Life rolls on


    A local youth continues to live life to the fullest, despite an injury that left him without the use of most of his lower body. The 3rd Annual Surf and Turf Charity Golf Tournament, to raise funds for spinal cord injury research, takes place Monday and Tuesday–an event sparked by Jesse Billauer.

    By Seth Hortsman/Special to The Malibu Times

    As a Southern California native, Jesse Billauer shared a dream not uncommon among so many of the youth living in the Malibu area. Beginning at the age of nine, Billauer fell in love with the water and the unparalleled feeling of freedom that surfing invoked in him.

    A natural standout, he excelled in every sporting event he encountered, including surfing. Billauer dominated the sport, event after event, and tournament after tournament. At the age of 17, he was sponsored by big-time surf companies like Hurley, Arnette, and Reef, and traveled extensively pursuing his surfing aspirations, including trips to Indonesia, Mexico, Tahiti, Costa Rico and Hawaii.

    Within 12 months of realizing his dream of actually becoming a professional surfer, the unimaginable happened.

    Billauer broke his back during a surfing accident, leaving him a quadriplegic.

    Billauer grew up by the ocean in the Palisades and attended Malibu High School. He was employed by Surfline in March of 1996. Part of his duties included checking out the surf on the coastline to report to other surfers the conditions of the waves on that given day.

    He had been out on the coast on the night of March 24, 1996 and determined the following day would be an excellent day for surfing. He arrived at Zuma Beach alone and rode a few waves before his friends joined him shortly after. The waves were great that morning and the boys were enjoying the solitude of early morning surfing when things took a turn for the worst.

    Coming out of the barrel of a large wave, he was struck in the back by the wave and driven forward into the water.

    “It all happened so fast, I had no time to put my hands down to lead into the fall,” recalls Billauer, of that fateful day. The immediate explosion, and immeasurable force propelling the huge wave and Billauer forward, in conjunction with a shallow sand bar just below the water’s surface meant disaster for the soon-to-be professional surfer.

    He did not lose consciousness; however, he did lose all feeling throughout his body and the ability to move any part of his body. Luckily, Billauer was rolled over by another wave and was able to breathe and yell for help.

    That day 17-year-old Billauer’s life was forever changed. With a broken back he was classified as a C6 quadriplegic, and his dreams of becoming a professional surfer were dashed.

    Billauer’s brother and strongest supporter, Josh, recalls how this situation affected and continues to impact him.

    “Through this, Jesse and I have grown much closer,” said Josh Billauer. “We were always so competitive. Brothers should be there for each other, not competitors. I look forward to being there for Jesse for the rest of our lives and helping him live the life he led before. People need to enjoy every day, one at a time. You never know what could happen on any given day.

    “A situation like this could, and in most cases would,transform a life of action into a life of sorrow, regret and inevitably, inaction. Such is not the case with Jesse Billauer. Now 22 years old, and embarking on his senior year at San Diego State University, where he will earn his degree in communications, Billauer has accomplished more in his young life than most will throughout their lifetime.

    Since his accident, he has skydived, water-skied, jet-skied and continues surfing to this day. With no use of his legs and only partial use of his arms, Billauer manages things amazingly well.

    In addition to his continued appetite for excitement and athletics, Billauer has launched a clothing line named Life Rolls On. He also hosts a very well-orchestrated Web site:

    Billauer spends a lot of his recreation time enjoying music, including going to concerts, hanging out at the beach and eating out. His free time is in high demand as a motivational speaker, something he wishes to continue doing indefinitely.

    Billauer’s accomplishments and future goals have not come without a price. Due to the constant financial burden that quadriplegics have to bear, combined with the price of pursuing a life and future, Billauer is in need of assistance. Part of this assistance comes in the form of the 3rd Annual Surf and Turf Charity Golf Tournament. The first day of the two-day affair will be a golf tournament on Sept. 10 at the Malibu Country Club.

    “I want to let everyone know they’re welcome to come share a special day to further spinal care research, and take part in the excitement with my friends and me,” says Billauer, of the event. This year’s events will be co-chaired by six-time world surf champion Kelly Slater and 2000 Pipemaster Rob Machado. On Sept. 11, the action moves to Topanga beach where a surfing competition will take place consisting of approximately 20 professional surfers. Surfer Magazine will provide judges for the contest.

    Both events are open to the public. There are still limited spaces available to register for the golf events. Prospective golfers can register online at or by calling 310.283.5077.

    The day’s events at the country club will not be limited to golfing alone; there will be a live and silent auction, as well as a raffle offering prizes.

    Last year’s event was marked by phenomenal success, and this year the Jesse Billauer-Life Rolls On Rehab Fund and the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation hope to surpass the benchmarks set last year.

    Billauer, being the competitor he has always been, believes his situation is one that must be dealt with.

    “I live a happy life,” he says. “It may take a little longer to get from point A to point B, but with my friends and family there with me, I’d say I’m very happy.”