Hurley would like to welcome Jesse Billauer to the family! His love for life is palpable, his energy, amazing to be around, and his life story, powerful. At age 17 a surfing accident rendered him a quadriplegic, putting an end to his successful pro career. And while most people would let this be their demise, Jesse did the opposite and remained positive, helping change lives in the process. Jesse became an inspirational speaker and founded Life Rolls On, an organization that takes disabled people surfing. We chatted with Jesse, heard about his recent surf trip to Morocco and about his love for poker. Get to know Jesse by clicking through to the full story. Visit JesseBillauer.com for more info.
SO, TELL US WHAT LIFE ROLLS ON IS ALL ABOUT.
Life Rolls On is a program that takes people with disabilities surfing. Everyone kept telling me “life goes on.” But then I looked down and thought, “No, life rolls on.” My friends and everyone else loved it. So that’s where the name came from.
I do a lot of motivational speaking with Life Rolls On. My dad was actually the one who recommended I start as a motivational speaker. I’ve learned through my experiences in life and as a speaker that anyone in any room, no matter who they are or what they’ve been through, can make a difference. Everybody has a voice and role to play in life. The main thing I want people to take away from what I do is to stay positive in life! It feels really good to give back.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT SHARING YOUR STORY?
Motivational speaking has taken me places I’ve never been. Small towns, big towns, all over the country. Sharing my story makes me feel good. I love meeting new people. It’s great. Kids have come up to me saying they were going to commit suicide until they heard me talk. It’s amazing to make that big of a difference in someone’s life. When I’m at schools, I speak to the bullies in the room and say one day there will be someone bigger and badder than them, so they should start treating others the way they would want to be treated.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO RECENTLY?
I just got back from Morocco with Jason Mraz. We were over there doing some filming and surfing. The waves never got epic, but it was a lot of fun. I’m so thankful my organization gives me opportunities like this to travel the world.
WHERE'S YOUR FAVORITE SPOT TO SURF?
That’s tough. I’ve been to so many good spots all over the world, but my favorite would have to be Big Drakes at Hollister Ranch. (Thanks Nancy!)
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO SURF AT THE US OPEN OF SURFING?
Well, I hate beach breaks! (laughs) But I’ve learned to look past that and I've realized how great of an opportunity it is to surf in front of so many people. It’s a lot of fun for my friends and I to get out there and surf with the greats like Rob Machado and Kelly Slater. I’ve grown up watching the US Open and it was always a dream of mine to surf in it. It’s a win, win. People get to see me surf and they also learn more about my organization. But really though, thank god for the Hurley Pro. (laughs) Beach breaks aren’t that much fun for me. Trestles has less people and better waves!
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE THAT HAS FOUND THEMSELVES UNABLE TO DO WHAT THEY LOVE, LIKE SURFING?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone has obstacles and dreams that are shattered or really hard to reach. But whatever you want to do in life, as long as you have a little help you can do it. For me, with the help of my friends I still get to surf. I’m so lucky I get to do that!
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO JOIN FORCES WITH HURLEY?
I’ve been with Bob [Hurley] since his Billabong days. He sponsored me from age 12 to 17. It’s also cool to be back with Rob [Machado]. He was the first one to take me out surfing after my injury. It was out at Seaside Reef in San Diego. He was one of the people who really helped get me back on track.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU HAVE GOING ON IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW?
If I’m not surfing, I’ll go to concerts, travel or take my boat out fishing. But right now I’d say my favorite thing to do when I’m not surfing is playing poker. I can’t be competitive in surfing, but I can be in poker. I don’t need anyone’s help and it allows me to be totally independent, which is nice.