>>Sam Masekela: Tell me about that guy in
2009 that was on top of the world snowboarding. You had just beaten Shaun White on the road
to the Olympics. Tell me about that guy on the top of the world.
>>Kevin Pearce: So I’ve obviously been thinking a lot about this and I thought how am I going
to start this? I need something impactful. I need something powerful that these people
will listen to and maybe they’ll get off their phones and be like, okay, let’s hear what
this kid has to say. So I was like, all right, I got this. It came to me, and here it is.
I was like very, very few people in this world know what it’s like to be at the very top
of something, and that’s where I was. I mean, I made it to the top. I had beaten Shaun White,
like you said. I was one of the best snowboarders in the world. And then I was like, yes, that’s
perfect. I nailed it. That’s what I’m going to give it to them. And last night I did the
dinner with you guys, and then I heard everyone today, and it’s like the most amazing group
of people. And I was like, wow, terrific. These people are all the top at what they
do and the best at what they do. So now it’s not really going to work for me. So I was
like got to think of something new. And then it came to me. I was like I made
it to the top. And, you know, you guys in this room all understand what it takes to
get to the top of something, but I think what you guys don’t really exactly — you know,
haven’t all experienced is, you know, what it’s like to go from there and then get to
the very bottom in the blink of an eye. And, you know, that’s what I felt. That’s what
happened to me.>>Sam Masekela: You were basically tuning
up for the 2010 Olympics. It was being hyped up, this amazing battle between you and Shaun.
You were the first person to really show that he actually had an armor that could be penetrated.
And the whole snowboarding world was like, yes! Kevin! Finally, someone can take the
crown from the flying tomato. And then, like you said, (snaps finger) in
the blink of an eye, everything changes. I want to know two things. One, what was your
last memory of snowboarding before the injury?>>Kevin Pearce: Yeah, you know, it’s crazy,
because there’s so much loss there that I just don’t remember. And, you know, the last
memory was the day before, and the next memory was when I got back on my snowboard two years
later.>>Sam Masekela: That’s the span of memories
in two years.>>Kevin Pearce: Yep, of snowboarding.
>>Sam Masekela: That’s crazy. When that injury happened and you got hurt,
it reverberated throughout the entire snowboard community at first, and I was hosting the
X Games right after you got hurt and everyone had stickers on their snowboards. Every competitor,
every guy that this guy had beat or competed against, every athlete from every different
support, everyone had a sticker on their helmet, on their boards that said “I ride for Kevin.”
And there was this uncertainty as to what was going to happen to you because a lot of
people wondered is he even going to make it. But then you start to pull through, and you
go through this am missing transformation. Your first memory, you said, is getting back
on your snowboard. Do you remember, is there anything at all that sort of leads up to that?
>>Kevin Pearce: Yeah, well, the very first memory was a month and a half after. I was
in — I got flown to the University of Utah where I spent 27 days in critical care, and
then two weeks in acute care. And, you know, when they flew me from there to the rehab
hospital a month and a half later, I was in the airplane and I was, like, — they were
like, oh, we’re going to fly you and I was like yes, I’m going to get in this nice jet
and they’re going to take me over to this rehab hospital. It ended up being this loud-ass
propeller plane, and I just remember this loud plane. I was like what am I doing in
here? And it was just such an awful experience, so I think that’s why I remember it.
[ Laughter ]>>Sam Masekela: The Crash Reel, obviously
big movie. HBO, get nominated for an Oscar. Give you a little something for that. Nothing
wrong with being nominated for an Oscar. How did the movie come about? How did you
end up with Lucy Walker? And how did this story go from something that was just a story
from within snowboarding and action sports to the world?
>>Kevin Pearce: Yeah, you know, that was incredible that, you know, this film — and you know
it’s incredible that you guys all got a copy of it because it was so amazing to meet Lucy
and have this done because, you know, then I had the ability to share this with the world,
whereas, you know, I would hope that nobody in this room would know what I look like — you
want to go to that next slide — what I look like — that I looked like that, and that
that happened to me. And then having this story being able to be shared has been so
powerful, and there’s so much to it. And, you know, having this family and having this
support and having this love that has gotten me here has just been the most amazing thing
ever.>>Sam Masekela: How important was it for you
to have the type of family that you did? Your family from snowboarding, but then the real
power of your immediate family in this process to really heal and get to the place where
you are now?>>Kevin Pearce: You know, they’re the reason
that I’m here, and, you know, I’m sitting in this chair and doing as well as I am, is
because of the amount of love and, you know, the amount of help. And it all — you know,
it all starts with, you know, my mom, this is the —
>>Sam Masekela: This is you recovering right here.
