Life Rolls On

When Event Organizer Josh Billauer set up for the They Will Surf Again/Life Rolls On Expression Session on Tuesday, September 11, he wasn’t quite sure how many surfers would show up. The event had been planned for the day after the surf-industry’s bi-annual ASR tradeshow, but they had no idea how ominous that date would really be. But as the day progressed, more and more surfers showed up, the sun came out, and some incredible surfing went down. Although the session was held at Topanga in Malibu, California, the disaster in New York City and Washington D.C. weighed heavily on everyone’s minds. No one could be sure what lies ahead. Despite that, a few high-caliber pros showed up to support spinal-injury research and their good friend Jesse Billauer, who suffered a spinal-cord injury surfing Zuma Beach in 1996. The all-star lineup 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 blasted away almost every chance he got and pretty much ruled his heat. The highlight of the day had to be the second-to-last heat, when Machado paddled out with Jesse and pushed him into a few set waves. The entire beach cheered as Jesse laid on his specially designed Al Merrick and maneuvered down the line for some of the biggest, longest rides. He received a standing ovation.The Expression Session was held in conjunction with a golf tournament in which surfers and surf-industry members gathered to get behind spinal-cord injury research by raising 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. Says Elmer, “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. 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 is the overall consciousness people have now for surfers who are no longer able to surf.”¿A.C.