Tag Archives: jesse billauer

SCI Superstar: Barney Miller


You may have heard of disabled surfers before, such as Christian Otter Bailey and Jesse Billauer, but if you’re not familiar with the disability scene in Australia, chances are you’ve never heard of Barney Miller, a quadriplegic surfer who’s been feverishly raising money for spinal cord injury research since his injury.

What’s even more exciting is that Barney’s fundraising has recently gotten a huge boost thanks to an exciting new partnership Barney has signed on for with Red Bull, who’s decided to take on his cause by naming his fundraising goals the main beneficiary of a brand new worldwide marathon.

Also a fiance to one of Australia’s most well-known singer songwriters, read on for the story of Barney Miller.

Why he’s fearless

Growing up in the mid-north coast of New South Wales, Barney Miller was always in the water. A lifelong surfer who had a promising career before him, everything changed when Barney was in a car accident at 19 years old, breaking his neck from the C3 – C6 level (and missing death by a hair).

When he was initially injured, he was ventilator dependent and his doctors didn’t give him any hope for any return. But Barney, being who he is, refused to accept that as his reality, and worked his butt off in rehab not only getting off the ventilator but becoming a manual wheelchair-user.

After rehab, Barney went home and put the notion for the time being of getting better behind him, and needed to raise money for everything he needed. He and a friend decided to start the Barney Miller Classic, an annual surfing tournament where all the proceeds now go straight to spinal cord injury research.

In 2009 however, Barney’s entire mind-view of what was possible changed when he heard about Project Walk, the repetitive motion-based rehab center, and he’s been going since, spitting his time between Carlsbad, California and Australia (overall he’s spent more than two years at Project Walk).

Since attending Project Walk, he’s been able to take a step unassisted with the walker and can now stand with minimal assistance and his ultimate goal – to be able to walk down the aisle when he gets married.

Barney’s engaged to Kate Southwell aka “Kada,” an Aussie singer-songwriter with great beauty and a great voice. When the two first met in 2007, Barney said he wouldn’t propose till he could get down on one knee, and that is what he did in 2012. Their love story is amazing, and the two are set to be married in April 2015.

What’s next?

In the last year, Barney’s story has hit the worldwide level thanks to Red Bull, who decided to make his cause – raising money for spinal cord injury research – the official cause of the first annual Wings for Life run, a worldwide run taking place on May 4, 2014 in 35 different countries. This will hopefully raise millions. Learn more about Wings for Life

His story is also set to be documented in the upcoming film, “No Means Go,” which is also Barney’s personal motto. Spearheaded by Trinity films, a small film company started by NYU film students, it’s a peek into Barney’s everyday life and drive to get better. Watch the promo for No Means Go (release date is April 2015)

Barney’s story is one every newly injured person should hear. His strength and perseverance all these years to still get better, and to actually do so, is amazingly hopeful, and shows that with a little bit of toughness you too can reach for your dreams.

Have you tried surfing?

Facebook page for No Means Go

Watch the videos

An inspirational quadriplegic surfer – Barney Miller: A day in the life

Rip Curl On The Rock – Day 19 Living Life w/ Barney Miller

Barney working out at Project Walk in Carlsbad, CA

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SCI Superstar: Jesse Billauer

The ocean can be a dangerous place. Sharks, big waves with multiple personalities, fugly Man o’ Wars, but you don’t have to tell Jesse Billauer this. He’s a born and bred Cali boy who came out of the womb with a surfboard attached to the hip.

Jesse, at 17, was living the semi-charmed life of a California teenager – young, athletic, gorgeous (still is) and staged to be one of the next big surfers; it was an idyllic life. But his world turned upside down in 1996 when the crest of a wave threw him off his surfboard.

Jesse hit his head on a sandbar and became a C5-6 quadriplegic on impact. Despite a severed spinal cord, which can be a tough SCI blow to receive, Jesse wasn’t about to say adios to a rock star life. If anything, his energy for life has only become more pronounced.

Why he’s fearless

Jesse, still a quad till this day, has made an epic return to the ocean and the surfing world. In 1999, he founded Life Rolls On (LRO), a nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life in young people with SCI, by using adapted surfing (and adapted skiing) to inspire. I have been a huge fan or LRO for years, admiring them far away from the Midwest.

LRO has been hosting free adaptive surf days since it’s inception and another thing they’re known for – rockin’ fundraiser parties. Jesse has become an expert at throwing celebrity-studded events to raise money for the foundation, with incredible attendees like Paris Hilton and Jason Mraz. The skills! Their annual “Night By the Ocean” black-tie event is their biggest baddest event (this year it’s on a boat!).

And in 2009, LRO got a huge boost. They partnered with The Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation. With the foundation’s backing, they’ve been able to start They Will Surf Again, helping even more people get out and surf. Oh how I wish I lived by the ocean…not 10,000 lakes.

What I really love about Jesse is that he still surfs (by laying on his stomach and propping himself up and up on his elbow. Looks scary! But it does work). He was even featured in the docu-film, Step the Liquid, which showed his friendship with surfer, Robert Machado. He’s also created new surfing equipment and gained sponsorship from Hurley, Nike, Honda and Boost Mobile along the way.

Oh – and some big-time records have been met. In 2005, after years of adapted surfing experience, Jesse became the first ever quadriplegic surfer to conquer “Cloudbreak” in Tavarua, Fiji (an area of uber notorious waves). Insanity I tell you. Insanity!

What’s next?

After teaming up with Reeve, Jesse became the National Outreach Director for the Reeve Foundation, which definitely him busy.

And gearing up for a new sport to promote, They Will Sk8 Again, is the latest push by this ultra cool foundation. The purpose is to expose wheelers to safe wheelchair “skate” tricks. They’re actually hosting chair-skating clinics at cities throughout the country, with their next one scheduled on June 7 in Venice Beach, California. Check it out!

Jesse is also a popular motivational speaker. He speaks at schools and companies across the country with an all-encompassing issue everyone can relate to – overcoming adversity.

View his schedule/book this talented man at jessebillauer.com.

Watch the videos!

Jesse Billauer surfing in Morocco (great interview)

Jesse Billauer’s speech for TEDxYouth