>>Kevin Pearce: Yeah, you want to go to that next one.
That is — this is my first day back. And, you know, I got back on my board because my
mom and dad were, like, Kevin, we’re not going to come to the hospital if you don’t have
a helmet on. And I listened to my parents and I was damn lucky that day I listened to
them because they said I wouldn’t have made it without a helmet on. And, you know, it
all started there and, you know, them spending the entire time in the hospital and the rehab
hospital and just — I mean, that’s what’s shown best about this movie is what they did
for me.>>Sam Masekela: One of the biggest arguments
in that movie was when you sit there at dinner and you say to your family, after everything
they’ve been through with you in the hospital, “Hey, guys, I want to snowboard again. I’m
going to snowboard again.” And then all hell breaks loose.
>>Kevin Pearce: They just wanted to kill me. Especially my brother Dave, who has Down’s
Syndrome. He was like, “you cannot do double corks. You cannot do that.”
>>Sam Masekela: I guess the question for everyone is why? What is it about snowboarding? What
connects you to snowboarding in a way that you felt you’d be willing to put it all at
risk again, now with all the serious issues that you came away from with your injury,
why still snowboard?>>Kevin Pearce: Yeah, you know, I feel like
a lot of this room understands that feeling you get when, you know, you get really good
at something and, you know, you are really, really good. And that’s where I was at snowboarding.
And it did something special for me that, you know, it’s hard to explain that feeling
you get when you get to that level. But I was there, and it was just I had that freedom.
And I had — I had it. And it was, like, I don’t know, it’s hard to explain, but — and
then I lost it, and I wanted it back.>>Sam Masekela: And what was this day like?
>>Kevin Pearce: That was special to get back to it. And, you know, it was in a much different
way now that I snowboard, but having the ability to actually get back and do that again and
to feel that and to feel that freedom has been amazing.
>>Sam Masekela: I’m sitting here with you. I’ve known you for almost ten years now, and
I’m having a back-and-forth conversation where anyone can see it’s a miracle that you came
back from the type of injury that you sustained. But what are the challenges that you have
to face every day that you deal with that we don’t see in your everyday life that remind
you everyday when you wake up that you’ve suffered a brain injury that will affect the
rest of your life?>>Kevin Pearce: Yeah, you know, that’s a hard
one. And that’s the hardest part about this, is because it’s, you know, so invisible and
you can’t tell. And yet every single day, without a question, no — I don’t even have
to think about it. For four and a half years I have been reminded of what happened to me
on December 31st. Is there something that happens? Every single
day that comes up. And it can always be different. And, you know, I’m starting to find ways to
— to not get rid of it because it’s never going to go away because my brain’s always
going to be injured, but finding ways to heal it and to continue to get it better and, you
know, to take the positives out of this instead of feeling bad for myself.
>>Sam Masekela: So one of the things that you — some of the things that you have to
do just to sort of — just to keep things every day, like with your memory and what
have you.>>Kevin Pearce: Yeah, you know, they’re interesting
things like exercise. You know, getting out there and going for runs. And a big one’s
been yoga for me and getting — getting in that yoga room. Got up this morning and did
that yoga class. And doing these little things that, you know, I find so releasing and, you
know, so healing for me.>>Sam Masekela: Which leads us to that super
cool hippy shirt you’re wearing, “Love Your Brain,” which has been really the lasting
message to come out of all this. You have been this big advocate for Love Your Brain.
What is Love Your Brain?>>Kevin Pearce: Yeah, you know, loving your
brain is more than just, you know, what you see when this comes up. Love Your Brain and
you see it and you’re like, all right, love your brain, and you see it an you’re like,
all right, love your brain, cool. But it’s so important for somebody that injures their
brain to love your brain. I tell you, I’m reminded every day. I do such stupid things.
