Have you been following the story of Chicagoan Rex Flodstrom? He’s the 40 year old who got arrested for surfing. Yep, the Chicago P.D. seemingly doesn’t have enough crime to solve or dangerous criminals to chase; instead they arrest Flodstrom for surfing Lake Michigan. To be fair to the cops, he was breaking the law; he was in the park after hours.
Though to be fair to Flodstrom, I didn’t even know Lake Michigan was part of the park. Where’s the line in this big, vast lake that stops being part of the park? After all, Lake Michigan touches 10 cities in IL, 7 in IN, 29 in MI and 18 in WI. Or did the cop wait for Flodstrom to step back on land to arrest him? Yep, that’s what happened.
When he was arrested he was charged with two counts of violating a park ordinance and disorderly conduct. In fact, he was charged with being a danger to others. I’m not sure exactly how he was endangering others, but that was one of the counts they got him on. They handcuffed him and took him to jail in his wetsuit! Really? Was that necessary?
Can’t you hear the arresting officer having coffee with fellow cops. One cop says, “I busted up a drug ring. Got tons of crack off the streets.” Another says, “I threw an asshole in jail who thought it was cool to beat up women.” To which Flodstrom’s arresting offer says, “Oh yea. Well I busted a surfer last night!”
Flodstrom’s plight came to the attention of many in the surfing community. Kelly Slater tweeted “Surfing is not a crime” and said he was considering showing up when Flodstrom went to court. Another supporter who planned to be on hand was Eco-Warrior Project’s founder and pro surfer James Pribram.
Orange County, California-based writer Joe Haakenson asked Pribram about this Chicago arrest.
“In all of my projects with the Eco-Warrior Project initiative, I have never gone to court, never experienced something like this,” Pribram said earlier this week as he packed for Chicago. “In this day and age to be arrested for surfing like that is insane.
“It’s one thing to get a ticket for surfing. But here’s a guy who got arrested and they wouldn’t let him change out of his wetsuit. He’s in jail for hours in a wet wetsuit. I think that’s harsh.”
Pribram said he doesn’t know what to expect at Thursday’s court date, but said he does expect a lot of media, and it might be huge if Slater shows up. Pribram, though, said he isn’t looking to make a scene. “I’m going there to support a fellow surfer and find a resolution to what’s happened, and going forward, find a better compromise for something like this.”
Pribram isn’t new to the surfing woes of Lake Michigan. In fact, until a few years ago it was illegal to surf on the Great Lake and Pribram was instrumental in getting that law overturned.
“I know what it’s about to keep the public safe, but it’s extreme to arrest someone and take them to jail, and on top of it, not let him change out of his wetsuit,” Pribram said. “That’s crazy. We’re talking about a guy who was surfing; we’re not talking about a guy who robbed a bank. Give the guy a ticket and be done with it.”
Believe it or not, Flodstrom isn’t the first person in Chicago to get arrested for surfing. Pribram, in his interview with Joe Haakenson, tells the story of another surfer named Jack Flynn who got arrested in 2008. Flynn, too was hauled to jail in his wetsuit and he spent the night in jail in his neoprene. You can read Haakenson’s full story here.
Slater didn’t make it to the court hearing but Pribram and several local surfers did. So did the local ABC affiliate.
“The judge agreed to drop charges against Flodstrom if he completed 20 hours of community service before March 19. But that did not seem to satisfy the surfers, who cited Flodstrom’s arrest as an example of overprotective government.
Mitch McNeil of the Surfrider Foundation told ABC News, “Surfers take full responsibility for what happens to them on the water. They can’t fathom how a surfer is arrested for going in the water.” McNeil added, “It’s not in the police playbook for them to be policing the surfing community.””
The morale of the story….when you’re planning your next surf trip, don’t surf Lake Michigan in Chicago. You Might Get Arrested.