CHICAGO (CBS) — A North Side man arrested last month for illegally surfing off Oak Street Beach will have the charges against him dropped if he completes 20 hours of community service, but he maintained he did nothing wrong.
Rex Flodstrom, 40, appeared in court on Thursday on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and citations for violating three Chicago Park District ordinances by surfing at a no-surfing beach. Prosecutors told the judge they would drop charges if he completes 20 hours of community service by March 19.
Flodstrom agreed to community service rather than taking his case to trial, although he maintained he did nothing wrong.
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“I would probably win, but there was a possibility of getting a misdemeanor on my record, which I know my mom would be upset about,” he said after court. “Surfing’s not a crime and all beaches and all waves should be accessible to all people.”
Flodstrom’s high-profile attorney, Ed Genson, who is next-door neighbors with Flodstrom’s parents and has known Rex since he was born, said there was no indication at Oak Street Beach last month that Flodstrom shouldn’t have been surfing.
“There were no signs on that beach, there was no prohibition for him to be surfing on that beach. He did nothing wrong,” Genson said. “There should be no reason why he shouldn’t be able to go to that beach. If they don’t want him there, it’s a simple matter to … put up a sign. There was no sign there.”
But he also applauded the Chicago police officers in the case, saying they thought Flodstrom might have been drowning, so they went into the water to save him.
“The Chicago police officers went to extraordinary lengths to, quite frankly, try to, what they thought was, to save him. … They even put on a wetsuit, because they thought he was in some sort of jeopardy,” Genson added.
Genson is one of the city’s most well-known attorneys; he defended former Gov. George Ryan, helped singer R. Kelly win an acquittal of child porn charges, and represented Rod Blagojevich at the impeachment trial that ended with his removal as governor in 2009.
Genson said Flodstrom would serve his community service by cleaning up Montrose Beach, where about a half dozen fellow surfers went into the water to show their support Thursday afternoon.
After Flodstrom’s court appearance at a West Side courthouse, about a half dozen surfers hit Montrose Beach, which is open to surfers in winter, and went paddling on their surfboards on the calm lake to support Flodstrom.
Flodstrom initially said he was thinking of joining his fellow surfers in going out on the lake Thursday, but changed his mind.
“Some people look at it and call it an addiction, or an obsession, and to some extent it could be; because we just love to do it, we love to be outside, we love to be active, we love to be with like-minded people and contribute to the community,” said fellow surfer Mike Killion, of Buffalo Grove.
The surfers said they hope to convince the Chicago Park District to ease its restrictions on surfing. He was dressed in a dark suit and dress shoes for court and said he didn’t want to get his shoes dirty.
Laguna Beach resident James Pribram said he came out from California, even though he’d never met Flodstrom before, because “I was just blown away that another surfer was arrested here, so I wanted to come out here and show my support for him.”
He said that three years ago he worked with Chicago area surfers to get several Chicago beaches opened to surfing.
“We all think that surfing should be legal and … maybe get a ticket and slap on the wrist at worst,” Pribram said.