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Oak Street Beach Arrest Infuriates Surfing Community

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Surfer catches a wave as Hurricane John approaches, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. (Credit: AP)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Fellow surfers are speaking out after a man was arrested earlier this week for surfing at the Oak Street Beach.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, world-class surfer Kelly Slater found out about the arrest Tuesday of Chicago surfer Rex Flodstrom.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

Police found Flodstrom, 40, surfing 4-foot swells at the beach. He was arrested for surfing in a no-surf zone, and charged with disorderly conduct and being at a closed beach.

Flodstrom was handcuffed in his cold-weather wet suit and held for four hours at a police lockup.

Slater, an 11-time surfing world champion criticized Flodstrom’s arrest on Twitter Wednesday.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s just a body of water. What’s with the regulations?” Slater told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It makes no sense. … It sounds like a police state.”

Slater, who splits time living in Florida, California and Hawaii, said he is trying to juggle his schedule to be in court with Flodstrom.

“It would be cool to show up and see what kind of BS they’re talking about,” said Slater, who also is an author, video game character, musician and actor, best known for a recurring role on “Baywatch.”

Surfing advocates — including pro-surfer turned environmental activist James Pribram, who helped lead the movement to lift Chicago’s surf ban in 2009 — also plan to show up in court.

“I was shocked to hear someone got arrested, again,” said Pribram, who plans to re-energize a push to expand surfing in Chicago. “I thought Chicago was going to open more beaches and have surfing legalized throughout the lakefront. The fact that surfing is illegal anywhere in America is pretty baffling in this day and age. People should have the free will to use the lake to surf, boogie-board, do stand-up paddling, whatever.”

Pribram said he and Slater plan to catch some super-cold waves, too.

It would be Slater’s first shot at ripping frigid, freshwater curls.

“I’d love to,” Slater said. “It would be a cool experience but freezing cold.”

Flodstrom said he’s overwhelmed by all the support of the “global surfing family.”

The City of Chicago used to have an absolute ban on surfing at Lake Michigan, but that ban was lifted in 2009 under pressure from surfing advocate groups such as the Surfrider Foundation. Surfing is only permissible now at certain beaches, of which Oak Street is not one.

The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.

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