One Kook’s Safari> Nothing keeps these surfers out of the waves

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‘They Will Surf Again’ planned for Rambler Road Sunday

Chad deSatnick sent along these images from a previous event from Moondoggie Studios in Cape May. He said the annual They Will Surf Again event, planned Sunday in Wildwood Crest, is amazing for the both the surfers and the volunteers. (photos courtesy Moondoggie Studios/Life Rolls On) Chad deSatnick sent along these images from a previous event from Moondoggie Studios in Cape May. He said the annual They Will Surf Again event, planned Sunday in Wildwood Crest, is amazing for the both the surfers and the volunteers. (photos courtesy Moondoggie Studios/Life Rolls On) Jesse Billauer was 17, just starting a pro surfing career, when he was told he would never surf again after he broke his neck surfing in Malibu. Almost immediately, he started thinking about ways to get back into the water. 

Chad deSatnick, a lifelong Cape May surfer, was told the same thing after a spinal cord injury in 2001.

“My doctor told me I may not walk, and I will never surf again,” deSatnick recalled this week.

It wasn’t easy, but he is walking, and surfing. Billauer can’t walk, but he’s surfing, too.

On Sunday, June 15, they will be joined by hundreds of volunteers and 47 athletes with spinal cord injuries for an event called They Will Surf Again. Running from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Rambler Road in Wildwood Crest, the event is part beach party, part athletic event – and altogether inspiring.

“I kidded with my neurosurgeon that he can’t use that line again,” deSatnick said, now that it’s clear that a person doesn’t have to walk to be able to surf.

According to deSatnick, the event has grown each year. This will be the eighth event in New Jersey, he said, and there are almost triple the number of adaptive athletes set to turn out this year. Billauer travels the country for events on the Atlantic and Pacific, and deSatnick said they’ll be heading to Nova Scotia this year, for the first event in Canada.

“It’s definitely taken off, and people love it,” Billauer said this week in a phone interview from California. “Every year’s been amazing. The turnout’s been really good.”

It’s too late to sign up for this year’s event, but he said anyone who is interested should turn up at the beach and have a good time.

The athletes are divided into five teams, he said, based on their level of mobility. They include those who have had a spinal cord injury and can walk to those who do not have the use of their arms or legs.

“We can get everybody out in the water,” deSatnick said. A huge number of volunteer therapists can get the surfers onto adapted boards, including wheelchair users. More volunteers are ready to help out immediately if someone falls off the board, which deSatnick said is part of the day and part of the fun.

Chad deSatnick sent along these images from a previous event from Moondoggie Studios in Cape May. He said the annual They Will Surf Again event, planned Sunday in Wildwood Crest, is amazing for the both the surfers and the volunteers. (photos courtesy Moondoggie Studios/Life Rolls On) Chad deSatnick sent along these images from a previous event from Moondoggie Studios in Cape May. He said the annual They Will Surf Again event, planned Sunday in Wildwood Crest, is amazing for the both the surfers and the volunteers. (photos courtesy Moondoggie Studios/Life Rolls On) “I’m always amazed at the courage of the people doing this,” he said. Some can’t get out of bed without assistance. “But they have no qualms about getting into the water and riding waves.”

It gives the volunteers with the full use of their limbs an amazing perspective, deSatnick said.

Since his injury, he has made it a personal mission to warn surfers, body surfers and boarders of the dangers of spinal cord injuries, especially in areas where the beach drops steeply into the water.

One of the most inviting things about Wildwood Crest is the long slope of the beach, making it safer for surfers.

“You can walk out 50 yards, 75 yards, and you’re still not over your head,” deSatnick said, which makes it better for the volunteers working with the surfers. Plus, he said, Wildwood Crest has welcomed the event with open arms. He said every level of local government has made it easier for the event organizers.

Some of the participants loved to surf before their accidents, Billauer said, but others had never been on a board. For some, it will be their first time in the ocean.

“They’re excited,” he said.

Billauer’s accident took place in 1996. He said he was unwilling to accept that he could never hit the waves again. He found a way, and founded the organization Life Rolls On as a means to help others.

He continues to surf, becoming the first quadriplegic to surf the big wave at Tavarua Cloudbreak in Fiji in 2005.  He was also featured in the film “Step Into Liquid.”

DeSatnick got involved in They Will Surf Again after his spinal cord injury. He said at one time he thought about stepping back his involvement in the group, but changed his mind. The surfers quickly build close relationships with the volunteers, he said.

“It’s just one of those amazing days. I couldn’t give it up,” he said.

Now a Realtor in Cape May, deSatnick continues to advocate for beach safety and continues to surf, although he said he is now much more careful about potential dangers and obstacles in the water, and to always surf with a friend. He said he often surfs with his brother.

For details about Sunday’s event see www.liferollson.org.

Also coming up is the International Surfing Festival set for 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, June 20 on the Ocean City beach. For the first time, the event has moved from 59th Street to the surfing beach at Seventh Street off the boardwalk. John Bonino of Marmora is organizing the event, which he described as a celebration of the ocean, waves and beaches.

“It’s not only for surfing,” he said. “We’re basically having a celebration to advocate for clean water and awareness of issues.”

The Ocean City Beach Patrol has a kids water safety program planned at 3:30 p.m., and there is also a beach cleanup and nature walk planned. Participating in those programs will qualify kids for a free surfing lesson, he said.

“It’s for children, or anyone who wants to learn how to surf, or wants to learn how to surf a little bit better,” he said.

Like other years, live bands, kayak and SUP demonstrations and more are planned.

For more information, call 856-498-9472 or see www.intlsurfingday.com.

Chad deSatnick sent along these images from a previous event from Moondoggie Studios in Cape May. He said the annual They Will Surf Again event, planned Sunday in Wildwood Crest, is amazing for the both the surfers and the volunteers. (photos courtesy Moondoggie Studios/Life Rolls On) Chad deSatnick sent along these images from a previous event from Moondoggie Studios in Cape May. He said the annual They Will Surf Again event, planned Sunday in Wildwood Crest, is amazing for the both the surfers and the volunteers. (photos courtesy Moondoggie Studios/Life Rolls On)

Chad deSatnick sent along these images from a previous event from Moondoggie Studios in Cape May. He said the annual They Will Surf Again event, planned Sunday in Wildwood Crest, is amazing for the both the surfers and the volunteers. (photos courtesy Moondoggie Studios/Life Rolls On) Chad deSatnick sent along these images from a previous event from Moondoggie Studios in Cape May. He said the annual They Will Surf Again event, planned Sunday in Wildwood Crest, is amazing for the both the surfers and the volunteers. (photos courtesy Moondoggie Studios/Life Rolls On)


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