Chicago Surfer Arrested

Lake Michigan man detained for surfing his local break

| posted on January 18, 2012

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.”

  • whattt

    whatttt thats so effed. give him some dry clothes or at least a blanket dumb pigs. I surf frigid waters too and its always my greatest fear that i lose my car key or my car wont start and i have to sit there in that mofo suit and freeze. my condolences

  • Rodney


  • Airdrop76

    God Bless America…land of the free

  • richross

    huh… “city banned all floating devices” sounds weird if you think about it… does that include boats too? well said above…free rex!

  • Josh

    Who the hell would ban all floatable devices? Does that include life jackets? Or if your kid has some water toy is it like fuck you go to jail? Probably the stupidest law I’ve ever heard… Get real Chicago

  • dan boersma

    Several of us from Laguna Beach, CA and around the world are very upset about a Chicago surfer, Rex Flodstrom, who was recently arrested by the Chicago Police Department for surfing in Lake Michigan. Several years ago James Pribram and Dave Vanderveen traveled to Chicago and, with the help of many local activists, were instrumental in the reversal of the no surfing laws in Chicago. While surfing is only allowed at a couple of Chicago beaches, you can imagine the bureaucracy they had to deal with regarding the Chicago Park District. James is communicating with 11 time world surfing champion Kelly Slater and James is planning a trip to Chicago to support Rex at his court date on February 16th. Please let us know if you can be of any assistance. We appreciate your support. Surfing is not a crime.

  • Grant

    this sounds like the ban they have on the wedge during the day, but this blew my mind, u can surf in Chicago, is it a constant break or only during winters during stormy weather



  • Chris

    Pretty pathetic Chicago PD. Way to be out there protecting and serving and keeping everyone safe from crime. Ever hear of a warning? At the most, that’s all this should have been.

  • Charles Wall

    There wouldn’t be enough money to pay cops in many surf towns if they banned surfing. Think about it.

  • Kernow King

    Ban surfing after a tragic accident, but guns all over the US, loads of shootings, but no banning?!

  • Elgenio Dervez

    Why not ban swimming in pools? People drown there more than in lakes. How about getting out of bed? A lot of people die after they get out of bed.

  • Clinton

    Why do they not understand – We don’t want surfers in Chicago. Next time they should shoot this guy and break his board!

  • Jeff

    Who’s WE Clinton? 1000 Strong and growing and its not going away. Maybe you should go plow your cornfield or rob another liquorstore.

  • Tom Rager

    “I’ll take Highest Murder Rates for 1000 Alex”. BLING “Oh I’m sorry the answer is “Arrested for Surfing”! cpd dumbasses!

  • Scott

    Hey Clinton… FUCK OFF! Why are even on this site in the first place. Go sit on ur fucking couch and eat some more pizza KOOK!

  • Splash

    Wow – don’t these cops have anything better to do… Hahahaha! What a joke…Come be a policeman in Africa – at least you won’t be so bored as to arrest people for surfing!!! Couldn’t stop me from paddling out… Kudos Rex – legend!

  • David Vanderveen

    FYI, this is the FUEL TV episode about Jamo and my trip with Vince Deur to Chicago (and other Great Lakes’ spots) to help legalize surfing in Chicago a few years ago and clean up the rivers that feed into the lakes.

  • Surffreshwater

    heres proof that surfers save lives….EVEN Cops

    Surfing is not a crime!

  • Brandon

    this is complete bullcrap! and Chicago PD worrying about a single surfer? seriously… i know they got better things they could do, just too lazy to get they’re hands dirty and fill out some paperwork for a real crime…

    and clinton, you’re a kook, go drown yourself in your bathtub and do the entire world a favor, ignorant shithead…

    free rex!

  • sean

    funny it happened in chicago keep voting for these democraps youll loose all your freedoms

  • Brandon

    Thats so messed up. Let surfers do what try love; surf! The government needs to learn how to stay out of our business sometimes! They wants to freaking surf in Chicago, let him. Who would it have realistically affected? Him. Te same guy who pays this same government obscene bills to hospitalize him in the event that his zealous surfing passions took to a more negative outcome. It’s his life, and the guys a man. Fuck off government.

  • Porto

    I know that the Surfrider Chapter here had to kick in a lot of time to open the few beaches that are now open to surfing. It seems wrong to ban someone from something that costs the city nothing, if they just leave it alone…let the surfer decide because pretty much all the ones I hang with know their shit so accidents happen,…but that is why they call them accidents.

  • Dan

    Americans are retarded with their ridiculous laws.
    Don’t have to worry about any of that cazy S#*t down here in NZ

  • David Heith

    The police are only doing their job… It’s the people of Chicago are are messed up. Ban surfing? What a bunch of puds! You people need to do something about real crime since your town has and always will be run by crooks, gangsters, thieves, and drug dealers. People in Chicago are pathetic.

