Traumatic brain injury survivor catches a wave with 'They Will Surf Again'

ByMatteo Iadonisi, Nick Iadonisi Localish logo
Monday, November 13, 2023
Brain injury survivor catches a wave with 'They Will Surf Again'
After surviving a traumatic brain injury, Jack Cavanaugh had to relearn how to eat, speak, walk, and now SURF!Dozens of people with various disabilities are able to catch a wave at the annual event called, "They Will Surf Again."

WILDWOOD, N.J. -- "10 years ago, I suffered a traumatic brain injury due to a fall," said Jack Cavanaugh. "I sat on a railing and then I just lost my balance. I was in a coma for a month after that."

Cavanaugh, a resident of Woodlyn, Pennsylvania, had to relearn how to walk, talk, swallow, and more.

While still requiring the use of a wheelchair, his family brought him to Wildwood for an annual event called "They Will Surf Again."

There, dozens of individuals with various kinds of disabilities can ride the waves with the help of volunteers.

Cavanaugh loved it so much that he came back as both a surfer and a volunteer in the following years.

He was one of 100 surfers at the event this summer. They were each assisted by between 500 and 600 volunteers, many of whom are therapists, nurses, doctors, and students.

Cavanaugh described the surf as "exhilarating," and it felt like "everything was back to the way it was."

Since his brain injury, Cavanaugh returned to school and graduated cum laude from West Chester University.

He also regained his driver's license and got a job as an employment coach.

"They Will Surf Again" travels around the country and is hosted by "Life Rolls On," a nonprofit started by Jesse Billauer.

At the age of 17, Billauer broke his neck while surfing and instantly became a quadriplegic.

"It took me a few years to get back out in the water," said Billauer. "Didn't really know what I was doing and a couple of years after that, I started this foundation called Life Rolls On."

Billauer, a national and world adaptive surfing champion, was recently inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame.

"All anybody wants is for you to try," he said. "Give it your best. You never know what you can accomplish."

They Will Surf Again is sponsored by various local organizations such as Jefferson Moss-Magee Rehabilitation and The DeSatnick Foundation.

To learn more, visit their website:

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