Surfing competition raises funds for Life Rolls On

By Katelyn Montero

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

These words, made famous by Robert Frost, sum up the ideology behind Life Rolls On, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with spinal cord injuries push boundaries and pursue their passion for action sports.

On Saturday, Oct.12 USD’s Beta Theta Pi hosted their 5th annual Surf as One competition, with all proceeds benefiting the Life Rolls On foundation. Approximately 200 people attended the Surf as One competition, which was held in South Mission Beach.

Teams of four competed in a tournament-style surf competition, which was judged by John Lindsley, executive director of the Christian Surfing Federation. A total of eleven teams competed on Saturday, with the coveted spot of champion going to the team named “Carlos Danger.”

Senior Jessica McCarthy has been participating in the Surf as One competition for the past three years, and thought that the event was a great success. “The Life Rolls on Foundation is one that I support as well, so I really wanted to be a part of a surf team to be able to help them out a little bit,” McCarthy said.

Even though McCarthy’s team didn’t win the competition, she believes that the chance to catch a few waves and watch both the USD and Point Loma surf teams compete made the day a success. However, for many attendees, the real highlight of the event was being able to meet and see members of the Life Rolls On foundation in action.

The non-profit organization was founded by Jesse Billauer, whose dreams of becoming a professional surfer were crushed by a wave that pushed him headfirst into shallow water, resulting in a C-6 spinal cord injury. Despite his prognosis as a quadriplegic, Billauer’s love of the ocean and passion for surfing made it impossible for him to stay out of the water.

Billauer’s passion turned into compassion as he sought to form an organization that would help others achieve the things that they no longer thought possible. The result was Life Rolls On, which now runs programs that help individuals with paralysis to participate in the action sports of surfing, skating and skiing.

Their mission statement says, “Life Rolls On Foundation is dedicated to improving the quality of life for young people affected by spinal cord injury and utilizes action sports as a platform for inspiring the infinite possibilities beyond paralysis.”

Billauer was in attendance at the Surf as One competition on Saturday, as was his lead ambassador Patrick Ivison, who showed off his surfing skills before the last heat of the competition took place.
For senior Charlie Mackay, who organized the Surf as One event, watching Patrick surf made all of the planning and preparation that went into the event worth it. “His courage and resolve is truly something to behold,” Mackay said.

Senior Jessica McCarthy felt the same way. “Watching Patrick surf was definitely the highlight of the day though because when it comes down to it, he embodied what surfing is all about. Just getting out there and having the time of your life,” McCarthy said.

In 1995, at only 14 months old, Ivison was hit by a car and sustained a C4/C5 incomplete spinal cord injury, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Unwilling to let his injury keep him from pursuing his passions, Ivison began participating in as many sports as possible. Ivison has learned how to kayak, ski and surf. He also has competed in wheelchair rugby and hand-cycled in half marathons, but surfing is still his favorite sport.

He has surfed in the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach for several years in a row on behalf of Life Rolls On and even received a sponsorship from surf company Lost Enterprises. As an ambassador for Life Rolls On, Ivison has had the opportunity to share his inspiring story with thousands of students. He is currently enrolled in the film program at the University of Southern California, which was recently rated the number one program in the United States.

“I had a blast hanging out and getting a chance to show everyone what Life Rolls On is all about,” Ivison said. “I’ve had the opportunity to see this organization grow over the last decade from about a dozen volunteers and 4 or 5 surfers to over 200 volunteers, over 60 surfers and hundreds of thousands of dollars raised and it’s all possible because of the help from events like Surf As One.”

After finishing his set in the water, Ivison returned to his beach wheelchair and rolled along the sand, truly embodying the belief that life does indeed roll on.