New Mobility, May 1997
Jesse Billauer: Starting a Second Life
by Barry Corbet

Jesse Billauer is well connected. When we first called he was connected to Goldie Hawn on his other line. During rehab, he was connected to Christopher Reeve. In March, he had time to connect with New Mobility. When we spoke, he had just turned 18 and was about to celebrate the first anniversary of becoming a C6-7 quadriplegic.

"It's amazing how you can say anniversary," Jesse notes. "Doesn't anniversary sound good?" When Jesse got hurt, "on a 6-to-8 foot day at Zuma," he was an emerging big-wave surfer. He'd already made courtesy calls at some happening beaches - Costa Rica, Puerto Escondido, Cabo San Lucas, Hawaii, Tahiti, Indonesia - and was doing well at contests at home. He had a reputation, some sponsors and good shot at turning pro.

So Jesse, like anyone else who's broken his neck, had a lot of changing and patching together to do. In one short year, he's made a fast start.

This June he graduates from Malibu High and from the family home in Pacific Palisades, a western suburb of Los Angeles. In the fall, he'll enter San Diego State. It's a harder transition for him than for his friends, he admits, but he sees it largely as an attendant issue. It just takes somebody I'm confident with who can allow me to do what I want," he says. And he won't be alone in San Diego. "All my friends are going down there, and we're all staying in the same place. There's a lot of love between all of us."

Jesse says he's ready for the move, and his parents aren't holding him back. "They know whatever I put my mind to, I'll accomplish. They've got that confidence. If I'm ready, I'm ready."

"Surfing epic Tahiti." That presupposes a cure, right? "Absolutely, but if that doesn't happen, then I want to be a psychologist. I love helping people, getting their problems solved."

Dating? "I don't think that's a problem." But he's still feeling this way. Sometimes he sees the chair as an obstacle, sometimes not. "I miss surfing when it's hot and sunny and there's all kinds of girls on the beach," he says. "You can't just wheel out there and talk to them. But if a girl want you for who you are, they'll come up to you." Next page



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