Beginning at 10:00 a.m., Tuesday, September 11th, Josh Billauer wasn’t quite sure how many surfers would show up for the Life Rolls On/They Will Surf Again Expression Session, but as the day went on, more and more surfers showed up, the sun came out, and some incredible surfing went down.Organizers originally planned the event to benefit spinal injury research, however, they had no idea how ominous the day would be and whether or not everyone would show up, considering the situation.
[IMAGE 1] Held at Topanga in Malibu, California, the disaster in New York City and Washington D.C. weighed heavily on everyone’s mind as they weren’t sure what lied ahead for them and their lives as they know it. Despite that, everyone showed up in support of the cause and their good friend Jesse Billauer who suffered a spinal cord injury surfing Zuma Beach in 1996. The all-star line-up included Kelly Slater, Taj Burrow, Rob Machado, Keith and Dan Malloy, Pat O’Connell, Ross Williams, The Currans (Josh, Nathaniel, and Tim), Laird Hamilton, Anthony Petruso, and many other amazing surfers. The first two heats included surfers such as Williams, Donald Day, and Petruso getting some award winning waves such as “Best Combo” and “Best Air.” Taj Burrow blasted away almost every chance he got and pretty much ruled his heat, but the highlight of the day had to be the second-to-last heat where Machado paddled out with Jesse and pushed him into a few set waves. The entire beach cheered as Jesse lay on his specially designed Al Merrick and maneuvered down the line for some of the biggest, longest rides. Jesse was given a standing ovation.
The Expression Session was held in conjunction with a golf tournament where a lot of the surfers and surf industry gather to get behind spinal cord injury research, and to raise money for Jesse’s rehabilitation expenses and the Christopher Reeve Paralysis foundation. “It’s a good cause with a lot of support,” says organizer Josh Billauer Jesse’s brother. “It’s a grassroots expression session for the public. This is where Jesse learned to surf, and this is where I learned to surf, so having it here is that much better.”This year’s event also included the fund drive called They Will Surf Again (TWSA) led by Seth Elmer and James Pribram. In its second year, the two surfers drove from San Diego to San Francisco for the same cause¿spinal injury research¿gathering pledges for every wave they surfed. This year, they coordinated their schedule to meet up with the golf tournament and the event at Topanga. “The events that have transpired have actually exceeded our expectations because the uniting of Life Rolls On and TWSA has made a quantum leap for the whole cause,” said organizer and sufer Seth Elmer. “Through that merger, we’re able to get the best of the best in the world to all come together. It’s amazing how all that happens. One of the rewards of it all is the overall consciousness people have now for surfers who are no longer able to surf.”¿A.C.