Story and Photos
By Keara McNair
On Sunday, June 25, the Life Rolls On Foundation will be hosting They Will Surf Again on Beach 73rd Street. Life Rolls On is a non-profit organization established by Jesse Billauer, a surfer from California who was injured in 1996 and has since gone on to participate and win adapted surfing competitions on the national and international levels. By recognizing the potential for adaptive surfing, skating and fishing to ignite boundless opportunities irrespective of any ability, Life Rolls On has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people since 2001.
This year’s adapted surfing event is at capacity for surfers, with over 100 individuals with physical impairments registered. Although online registration for adapted athletes is closed, roll-ups are always welcome! Volunteer registration, however, is still open and we are looking for all the help we can get.
There are quite a few volunteer opportunities available, and they range depending on your physical abilities. We need hospitality volunteers to help our surfers on land. We need people to assist our surfers with getting on and off adapted beach chairs and down onto the surfboard. Then, we need people out in the water. Our shallow-water volunteers are responsible for stabilizing the board as someone rides in as well as lifting the board to send someone back out into the water. Last year, local yogis Helen and Kayla Kilgallen were some of the best shallow-water volunteers on the beach!
Our mid-water volunteers are our swimmers who are alongside the surfboard guiding its way in toward the shore…and possibly catching someone if they fall off. The mid-water volunteers should have good experience in the ocean and preferably some lifeguarding background. My sister, Monica (Savage) Holland, likes to relive her lifeguarding glory days by being a mid-water volunteer. Deep-water volunteers are those vital people who can support our surfers in riding the wave in. Often, our deep-water volunteers are those who have significant surfing experience. Some past Rockaway locals who serve as returning deep water volunteers are Mike Kololyan, Scott Blutstein and Jeff Anthony.
I have personally volunteered with this event since 2016 and happily return every year. I am always so happy to see Rockaway locals showing up to support the event and representing our community. As an occupational therapist specialized in working with individuals with spinal cord injury, I have had the unique experience of being a part of someone’s rehabilitation journey. However, I have also seen a lack of support for individuals with physical impairments as they re-enter into their communities. Events like They Will Surf Again seek to push individuals outside of their comfort zone and can truly change someone’s life.
Even if you can just ride by on Sunday, June 25 to cheer some surfers on, we welcome everyone to come down to 73rd Street and enjoy the day. By lending your support, you can help individuals rediscover the joy of surfing and create cherished memories that will last a lifetime. If you’re interested in volunteering, please go to liferolls.org/newyork. If you have any questions about the event, please feel free to email me at email@example.com. See you on the beach!