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Surfing Walk of Fame inducts inspirational surfers in Huntington Beach

It was Jesse Billauer’s 17th birthday and the last day he would ever walk into the ocean, the last time he would stand up on his board.

The Pacific Palisades native had started surfing in 1988 and within just a few years had secured a sponsorship with Billabong, traveling the world to exotic surf breaks and living his pro surfing dreams.

But on March 25, 1996, Billauer broke his neck surfing, suffering a spinal cord injury that would leave his body paralyzed.

“The ocean has bought us all so many of our funnest memories, and for some of us there’s just one memory we would do anything to erase. But we can’t.  We can’t take it back. My heart was broken,” said Billauer, who went on to form the nonprofit Life Rolls On to help people with disabilities feel the thrill of surfing.

Billauer was one of several influential and inspirational wave riders honored in several categories during the Surfing Walk of Fame in front of Jack’s Surfboards on Thursday, Aug. 3. Also inducted were Dick Metz as a surf pioneer, Pauline Menczer as woman of the year, Don Hansen for the honor roll, Roberto “Chuy” Madrigal as a local hero, Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard for surf culture and Cheyne Horan as a surf champion.



The induction is held each year during the US Open of Surfing.

Billauer, the first to accept his award, talked about his many accomplishments following his surf accident, including three International Surfing Association adaptive surfing world championships, being featured in the Dana Brown film “Step Into Liquid” and, his greatest feat, his twin sons.

Life Rolls On, created in 2001, is dedicated to giving people with disabilities the ability to “feel the freedom of riding waves, being out in the ocean with nature and enjoying the wind, the water just splashing on their face,” he said, adding it is “an opportunity to get out of their wheelchairs and feel free from the pain, the struggles and daily grind of being confined by a wheelchair.”

Pick yourself up after hardship. Figure out your passion and follow it. And be kind to people, you never know what they may be going through, he urged.

The next inductee to be honored with a granite stone on the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway was Hansen, who started surfboard shaping in Santa Cruz with Jack O’Neill before moving to San Diego in the ’60s to open his own shop, Hansen Surfboards.

“It’s a great day today, so thank you,” said Hansen in his short acceptance speech.

Madrigal, a well-known fixture in Huntington Beach since the ’70s for his skate and surf skills, earned the local hero award.

He has worked as a business liaison between the U.S. and Mexico, working with the U.S. Embassy and other governmental agencies. He also helped create the US Open of Surfing in 1994 and has been a staple in the Surf City community for decades.

“I gotta say something about our mayors, they have always been friendly to the surf community,” he said.

In 1958, Metz made one of the first great around-the-world surf adventures, coming back to tell friend and filmmaker Bruce Brown about the journey, paving the path for what would become “The Endless Summer” movie.

Metz spent much of the ’60s living in Hawaii running the Hobie shop in Honolulu, launched Surfline Hawaii with Dave Rochlen and later opened several other Hobie shops on both the West and East coasts. Along with Spencer Croul, Metz help create the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente, the largest collection of surf memorabilia.

Metz, 93, couldn’t make the event, recouping from a knee surgery. The center’s curator, Barry Haun, accepted the award on Metz’s behalf.

“He’s the youngest teenager I know,” said Haun. “He lives the life of aloha. You all know Dick as a huge supporter of surfing. He’s had his hand in so many different things. He’s a man of many talents, but he will never tell you about himself. He has all his friends that will do that for him, and I count myself blessed to be among his friends. He’s going to outlive all of us.”

Australian Menczer sent a video message to accept her ward. The 1993 world champion, who retired in 2006, accumulated 20 world tour wins through her competitive career.

She recalled an event in Huntington Beach, the crowd cheering her on.

“I was very thankful for that support,” she said. “Also knowing that a little part of me will always be in Huntington is awesome.”

Horan, a pro surfer from the ’70s and ’80s and also from Australia, talked about his first memories of Surf City.

“I came here and I was like ‘Wow,’” he recalled thinking while walking up Main Street. “This is the first place I came to when I came to America … walking up the pier, looking over the guys surfing underneath you.”

Surf journalist Sam George accepted the award on behalf of Chouinard, founder of clothing company Patagonia.

George talked about Chouinard’s surfing roots, a ’50s-era wave rider who intentionally set up his headquarters just blocks from a surf break in Ventura.

He eventually turned his passion into one of the world’s most successful outdoor companies. In 2022, he made headlines when he announced he was donating Patagonia, worth $3 billion, to a trust dedicated to fighting the climate crisis.

“Really, his biggest contribution was that he really was the first person to steer his company into the area we now know as ‘green,’ where you start expressing your environmental consciousness through your products, through your marketing, through the integrity of your company,” George said. “He has shown the ocean is truly one of those wild areas he has cherished and dedicated his life to protecting.”

Source: Orange County Register

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