He Can’t Walk, But Surfer Helps Connect the Disabled With Waves at Jersey Shore
WILDWOOD CREST — While surfing in Malibu more than 20 years ago, Jesse Billauer broke his neck and instantly became a quadriplegic.
But that didn't stop him from getting back in the water, and today, Billauer continues to make sure people with disabilities don't miss out on the rush of riding waves.
They Will Surf Again, an event hosted by Billauer's organization Life Rolls On, will use the power of approximately 300 volunteers on Sunday to get dozens of disabled individuals into the Wildwood Crest ocean and onto an adapted surfboard so they can take a few waves into shore, free of charge.
Heavy-duty beach wheelchairs transport individuals from land to sea.
"They get 30 minutes in the water ... and there's a surf instructor on the back of the surfboard that helps out," said Billauer, who in 2015 became the world champion of adaptive surfing.
"The majority of people that come out have never surfed before, so we give them the opportunity of a lifetime," he added.
It took Billauer about three years to return to surfing after his vertebrae-shattering injury in 1996. The thrill provided a sense of hope and independence that he wanted to pass along to others who may feel trapped.
"Some people come super nervous and scared, but they start watching and as soon as they ride their first wave they just want to do it over and over and over," Billauer said.
The surfing event has visited Cape May County multiple times over the years. It's also offered a dream come true for individuals in California, Florida, New York, Texas and other states.