Life Rolls On…They Will Surf Again!

I first learned about Life Rolls On a few months ago when my 3 year old niece Maile participated in the World Record for moving wheelchairs sponsored by the Christopher Reeve Foundation at the LA Dodger Stadium. You can see my blog post by clicking here.  Life Rolls On was founded by surfer Jesse Billauer, who became a quadriplegic while surfing in 1996. The organization’s goal is to get public awareness about Spinal Cord Injury. Life Rolls On or LRO is simply amazing. Period. When I met CEO Kris Nakamura, she told me about an event they have for those individuals with spinal cord injuries and wheelchair bound individuals called They Will Surf Again.  Ironically, Maile had recently mentioned she wanted to go surfing, which seemed like it would be quite the challenge and a pretty big dream, since she is wheelchair bound and is unable to walk due to her Spina Bifida. Little did we know that They Will Surf Again would make her dream come true and give her the avenue to do what she wanted….SURF!  I inquired more about it, got in contact with Kris from LRO and had my sister-in-law, Irene register Maile. I too offered my services to capture the day for volunteers and participants. Fast forward a few months to 9-11-10 and little Maile was in the water on a surfboard!:-)

Everyone had to register by 8am at La Jolla Shores Beach. And, there wasn’t a peep of sun in the sky.  Instead it was a little foggy and a bit overcast; and, let’s say that the water was….. uh… freezing! However, that didn’t stop us from having an incredible day. Being surrounded and around such great people made it feel like it was 100 degrees! 5 teams were created and each surfer would have 30 minutes in the water. Volunteers would wheel the athletes to the shore in special mobi chairs,  carry them onto the surfboard, assist them out and help them catch some waves on special surfboards that allowed surfers to hold on. What I witnessed was priceless. Simply amazing. To see the joy and happiness on everyone’s face (surfers, families and volunteers) was a gift that I could never buy.  In fact, it was the greatest gift you could ever ask for.   Oh, my heart was smiling so big, I think it came out of my chest! It was purely magical. I would highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend you volunteer to any future event. I promise you, you will feel so fulfilled and really feel amazing. It’s incredibly rewarding and so gratifying to witness the happiness and joy on these beautiful faces.

Maile was assigned to team orange and scheduled to surf at 11:0o. She had to gear up with a bathing suit, followed by a wet suit, then a life vest, and topped off by her team orange jersey. When she was done, she looked like a fullback for the Oakland Raiders, ready for the big game! :-=) She is so tiny and her size 2 wetsuit was a bit big for her, but she was so anxious and excited to get in the water, she didn’t care about the layers and layers of attire on her little body. You could hear her saying, “I WANNA GO IN THE WATER!”. When it was her turn, all the volunteers carried her above the water like a princess, turned her around and let her ride a wave in. Maile doesn’t like water in her eyes, so we weren’t sure how well she would handle the splashing. I mean a little water from the bathtub could really put a her in a mood. But, after her first wave, she seemed fine, so they carried her out again and again and again. She caught about 7 waves before she came in. It was so cool. So cool….

Lunch rolled around and everyone took a break and had some good eats that included sandwiches, BBQ, chips, rice, salad, short ribs, teriyaki chicken and Ben Jerry’s ice cream. Yum, yum!  Soon after a quick lunch break, it was back in the water for the remaining surfers, who were lucky enough to catch some of the sun that decided to pop out during the last 30 minutes!:-)

The event was so well put together and possible by so many incredible volunteers and sponsors and organizers.  A cute surf boutique shop Surf Diva in La Jolla came by and handed out some cute surf diva hats and donated 20% of all sales taken in at their surf shop yesterday to LRO. Give it up for Surf Diva!!!

I’d like to give a special thanks to:

Life Rolls On

Jesse Billauter

Kris Nakamura

Mobi Chair


Function Water

Popeyes Moving Co

Surf Diva

Sweet Treats

Lastly, a big MAHALO to all the volunteers who made this event possible. Thank you for being such incredible people and for giving such an incredible gift to those that are less fortunate than us. Your time, efforts and support is so appreciated. Thank you for fulfilling my niece’s dream of surfing and for allowing her such joy. Your actions will never be forgotten.  Thank you!!! And, to those that donate to Life Rolls On, your donations allow LRO to put on such great events and help countless individuals and families across the world. Much blessings to you all.

It was such an amazing day and I look forward to working with LRO more in the future. LIFE ROLLS ON ROCKS!




Here goes my little niece Maile on her way out to catch some waves! Chhheee-hoooooooooooooo:-) PINIMAGE PINIMAGE PINIMAGE PINIMAGE


To see more photos, click play below:

They Will Surf Again La Jolla 2010 from Gayla Elizabeth on Vimeo.

  • lisa - I absolutely loved the slide show. You did a terrific job at capturing the excitement and the joy on their faces

  • Jane Tani - What an incredible presentation! You really captured the mood and excitement of the day. It was so heartwarming to be able to participate in a They Will Surf Again event – my first time…

  • Michelle - Your photos are so touching…they actually brought tears to my eyes. You did such a wonderful job documenting this special day. It looks like all the hard work paid off and you captured all the smile to prove it.

