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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

They Will Surf Again

Despite their disabilites, 75 handicapped surfers braved the choppy waves at Huntington Beach to prove that with just a few adaptations they can overcome obstacles they never thought were possible.

Jesse Billauer was a champion surfer at age 17, on his way to starting a professional career when an accident changed his life.  One morning a wave tossed Billauer into a sandbar and he broke his neck, leaving him paralyzed. Instead of giving up, Billauer has surfed all the world and started the Life Rolls on Foundation to help others to learn how to surf despite their disability.

 “Everybody kept telling me that life goes on and one day I looked down and realized that I was rolling and decided why not start a foundation and give back,” said Billauer.

 With a few adaptations to a standard board and the help of more than 300 volunteers, 75 handicapped surfers got in the water and proved to themselves that they are more than their disability.

 “You know it’s not so focused on what’s quote on quote wrong with us, you know it’ s just a chance to get out there and have fun,” said handicap surfer Sarah Hurst.

 One surfer was just happy for the opportunity to get back in the ocean. Fernando Resende hadn’t been in the ocean for ten years after a car accident left him paralyzed. But the Life Rolls on Foundation showed him that he didn’t have to sacrifice things he loved because he’s disabled.

 “Prior to my injury I used to scuba dive, I was certified and I did a lot of different water sports and it was great to feel the power of the ocean again it was awesome,” said Resende.

 During the whole experience, friends and family were right there cheering them on. Mom Kristy Jenkins was amazed to see her son get into the water and accomplish something she never thought would be possible.

 “When we found out that he was going to have spinal bifida when I was pregnant with him you know the whole world comes crashing down you think ‘oh wow all the things that’s he’s never ever going to be able to do.’ And it’s really neat to have opportunities like this, you know I never thought id be able to see him surf,” said Jenkins.

 Her son, Nick Jenkins, loved every second he spent out in the water. Even when he wiped out, he still had a huge smile on his face.

 “I can’t really describe in words, it was really awesome,” said Nick Jenkins.

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