North Carolina has a very short Autumn window. The weather seems to go right from a barley tolerable humidity to a mix of cold and rainy misery. The fall months are very nice and mild, though only for a short period of time before the dreariness moves in. Brothers Stephen and Ben Pierce have been making due with the weather year in and year out on Lake Norman outside of Huntersville, NC for quite some time. Both brothers are coming off a dual podium appearance at Lake Norman’s Wake the Lake competition hosted by Atlas Wake Series and Icy Waves Surf Shop. Ben took second in wakeskate and Stephen took first in Men’s Open, his 3rd victory of the year and first win at his home spot. With only one more stop to go at Wilmington’s Riverfest, I wouldn’t doubt that both boys will put together a run that will far outdo anything they’ve brought to the table so far including a recent phenomenal showing at Smith Mountain Lake’s Battle of Bull Run.
I made the drive across the state to visit with the Pierce’s at their lakeside home last weekend to see what Stephen and Ben had been up to. At the small hours of the morning, I made my way down the Pierce’s dock to their bright green Wakesetter. I’m not sure if it was the effects of a small caffeine overdose or the excitement of missing morning classes, but both boys were waiting and anxious to rip up the Norman glassiness. First on the water, still stuffing his face with doughnuts, Stephen decided to show us why he is considered one of North Carolina’s fastest progressing young riders. A true perfectionist, Stephen spent some time making his switch heel 7′s look godly, and executing what very well might have the most tweaked Batwing I have ever seen. After a formidable display of wakeboarding, Ben refused to let his brother outdo him as he showed us why he thinks different is better, if different means ‘awesome at wakeskating.’ Ben is a fast progressing wakeskater, rapidly adding and improving on some pretty tech tricks. With shear comfort and style Ben left few stones unturned in the wake of boat and ski alike. From varials to a 360 shuvs, it seems there isn’t a kick trick this kid can’t land.
After a solid morning session we hauled back to the house for a lesson in boat docking, some amazing chicken salad hospitality and a quick pep-talk from mom; then back on the quiet weekday water for more great riding. Stephen and Ben have made a great niche for themselves on Lake Norman, steadily progressing their abilities in their respective areas of their trade. After a few near death tube experiences we called it a day. Ben headed off to soccer practice and Stephen prettied himself up for school pictures. It’s always impressive when two athletes from the same family can progress together in a sport, it shows a strong family structure. It is truly evident that behind most great riders are amazingly supportive parents, and in this case siblings alike. The brothers are each other’s boat drivers and coaches, helping and encouraging when it is needed most. Spending the day with these kids illustrated the strength fraternal support provides, a bond no doubt instilled by great parenting. There seem to be so many cases like this in professional sports, some of the most notable cases not to far from home. A healthy competitiveness allows each to progress in his own area. In the case of the Pierce brothers you have two paradoxical areas of wakesports, both requiring equally tenacious attention to be successful. However, one does not necessarily threaten the other. Arguably, the lack of direct impact may hinder effective suppor, not so here, when Ben needs a little push Stephen helpfully shouts from the boat “just put bindings on that thing!”…bindings might have prevented the onslaught of kick flips that soon followed.
Thanks to Stephen and Ben, more than just NASCAR drivers will be coming out of Lake Norman. With the support of Icy Wave’s Surf Shop, a great family network and most importantly each other, Stephen and Ben Pierce will encounter nothing but success in their path through the world of wake. Be sure to check these guys and other great Mid-Atlantic riders at Wilmington’s Riverfest hosted by the Atlas Wake Series on October 3rd.– Jason Hudson