And instead of — now I’ve learned this. Instead of getting down on myself and calling myself
an idiot, oh you’re so an stupid for knocking that water over, that is so damaging for your
brain. It’s so bad for you, these negative thoughts. It’s obviously not physically bad,
but in there it’s like not allowing these wires to reheal and reconnect. And it’s like
learning that has helped me heal in such a huge way.
And then if you haven’t injured your brain, you know, maybe if you’re like my brother
who has Down’s Syndrome or if you’re just a regular person out there, maybe taking life
a little bit less seriously, and when you do something stupid to just kind of, you know,
look past that and understand that it’s not life ending.
>>Sal Masekela: We had a conversation about a year ago after we went snowboarding together,
one of the first times after you had been back. And you said to me, “I really want to
figure out what to do with my life now because all I know how to do is to be a professional
athlete. I was the best in the world. I need to figure out what to do.”
But now you’ve become this very, very powerful voice. Tell me some of the things that you’re
doing and what “Love Your Brain” is becoming as far as your public speaking, et cetera,
and what the message is that you are trying to get across.
>>Kevin Pearce: Yeah, you know, I think one of the most important messages that we can
do with this is, you know, get it out to the kids and teach these kids. You know, I’m guessing
I’ve talked to some of you, not all of you, but I’m guessing that from the look of this
room, most of you guys have kids. And, you know —
>>Sal Masekela: Translation: You’re a little bit old.
[ Laughter ]>>Kevin Pearce: I don’t. I don’t have a girlfriend
yet, so I haven’t found any kids. But from what I hear, you guys all love your
kids, and all you want is for your kids to be safe. And in order for your kids to be
safe, you know, the most important thing they can do is love their brain and take care of
their brain. And, you know, it is such small things: Put
a helmet on when you get on a bike. Not texting in the car. Not talking to people in the car.
These little things that you can teach your kids that you know is so important.
>>Sal Masekela: One of the interesting numbers that we see here is — we probably take for
granted how often these type of injuries happen to people. We were talking earlier, you mentioned
every 23 seconds there’s a traumatic brain injury. The numbers here that we see 0 to
19 — kids up to 19 years of age, 173,000 cases a year. What are some of the things
that you think we can do as a culture to help minimize that? And we can just speak specifically
starting with a place like action sports.>>Kevin Pearce: Yeah, you know, my message
here is not — is — I don’t want people to see this and be like, “Oh, I shouldn’t go
snowboard” or “I shouldn’t go out and do this.” It is like I want people to get out there,
and I want you to live, and I want you to have as much fun as possible.
But I feel like the real message with this is to be smart and to be safe. And you can
get out there and you can do these things, but you can do it in the right way. You can
put a helmet on. You know, you can not get on your phone when you’re in the car. And
there’s so many ways that you can do this and just be smart about it.
>>Sal Masekela: I think that you making the choice to decide to become a real voice for
this injury and really giving other people the opportunity, you had two big families.
You had this big family of pro snowboarding and then your amazing family that were all
able to stop what they were doing to help you heal. But there are a lot of kids out
there and a lot of people who are having these type of injuries who don’t have the same type
of a network. Is that what you want to do with “Love Your
Brain,” is to help give those people the same sort of opportunity to heal?
>>Kevin Pearce: That’s a huge piece of this, to get out there and to help these people
that, you know, don’t have what I have. When you watch this movie, you will see I had everything.
I have the most amazing family ever. Little example, my brother is here. He is getting
married in four days, but he’s here with me helping me do what I can do. And it is just
kind of — not everybody has that. And it is, you know — we all know that not everyone
has amazing families. I feel like there is a lot of amazing families
in this room, and we are very lucky for that. But it is like helping these kids that don’t
is very powerful.>>Sal Masekela: This is a room of very powerful
people. And if you have not had the chance yet to have a conversation with this amazing
human being named Kevin Pearce, I highly suggest you do so and figure out ways that you can
get involved so that we can make this thing like simple brain injury something that can
go away and, like you said, just make the simple idea of putting on a helmet something
that’s cool for kids. Kevin, you are a miracle. I’m happy to call
you a friend. And thank you for taking the time to share your story today.
[ Applause ]