  •!/sulrFbraSil sulrFbraSil

    Looking at the bright side..

    this could help change things over Chirazycago

    hopefully Kelly and a few other known surfers will support Rex


  • steve

    I lived in chicago for 5 years and didn’t know there was any where to surf Being born and raised in California surfing since the late sixties.Really how good could it be? It’s a fucking lake I want to see some pictures.Should of bought them lunch when I lived there many infractions were taken care of with a slight bribe. Not just the cops but judges too. Have paid off judges myself. Always carry bribe money in chicago 10-20 for minor stuff 50 will get you out of just about anything except murder or murder of a white person

  • Artem Andrey

    Hey David Heith, you’re pathetic. You against the whole city of Chicago. Sup. F U! Bitch. Rex is a super nice guy. Never ever have i even felt or heard anything bad from him in the past. Next time go to the Shoe or something. Oak St. is full of pigs.

  • Jesse Lewis

    The problem with our country. Making laws for a few doesn’t work.
    3 people die. Let’s make a law??

  • Pat Reigel

    Great to see that all the pedophiles, rapists, drug dealers and murderers are off the streets and Chicagos ?finest? need to send several cars and officers to arrest a guy with with a surfboard. Thats just damn good police work.

  • Mike Killion

    The ban on floatation devices was put in place because of ONE freak accident decades ago. A few girls drowned while using an inflatable raft on the lake and since then the CPD banned all floating devices, surfboards, boogie boards, rafts, inner tubes, etc…

    I myself was there when deliberating with the CPD, working with James Pribram, the now Chicago Surfrider Chapter, Vince Deur, and many more. We had lifted the ban for several beaches: 2 for the on season (summer), and 4 beaches in the off season (after Labor Day til May 25th).

    The majority of our waves on the Great Lakes come in the fall and winter. And @steve… it does get real good, I’ll show you some pictures!

    Give Great Lakes Surfer Magazine a peep at or visit our blog at

    I’m sure most of you will be pleasantly surprised with the swell we can obtain. Also stay up to date with info on Rex’s arrest and court procedure at Great Lakes Surfer Magazine!

  • Matthew

    All these comments on here bashing America…well, Im from Calif. and live in Barcelona and…it is the same here. People were arrested this year for surfing. Any time a red flag is out its illegal to go in the sea here. It is not only in America, not that it makes it better…just wish people would stop acting like the US is the only place with absurd laws.

  • Scott Ditzenberger

    Come on Chi-town police, you’re making your great city look foolish in the eyes of America. Surfers SAVE LIVES in the water. This has been shown over and over on Lake Michigan and everywhere else. They are an asset and the Great Lakes are lucky to have them. We have too many laws in this country, and not enough common sense.

  • chance

    If he had a surfboard that did not float,which theoretically is possible to surf. Would it be allowed?

  • chi douche

    chicago and rahm emanuel…. no surprise.
    can’t wait for hopey change to get re-elected.

  • Luis Ramos

    You are a surfer, a bad ass one. Stay in the line up and god bless…

  • Stan Mitchell

    It’s legal to kill an unborn baby—and you send a man to jail for catching a rare session—enjoying nature—-now you know why they call them pigs!!!!!!
    Give a punk a gun & a badge and watch them usurp authority. Give a man
    a gun & a wave & watch him shred freedom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Guess a citation did not allow AUTHORITY to reign.

  • GL Surfer

    Democrats in power = big government and less individual freedoms. Chicago Illinois, the perfect example of the nanny state. 3 people died because of stupid parents, so therefore everyone should be banned to “keep the population safe.” Make sense to democrats.

  • Warren Evans

    Cops need to use common sense. Because he surfed and survived, he should not have even been arrested. Only those that die should be arrested, so their lame family won”t sue the state. For it’s their decision to take any risk. Which in any sport has. Surfers know this. The Tourist don’t know, arrest them, that die by their bad decision, and then any family member who try’s to sue.

  • Higgs


  • Alex

    #FREEREX – Saw this posted to Kelly’s twitter yesterday and couldn’t believe someone got arrested for surfing! You’re a hero Rex. Those cops should get kicked off the force for not giving you dry clothes and a blanket.

    And if he was just swimming in a wetsuit without a board would he have still been arrested?– because it seems to me it’s safer to have a “floatation device” in cold water than not. Well said above, though.

  • ric

    So many thoughts about this;
    Amazing, so exactly what innocent person are they protecting from harm?

    So, he had to go to jail not just a ticket?

