Injured surfers learn that ‘Life Rolls On’

Published: June 11, 2008  |  Source: atlanticville.gmnews.com
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They Will Surf Again event set for Long Branch oceanfront June 22

LONG BRANCH – Life does not stop when someone suffers a spinal cord injury. This is the message of an upcoming event to show that an injury is just the beginning of a new and more challenging journey.

To celebrate those who have injured their spinal cords, the Life Rolls On Foundation is hosting “They Will Surf Again” (TWSA) on the Long Branch shore for several injured surfers to get back in the water again.

“The event is about embracing what’s possible,” said Joe Levy, coordinator for the event. “Spinal cord injuries don’t hold people back. They push people forward.

“Life truly rolls on,” he added.

The event will be held on June 22 at Pier Village on Ocean Avenue and injured athletes from across the country will gather along the oceanfront for a day of surfing.

Some of the participants have not surfed since their injury, some have never surfed and there are others who surf all the time despite their varying mobility, according to Levy.

TWSA connects dozens of surfers who range from basic immobility to full quadriplegic, with volunteers and experienced watermen and lifeguards for a day of “excitement, joy and surf.”

“The hope of this event isn’t just to raise awareness or monies, as those are both great things, but really to give people an opportunity to do something they otherwise couldn’t do without the support of teamwork,” Levy said.

“It’s for the participants,” he said. “It’s for the opportunity and the chance to have a really great day. It is also about community and believing in the impossible.

“My hopes are that this event will be the start of many event to come,” Levy said, adding, “There are many disabilities out there and people underestimate the freedom and power of the ocean. Surfing is a catalyst of that freedom.”

The TWSA program was started in 2001 and there have been 16 prior events throughout the West Coast. The Long Branch surf event will mark the first of its kind in the Northeast.

Life Rolls On was started in the 1990s after semi-pro surfer Jesse Billauer was paralyzed while surfing, according to Levy.

Billauer’s family needed financial support to help with the medical bills from the injuries and it was originally golf outings that were held to raise money. The fundraising efforts took shape into surf events, Levy said.

“After suffering a car accident and a back injury myself, I found Life Rolls On through some research and have been helping in various ways since,” Levy said. “It’s a great foundation and support for spinal injuries [that] really hits home with me.

“It could happen to anyone, anytime,” Levy said, adding, “Life Rolls On makes dreams possible.”

The event is open to the public and volunteers will be on hand, both on land and in the water, to help guide the participants as they surf, some for the first time, according to Levy.

Teams will work alongside the participants at every step, depending on mobility and functionality, Levy explained.

Anyone interested in volunteering or participating in the event, can sign up at LifeRollsOn.org. Levy added that he is seeking sponsors of food and money for the event, and those interested can contact him at JoeLevy777@gmail.com.

“For some, this may be their first time back in the water in a very long time,” Levy said. “This is an opportunity for participants to have fun.
“Life Rolls On is about quality of life,” he said, adding, “It’s about knowing that the road doesn’t end with an injury. That’s where the road begins.”

BY CHRISTINE VARNO Staff Writer for Atlanticville