Stephen Pierce may not be a household name just yet, but he has certainly been making an impression on Tour. With two wins and numerous placings in the Contour Kicker contests, the 23-year-old has consistently put the pressure on crowd favorite Dean Smith. I got the chance to speak with Stephen about his move to Florida, his daily riding routine and his new-found love of mountain biking courtesy of Darin Shapiro.
WW: You’re originally from North Carolina. How is the wake scene there?
SP: Yeah, you know it's been cool growing up here. The scene is huge! Everyone here has tons of passion and just enjoys the time they get to spend on the water. There is so much talent and style here in NC. Riders like Adam Fields, Alex Hamrick and Sam Baker all came out of NC and have made a name for themselves in the sport, which is super inspiring.
WW: What made you decide to move to Orlando?
SP: Moving to Orlando was a huge step for me and probably one of the best decisions I've made in my career so far. I had basically hit a wall in North Carolina and was ready to take my riding to the next level and ride professionally.
WW: How did you end up living with Tony Carroll and how do you think that has affected your riding?
SP: I met Tony when I was riding Jr. Men and when I moved to Orlando it just worked out that he was buying a house on Clear Lake. Moving in with Tony pushed my riding to the next level. He had just finished in the top ten on tour and he was basically my mentor on how to get myself ready for my rookie season. Now I look at Tony as one of my best friends and can't wait to get back in the house to start progressing for 2015.
WW: How many times do you guys ride a day or what’s the routine?
SP: Tony and I ride a ton. We say we ride more than anyone in Orlando. I think Harley has us beat though (laughs). Usually we wake up and try to beat everyone else out on the lake. After that, Tony and I will either go out to Phil's and ride with him or head to the cable and ride some rails. We usually ride two to three sets a day when we can, so we have lots of water time!
WW: How does your body manage that?
SP: Uhhh, some days it likes me and some days not so much. I visit Dr. Abby Delgoffe quite a lot! My biggest focus this past off season was on my diet and cross training, which made a huge difference in how well my body held up to long days of shredding on the water.
WW: What are your goals in wakeboarding? Where would you like to take your riding?
SP: I sometimes think I have too many goals that I want to accomplish in wakeboarding. I think my biggest goal is to just grow the sport both in North Carolina and in the world. That is the main reason I enjoy teaching kids to ride. I get to see new people get up on the water every day and share my passion. As far as my riding, I have a few goals also. I would really like to get a few more wins under my belt and take my tricks bigger than I ever have before. As long as I'm having fun on my wakeboard, I am happy.
WW: You run your own wakeboarding school up in NC. How are things going with that?
SP: Yeah, like I said, I have my own wakeboard school on Lake Norman and it has really taken off. It's been really cool because pretty much all of my students compete and a few of the groms, Daniel Johnson and Jordan Wolfe, won some big titles. This past season I partnered with the local Nautique dealership, Race City Marine, so I got to ride in style on a G23 that I named The Red Dragon, haha. I'm super pumped for this upcoming summer and what it will bring for my students and the school.
WW: You’ve been quite a regular on the podium for the kicker events on tour this year. What’s your strategy when you’re edging into that thing?
SP: Winning two of the kicker events this season was huge for me. I have always enjoyed going big, so I was stoked when they asked me to compete at the first event of the season, Nautique Wake Games, which was my first pro win! Hitting the kicker goes super quick, so it's hard to have technique. When I hit it, I usually ask Travis to pull me in around 26-28 mph and I just focus on keeping the line tight and the handle close to my hips. Then I pretty much hold on for my life and enjoy the ride!
WW: What kind of training do you do off the water?
SP: Recently, I have been training at a gym called Champions Sports Performance where I train with a bunch of different athletes from many disciplines. I try and focus on core strength and balance training to better myself on the board. The trampoline has really come back as a part of my workout. Just keeping my air awareness up really helps when I'm back on the water. Mental training became a big part of my off-the-water routine. I read a book last winter called Mind Gym that taught me how important our mind is as an athlete. Having confidence in yourself and your performance makes a huge difference on the water.
WW: What other hobbies do you have outside of wakeboarding?
SP: Wakeboarding three times a day can really get to you and sometimes I get burnt out. In order to balance my riding out, I try hard to have other hobbies. Darin Shapiro got me into mountain biking in the last year, which is super fun and intense when you get on the tough trails. It’s challenging and, being a competitor, I am driven to get better or beat the person I am riding with (Darin is super hard to keep up with! haha). I also enjoy surfing both in the ocean and behind the boat. When the waves are good, I always put my wakeboard aside to go paddle out.
WW: Who would you like to thank?
SP: I would like to thank everyone that has supported me in my career so far, My family, God, Icy Wakes Surf Shop, Race City Marine, my coach, Justin McClure, Rip Curl, Spy and Performance Ski and Surf. I also want to send a huge thank you to everyone at Liquid Force for the awesome opportunity to join the global team and continue my passion for the sick products they create for us all to shred! Stoked for the future of my career in wakeboarding!