    Maybe the mayor cannot find a way to tax surfing so it is illegal.

    Just thinking, I am visiting Vietnam and I and here I can surf where I want., but not in the States….the world is upside down.

    This is all very hard for me to understand.

  • Paul van Jaarsveld

    Sounds like a police state in the words of Alex Jones.
    Those xcel wetties are nice!

  • http://surfer kimbo

    you guys call yourself “surfers” you are are a product of global marketing . their are no waves where you are and their are no real surfers where you are,so nothing really occured , back to bed . All the best from Australia.

  • Cedric

    True surfer, much respect.

  • Paul

    I’d say this guy from Chicago is actually way more hardcore and dedicated surfer than you mate – he’s paddling out with snow on the beach into crap waves just for a buzz from a little stormy lake wave. What’s a ‘real surfer’ anyway? You sound like the typical arrogant, Aussie surf douche who thinks they’re superior to the rest of the world.

  • Alan

    How Stupid! Did Obama outlaw surfing b/4 the left? Get rid of the pinhead, Quickly!

  • Sam

    For those non-believers in great lakes waves go check out this video of Jamie Sterling coming to lake superior. I know it’s not Chicago and Lake Michigan but definitely gives perspective to what can happen here.

  • Simon

    The banner ad when I read this article was:
    “Emigrate to USA. Freedom Justice and Liberty for all”
    Yeah right.

  • Boulder

    Attention Chicago Surfers: Find out what beaches you can surf legally and only surf there. This way you wont show up on surf websites anymore.

  • wa

    bullshit stupid f*cking cops

  • el loco drogadicto

    He is representing the true hardcore side of surfing. How many people get arrested for surfing their home break?. He knew that spot was off the limits of the “legal” surf breaks (how stupid is that?) and yet went for a session like any other hardcore surfer would do….hoping not to get caught..taking the risk. Down here we have to break into other people´s property, we have to dodge caimans and we have to sneak over armed drug lords guards to get to the best spots. Dangerous?, hell yeah. Do we do it?, yes we do…and only fr a few waves like this guy. Hats off to him and hope he does well in court. Keep in mind is representing all of us.

  • k

    what really bugs me about all this , is the people hating on this guy saying that cats from chicago/midwest aren’t real surfers …. im in both the surf and snowboard industry and know well enough that it doesnt matter where your doing it, that if its part of you and you love to do it, it really shouldn’t matter…

    so “chupa me huevos” to all the cats saying this dude isnt a real surfer… your the real gapers …

  • Elias Wreford

    I’m from Michigan and I can tell you right now that waves from Chicago all the way up to Sesh-wa in the U.P. of Michigan can get truly big. I’ve surfed 18-24 ft Faces in Frankfort, and I can guarantee you boys from Australia wherever that say we’re “not real surfers/no real waves” would get your BUTTS handed to you by the fact that 1. there is NO break between sets, it’s just wave, wave, wave, another f’ing wave, wave etc… so you’d better be ready. Plus 5 or 6 mil suits, freezing wind gale-force wind, rain… There are a lot of elements here that quite honestly make surfing here MORE challenging, not less. Oh, and you don’t float here either. But hey, no sharks, no salt, no worries. Surfing isn’t a crime… and doing it, no matter where, is surfing.

  • Daniel

    Dear Americans: The League of Darkness is trying to tear down your country. Discover who your real enemies are and don’t fight the lab rats they use. Difficult thing indeed but necessary to save the your nation.

  • jp

    a hard core surfer for sure

  • huey_suuurfinjapan

    Hey, has anyone actually thought to applaud the police who were actually kind enough to wait for him to finish his session. More cars probably showed up just to watch in envy and appreciation.
    And, the best thing, this now calls international attention to a law that perhaps is a bit overboard.
    Great surf session, great publicity, and great story for the grandchildren around the fire after they legally surf the same spot on a freezing day in the near future…. win, win, win…

  • Courtney

    Cheeeeeee! Aloha friends and family ‘o’ surfers! I’m originally a Chicagoan, and I just moved back from Oahu after living a year and a half there, surfing CHOKE waves! All da spots brahdahs! And I will tell you what, this brotha’ is from anotha’! Anyone who surfs here in Chicago rules! I will agree, it probably is more challenging! 6 ft Hawaiian faces is enough, but in this grueling weather, HO! Thank you, Rex, I’ll be joinin’ you in the water while I’m in this midwest tundra!

  • Jeremiah Baumann

    If even one…..even. one…..person got raped, robbed, or murdered in Chicago while two cops were waiting to arrest a guy for surfing that entire fucking shitbird police cabal should be immediately de-funded and rebuilt from scratch with people who don’t suck so many fat dicks.