Chicago Surfer Arrested

Lake Michigan man detained for surfing his local break

Rex Flodstrom, all smiles coming out of the lake prior to his incarceration. Photo: Mike Calabro

Yesterday evening, Chicago Police made an unusual arrest when they picked up Rex Flodstrom, 40, for surfing off of Oak Street in Lake Michigan.

Flodstrom, who is a resident of Chicago, was baffled when he returned to shore only to be placed in handcuffs and have his board confiscated.

"I was surfing and saw a couple of guys on the beach and thought that they were spectators…I figured they might be friends or just someone checking it out. Then I noticed a car and a couple others pull up," said Flodstrom in a video interview with a FOX affiliate station in Chicago. "When it was time to come in I didn't know it was going to be a big situation, but I walked onto a hostile beach. They immediately grabbed me, handcuffed me, took me to the station and the regular police stuff…I was thinking this was insane."

Until recently, surfing was completely banned in Chicago. The law was reportedly enacted after a deadly tragedy that involved three girls and an inflatable raft. As a result, the city banned all floatable devices, including surfboards.

But in 2009, backed by efforts from a group that would later become the Surfrider Foundation Chicago Chapter, the city lifted the ban on surfing in certain beaches. Presently, there are four breaks accessible to surfers in the winter months while two breaks are accessible in the summer.

According to Mitch McNeil, the vice chairman of the Chicago chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, the break that Flodstrom was surfing at, Oak Street, was considered off limits.

"Unfortunately, Oak Street was not on the list of legal beaches," said McNeil. "I'm actually not really familiar of many people surfing over there."

According to Flodstrom, the break only gets decent a few times a year.

"The wave doesn't really get very good often, maybe once or twice a year," he said. "But yesterday was one of those days it was breaking. I actually live really close to the break so it's really convenient for me to walk down there and go for a surf. I've surfed there a bunch of times and never had any problems with the cops, so I was pretty shocked to get arrested."

When asked if the session was worth the jail time, Flodstrom chuckled. "Yeah, it was actually pretty good…for a lake. But yeah, if I were able to surf my home spot and go take a hot shower, then it would've been a great session. But if I'd had known that I would be arrested and would have to spend four hours in a holding cell in a freezing wetsuit, then I probably wouldn't have paddled out."