Jesse Billauer Profile
Jesse Billauer was born on February 24th, 1979, at the Natural Childbirth Institute in Culver City, California a birthing center, where midwives, not doctors deliver babies. This non-traditional start foreshadowed a unique life filled with exceptional highs and lows. It has been a life fraught with challenges that Jesse has overcome, emerging with an ever-increasing passion for life.
As a youth, Jesse Billauer was a star athlete, excelling in baseball, soccer, and floor hockey. He began surfing at the age of nine and his desire to surf soon overcame the urge to participate in other activities. Jesse found the ocean soothing. He would go surfing whenever he wanted to relieve stress, or be alone.
In those early days, Jesse`s love affair with the ocean extended to fishing as well. He enjoyed fishing so much that he took a job as a deckhand on the Happy Man fishing charter in Marina del Rey. The job was enticing. Free fishing all day, only to leave with the catch of the day in hand, ready to be prepared for dinner. However, Jesse`s job was not all rest and relaxation; his duties included all the dirty work: cleaning the fish, baiting hooks, untangling crow`s nest, and swabbing the deck. And yet, at the end of the day, he left work with a smile spread across his face.
By age eleven, Jesse was surfing competitively. As his renown grew, he was featured in magazines, such as Surfer, Surfing, Transworld, Wave Action, and others. With surfboard, apparel, and sunglass sponsors, Jesse went international. He was surfing and competing in Hawaii, Tahiti, Indonesia, Mexico, and Costa Rica. By the mid-90`s, Surfer magazine had named him one of the Top 100 up-and-coming surfers of the world. Jesse wanted to give back to his community, and at the age of 16, he became one of the youngest members of the California State Lifeguard team. This coveted and difficult job was one of which Jesse was very proud.
Driving to school one October morning in 1995, Jesse`s SUV was broadsided by another vehicle. The impact caused his car to roll and threw him from his car via the closed driver`s side window. He was transported by ambulance to the Santa Monica Hospital emergency room, where his first words were, "Please don`t let me be paralyzed. I would rather be dead." Jesse was lucky, and after several months passed he recovered from serious whiplash and a torn ligament in his right thumb.
He was soon able to resume competitive surfing, and in March of 1996 was rated number one amongst Juniors in the Pacific Surf Series. The rating attracted new sponsors. Negotiations were underway to put Jesse on the Pro Tour, a lifelong dream, now on the verge of being realized. The fateful morning of March 25th, 1996, put an end to that dream. While surfing, Jesse was hit by the crest of a wave and flew headfirst into a shallow sandbar. Immediately, his body went limp; he found himself floating facedown in the water, unable to turn over. Jesse held his breath, waiting for the ocean to flip him over. Once a wave provided the initial push that he needed he was able to call out to his friends for help. At first, they thought he was joking, but the severity of the situation soon dawned on them. His friend, Brad Stanley, quickly swam over and managed to get Jesse safely out of the water and onto the sand.
With the help of friend Brett Sanson they kept Jesse stabilized until the helicopter arrived and transported him to the UCLA Medical Center. At the hospital, it was determined that he had suffered a complete spinal cord injury, the kind sustained by Christopher Reeve. Jesse was now a quadriplegic. He had no sensation or movement below mid-chest and limited use of his arms and hands.
As Jesse recovered in the Intensive Care Unit and rehab hospital, he contemplated the drastic change in his life.
Jesse felt that he had been extremely fortunate in the first 17 years of his life, and he realized that, even now, he was more fortunate than many others. It was not until three months later, that Jesse was able to return home to his room, his bed, and the comfort of his own home. He was on a new path and a new journey.
A few years after his life changing accident, Jesse founded a non-profit foundation called Life Rolls On, which is 2009 merged with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.
With such dedication and love for life, over the past 13 years Jesse has inspired people to look at their lives in a more thoughtful and thankful way.