my parents turned it into a playhouse for all of us, with a skateboard ramp and everything. This is where we spent most of our time. Now, it's more of a snowboard museum, it's where we keep all of our trophies and posters. But I still hang out there with my brothers and our friends.

EB: You say "our" trophies. Isn't your brother David a well-regarded Special Olympian?
KP: Yep, David does it all: Bowling skiing, running ... He does great in all the sports. And he's so unhappy at second and third. He hates to lose ... just like me!

EB: How was it growing up with a brother with Down Syndrome?
KP: David's a very unique kid in that he's aware that he has down syndrome. So from a very young age, my parents put a twist my on it. We called it "Up Syndrome." It was their way of keeping it positive. Even when he was younger, if someone said "Down Syndrome," David would immediately correct you ... "Nope, Up Syndrome." Growing up with David has taught me patience. I can travel and see the world, and then spend time with David -- and it's so real. I can see how life is so difficult for him, but also see how he can have so much fun and give so much to people.

EB: Tell me about your group of friends, or should I say, "Frends" because there's no "I" in "Frends" ...
KP: This is a group that came about really naturally and organically. My friends and I all had obligations to all of our sponsors, but we wanted something to bring us together in a team forum. Snowboarding is such an individual sport, this is the great way to add our support together - and have each other's backs. Now our group has gained recognition ... We want to show people that we're a tight knit group of friends and expand on it and show how cool it can be. That no matter how big you get, you still have your friends. There's even a TV show in the works, where they'll show our lifestyle and how lucky we are to do what we do on the road to Vancouver.

EB: So speaking of which, how excited are you to try to qualify for the Olympics?
KP: So excited. I'm trying to qualify for the Men's Halfpipe. The last time it came around I wasn't in the running for it. Now I really have a great chance. I'm putting as much energy I can to making the most out of it. It's a great opportunity for me. I'm really hoping that it works out.

EB: You are known for exhibiting great patience and your nickname is "Marathon Man." How do you think this will serve you as you look towards Vancouver?
KP: Patience is huge for me -- and it will be huge going into this year. I'm going to do my best to be patient with everything, take things one step at a time, and give it my all when I get the chance.

EB: So what do you think of Shaun White?
KP: I've known Shaun for a long time -- I'm going to the US Open with him. He has always been there at the top of the sport, and I've been there learning from him and riding with him. He has really done amazing things for the sport. I really hope, though, that we can all become the face of snowboarding. In our crew of "Frends," it's not just one or two, it's all of us. At any of these contests, any of us could win. We've had some really good training sessions, we have some new tricks coming up.

EB: Anything you can tell us about?
KP: There will be some cool new stuff, but we're trying to keep things quiet for now.

EB: Fine, Kevin. This interview is over. No really, it is over. I don't have any more questions.
KP: Cool.

As you know, I typically reach out to the Twittosphere if they have any questions for these athletes. Visit for the full Kevin Pearce interview, and check back this fall for our upcoming interview with Kevin on the podcast series GameOn. You can also follow Kevin Pearce on twitter at: