Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation presents Waves of Empowerment, an evening with world champion quadriplegic surfer and inspirational speaker Jesse Billauer, 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara. Learn how Jesse’s dream to surf again drove him to not just live life but to live it big.

On March 25, 1996, Billauer was only 17 years old and already a promising pro surfer. While out surfing that day, he hit his head on a shallow sandbar, severed his spinal cord at the C6 level and instantly became a quadriplegic.

Doctors told him he would never surf again. However, he quickly found a way to adapt to his new condition. He realized he needed to give other people with paralysis the same freedom and pure happiness of catching a wave.

Billauer has continued to surf and now spreads the message of hope to help surfers, skaters, and other sports enthusiasts overcome their disabilities.

“Your power is in your perspective, not your circumstance. No matter what you’re facing, it is no match for your infinite potential,” Billauer said.

In 2005 Billauer was the first quadriplegic surfer to surf the dangerous waves of Cloudbreak in Fiji. In 2015 he became the world champion of adaptive surfing. He surfs utilizing a power-assisted surfboard created by Wavejet.

Billauer founded Life Rolls On, a charity that aims to improve the quality of life for people affected by spinal cord injury and other disabilities. The inaugural Jesse’s Story on Tour speaking events began in April 2006, and Billauer has traversed the country to deliver his message to more than 100,000 people.

Tickets are $25 for general admission, $15 students, and $125 VIP ticket includes reception at 5:30 p.m. Buy tickets online at

— Maria Zate for Cottage Health.