  • Braddah D - Awesome Blessed Day and you were able to capture the special love in those pictures, Awesome people of volunteers and participants. LRO is an amazing organization. People came from around the country to be able to surf and those smiles were priceless! Gayla you did an amazing job as expected and we look forward to more photos in the events to come. MAHALO for volunteering your time and services. Maile was so Happy and always points to the photos saying ” thats me Daddy, I was surfing!”

  • Irene - Oh my gosh…I can’t stop wiping tears from my eyes…thank you, Gayla. I was so sad to have missed the special event.

  • Robbie Painter & Joyce Poe - Oh My Gosh!!! We cannot decide whether the words or the photos are the best. The whole thing brought tears to our eyes. What a wonderful day for everyone. Bravo, dear one.
    Joyce and Robbie

  • Larry Sapp - WOW Gayla! I had no idea you were there! I got there about 9:30 and therefore didn’t get out to surf until after lunch! But it was fantastic! My first time surfing since my accident 15 years ago and amazing! I had such a great time and I guess many could tell – including the French TV crew that was there as they ended up putting a video camera on my surfboard! It was all so incredible and you are so right about the entire organization. What a great event all around! Sorry I missed you but glad you were there and again captured some great images! I just shared them on Facebook! Take care and next LRO event I will check ahead of time and see if you are going to be there!!!

  • Kawika - WOW what a Fantastic Day. Gayla you captured all of the Aloha Spirit in those beautiful photos. The Life Rolls On organization put on a first class surf operation. Kris Nakamura is an angel and we love her dedication to LRO. Tnanks to all of the sponsors and volunteers it was a day no one will forget.

  • Beverly - Gayla, you SO captured the feeling of that day in incredible pictures. Thank you to all that made my dream of being able to surf come true!

  • josh - What a great organization. Looks like everyone had great time.

  • mommy - Tears are flowing everytime I watch it. What beautiful people, what fantastic volunteers, they are not only the nicest, kindest, loving people, but they went over and beyond to take my adorable grand-daughter “Maile”, to actually “SURF” and catch waves on a surfboard (bet her mother never ever been on a surfboard).
    To see all those smiles, and excitement on their faces is such a wonderful happy feeling, you have no idea every picture you took, was precious.
    LRO, how great that is. My fondest aloha goes to Kris Nakamura and ALL the workers who made such a memorable life time event for all those who got to surf.
    You captivated their expressions so true and excitable. You are indeed one of the best photographers ever, of course, I am the photographer’s mother….Della

  • Jay Studio Photography - I’m sooo glad I came across your blog. This is such an amazing event! I will look into this foundation and see what I can do to help! Thank you so much for building awareness on this foundation. You did a wonderful job on capturing these priceless moments!

  • mama goose - HONEY GIRL!!! sniff, sniff…, that was awesome!!! i love it, love it, love it!!! maile is my number one HERO today and forever! what an inspiration to all those that take life for granted! your photos of everyone…, surfers and volunteers, and family members…, made me smile from ear to ear!!! Thank you for being the special Aunty and person that you are! You make a difference in this world, just by being alive! I love you!

  • Revtek Hawaii - Very inspiring & great eye on taking these photos! Vibrant photos even with the skies being so gray.

  • chris wakatake - any pictures of the white plains beach hawaii event? Please let me know where I can view them if its up.

    Thanks, Chris- I was one of the volunteers in the water

  • cathy Lightfoot - Oh my Goodness I get tears every time I reflect on my experience with LRO I had a massive Cerebral Hemmorage 3-9-2006 the brain swelling was so intence that I nearly Herniated My Spinal Cord I was in a Coma for 1 month when I woke up I was told I was paralized on the Left side of my Body I also lost my eye sight in my left eye My physhian told me its a miricle that I am still alive alot of wonderful things have come into my life since I have been in a wheelchair. I was on the Red team at the La Jolla surf event and for the first time in 6 years I felt safe I am so pleased that I have LRO in my life now before the wheelchair I would never have wanted to go surfing I find that I am more adventurous now. I have a second chance at life and I am going to do all I can to enjoy this wonderful Life and quite honestly living life in a wheel chair is not so difficult I have learned to take care o myself and I can even take some steps now Thank you Red team and LRO for bringing even more joy into my life I am already counting down the days to the next surf event that I will be able to attend continue to inhance the lives of others its an awesome thing that you are doing we can do so much when we have hope Thank you so very much Cathy Lightfoot I have no doubt I will walk again and I will continue to get out and and surf as often as you will have me Thank you

  • Tracy - Your photos captured an incredible moment in time for me. It was the best feeling to be free on a wave when I thought I could never do that again since being paralyzed. I have your photos hanging in my room and it always reminds me of what an amazing day that was. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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