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Joe Surf: Local intervenes in Chicago surfer case

February 23, 2012|By Joe Haakenson

"Surfing is not a crime."

That's what 11-time Assn. of Surfing Professionals champ Kelly Slater tweeted when he found out last month that 40-year-old Rex Flodstrom was arrested for … wait for it … surfing Lake Michigan in Chicago.

Flodstrom was charged with disorderly conduct, two counts of violating a Chicago Park District ordinance and one count of being in the park after park hours. He was handcuffed and taken to jail in his wetsuit.

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When the news got out, Slater was outspoken and expressed he might go to Chicago and attend Flodstrom's court appearance, which took place last week, in a show of support. Slater did not show up, but Flodstrom had supporters, among them Laguna Beach's James Pribram.

The judge dropped the charges when Flodstrom agreed to perform 20 hours of community service by March 19.

"My lawyer and I deliberated on whether to take the 20 hours or take it to trial a month later," Flodstrom told Surfline.com. "He said we'd almost certainly win the case, but in the slim chance that we didn't I would get a misdemeanor on my record and a fine."

Though Pribram favored taking it to trial, he was Flodstrom's most staunch supporter. In news interview videos of Flodstrom that aired nationally, Pribram could be seen standing next to Flodstrom.

Pribram travels the world as part of his Eco-Warrior Project, usually to support and initiate cleanup and conservation efforts on beaches and in the ocean. But when he heard about Flodstrom's arrest, he traded tweets with Slater and their Twitter followers urged them to go to Chicago.

"In all of my projects with the Eco-Warrior Project initiative, I have never gone to court, never experienced something like this," Pribram said before the hearing. "In this day and age to be arrested for surfing like that is insane.

"It's one thing to get a ticket for surfing. There are places in California, Orange County, Laguna Beach where in the summer months you can't surf, so if someone crosses the line, you get a ticket. 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 was there to support Flodstrom, not cause a scene. He talked to members of the Chicago Surfrider Foundation and urged them to do the same.

"I made it clear that I'm not the guy holding a sign in protest, I'm not the guy making a spectacle," Pribram said. "I certainly don't want to embarrass the sport of surfing."

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