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Joe Surf: Laguna's Pribram intervening in Windy City surfer arrest

February 15, 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 by Chicago police for — wait for it — surfing off the shores of Lake Michigan.

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 takes place Thursday, in a show of support. Whether or not Slater shows up, Flodstrom will have supporters, among them Laguna Beach's James Pribram.

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 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. 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 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've spoken to a lot of the guys," Pribram said, referring to members of Chicago's Surfrider Foundation chapter who are expected to show up. "And I made it clear that I'm not the guy holding a sign in protest. I'm not the guy making a spectacle. I certainly don't want to embarrass the sport of surfing.

"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."

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