Hundreds of people with disabilities received a helping hand on an adaptive surfboard, Saturday at La Jolla Shores.
The foundation Life Rolls On is in its 20th year, aided by many volunteers and Sharp Memorial Rehabilitation program "They Will Surf Again". Founder Jessie Billauer, along with his professional surfer friends like Kelly Slater and Rob Machado, started the program after he broke his neck surfing. The accident left him a quadriplegic.
“This event inspires not just the athletes but so many of the volunteers or people that are just randomly walking on the beach and seeing it,” said Billauer.
Olivia Longpre, heard about the event through a friend and has volunteered now three times this year alone.
“It’s such a neat experience. There are surfers who look forward to this all year,” said Longpre.
Adaptive surfboards and other equipment were used to help get people suffering from a severe-injury-caused disabilities into the ocean. One individual would have the help of at least ten or so hands lifting and guiding them into the waves.
“The best part if you can catch it is to watch them ride a wave in and the smile that blooms on their face is insane," said Longpre.
Saturday was a major milestone for San Diego native, 20-year-old Ian Briske. He touched the water for the first time in nearly two years when he suffered a traumatic brain injury while snowboarding at Big Bear.
”I fell really hard because I was going really fast and I hit my head,” said Briske.
Briske had been wearing a helmet during the accident. His mother Carolyn Briske, told NBC 7 that it took five months for Ian to speak again. He had just finished his first quarter at Stanford and had so much to look forward to. Growing up on Pacific beach, Surfing was his life.
“I used to go in the water every day in the summer. And it really hasn’t been summer without the water,” said Briske.
Carolyn is still learning to cope with the tragedy.
“Ian fought for his life so I didn’t ask for details about his fall. It didn’t matter at that point,” said Briske.
Ian has been gaining his strength back after a lot of time in hospitals and Sharp healthcare’s well-known rehab program. He’s able to now use a walker, and Saturday, he was back at his happy place, being the event’s first surfer of the day.
“This is incredible,” said Briske.
Thanks to a day dedicated to supporting those that need an extra hand now and then. It’s giving him the boost of confidence he will make it back in the water on his own in the future.