Which surfers inspire you? I bet pro surfers like Miguel Pupo and Jamie O'Brien with their flawless maneuvers and death defying stunts come to mind. However, inspirational surfers come in all shape and sizes, from a surfer giving a free surf lesson, to a shark attach survivor still charging the lineup and everything in between. Inspirational surfers don't have to be the best tube rider or have the best cutbacks, but are the ones who give back to society as well as triumph over set backs. Some inspirational surfers include Bethany Hamilton, Jesse Billauer, and the Gudauskas brothers.
Hawaiian surfer Bethany Hamilton was only 13 year old when she was viciously attached by a 14 foot tiger shark at Tunnels Beach, Kauai. She was lying on her board, when a shark severed her left arm, resulting with Bethany losing 60% of her blood. Luckily, Hoyt Blanchard, father of Pro surfer Alana Blanchard, took Bethany to the hospital, saving her life. This ordeal was traumatic and almost destroyed her pro surfing career.
However, Bethany is a devout Christian and decided to go on a mission trip to Indonesia shortly after the accident. During this time, Indonesia had been devastated by a tsunami, which destroyed many local villages. Her church group was there to aid the Indonesians during this time of crisis. Understandably, many Indonesians were terrified of the ocean, including a native girl that Bethany's church was working with. Bethany found an old surfboard in the debris and began to coax the young girl to ride waves. This enabled Bethany to gradually get back into surfing and it helped a traumatized individual.
Eventually, Bethany was able to ride waves with adaptive equipment. Despite only having one arm, she has won countless competitions and surfed large waves at places like the Banzai pipeline. She was able to move past her setbacks, adapt to become a phenomenal surfer and have a rewarding life. In fact, Ms. Hamilton or Mrs. Hamilton-Dirks, married missionary Adam Dirks in 2013 and gave birth to her son in 2015.
Besides having a great family life and being a pro surfer, Bethany gives back to society via the Bethany Hamilton foundation. This foundation holds charitable events including those helping amputees learn to surf, allowing girls to see their true worth, and youth conferences. Since Mrs. Hamilton is a strict christian, many of the events have christian undertones and use the bible for inspiration. Also, this non profit has a first response team, which sends care packages to new amputees and shark attack survivors to help them cope with their experiences.
Jesse Billauer is a paraplegic surfer who is the founder of the non profit Life Rolls On. This non profit seeks to help mentally and physically disabled people learn how to surf and holds events nationwide. Life Rolls on brings together a wide range of volunteers to help these students get the thrill of catching a wave. These programs are quite popular, fill up quickly and you can learn more about them here!
Jesse Billauer wasn't born a paraplegic, but instead hit his head on the sandbar at Zuma Beach when he was just 17. At that time, Jesse was an up and coming junior pro surfer with tons of potential. However, he was surfing at drainpipes, a powerful wave breaking over shallow sandbars. Then, he was thrown into a sandbar head first after pulling into a barrel. This injury caused a complete injury at the C-6 level of his vertebrae, leaving him paralyzed.
Despite his paralysis, Jesse Billauer still surfs and has taken on waves such as Anchor Point, Morocco. Jesse uses wave jet boards, which have electric motors to propel him into waves. While he can't stand, he's able to ride waves and charge the sets with the best of them. Besides giving back through Life Rolls On, Jesse is committed to spinal cord research. He's on a mission to help doctors find ways to help disabled people walk again. He has helped raise funds for research through events like the Wings for Life World Run in Santa Clarita, CA!
San Clemente natives, Dane and Tanner Gudauskas, are pro surfers who are inspirational in every sense of the world. While they didn't survive traumatic accidents, the brothers are known for their incredible surfing styles (Thank you, Lower Trestles), and by giving back to society. While some high performance surfers can be arrogant and fight over waves, the Gudauskas like to have fun in the lineup. For example, they've done crazy things like eating scorpions to hanging out with the Geisha in Japan.
Their worldwide travels inspired them to start a program called Stoke-O-Rama, which is a community-based surf event that holds mock surf contests. These events attract all types of kids and as many as 100 local children have participated. It's about sharing the thrills and camaraderie of surfing while occasionally hanging out with surfing legends like 11-time world champ Kelly Slater. Not only have these events promoted the surfing lifestyle, but they've also raised €12,000 for San Clemente’s junior lifeguards program.
This success motivated the brothers to think outside the box by taking the concept worldwide. Recently, the Gudauskas created Positive Vibe Warriors, a non profit that raises funds through apparel sales along with donations, which allows them spread the stoke internationally. The Positive Vibe Foundations will host Stoke-O-Rama contests throughout the world and will help build ocean awareness programs in each town. Some places like California have great ocean awareness programs like Junior lifeguards, but many locations lack these fundamental programs. The Positive Vibe Warriors website also allows people to share their inspirational stories, struggles and outlook on life.
Surfing is a very inspirational sports that has its share of idols. While it's tempting to think only the best, high performance surfers are inspirations, those that give back take it to a whole other level. Also, seeing surfers who have overcome severe accidents like shark attacks and paralysis is very admirable. Surfers like Bethany Hamilton, Jesse Billauer, the Gudauskas brothers, and more are great sources of inspiration for everybody.