All waves should be accessible to all people.
On a brisk winter day in Chicago, a tall athletic man leaves a court building and breathes a sigh of relief. He has just been through what he considers a ridiculous ordeal. twenty hours of community service await him for a crime he felt he never committed. Who is this man and just what did he do?
Rex Flodstrom is his name and the crime is surfing. On January 17, 2012, the Chicagoland native was arrested in Lake Street Beach for illegally surfing in a beach that banned the sport for the winter season. His arrest left misdemeanor charges and citations over his head for almost a month. What does a person with no previous criminal record do when they feel they are wrongly accused? They fight in court.
News about his arrest for surfing was spread throughout local and national media outlets like Chicago Tribune, ABC News and ESPN. Professional surfer Kelly Slater voiced his dismay about the incident on twitter, while fellow Pro Surfer and Enviromentalist James Pribram joined Flodstrom at the court building in support of the athlete.
With the help of powerful defense attorney Ed Genson and Flodstrom’s surfing family, he was sentenced to twenty hours of community service and the promise that all criminal charges will be erased after the service is completed by March 19, 2012.
Does the story end there? Not hardly. The now famous surfer and the Surfrider Foundation are planning to fight for the freedom for all surfers in Chicago to surf where they please. They believe surfing is not a crime.
In a recent interview with entertainment focused blog BTSCelebs, Flodstrom recalled the reasons the sport is so strictly regulated in the city.
“A long time ago there was a tragedy where some kids drowned on a raft, so Chicago banned flotation devices. Surfboards where classified as flotation devices. In 2009, Chicago legalized surfing at certain beaches due to pressure from Surf-rider and surfers. Surfing is misunderstood here…. Surfing is a multiple billion dollar global industry. Surf companies have the technology to build suits and gear in an environmentally responsible way that can keep a surfer warm in cold water. People drown in the great lakes; I have no desire to be one of those people. In 2011, 87 people drowned. There is documented proof that surfers save lives in the great lakes and around the world.”
He concluded his response with the following statement: ” I agree with Surfrider Foundation’s belief that all beaches and all waves should be accessible to all people. We believe that surfing is not a crime. “
What attracts Flodstrom and many others to this sport? “Surfing is spiritual. Surfing puts you in the moment. Surfing is about being in the right place at the right time.”
Note: This is an article I wrote for The Seoul Times.