Surfing Santa to be escorted by US border patrol

Melissa Mangelsen

John Fulton, the Surfing Santa. (QMI Agency, file)

John Fulton, the Surfing Santa. (QMI Agency, file)

John Fulton, also known as Surfing Santa, said he’s not a man of many traditions, however, for the past 28 years he has been dressing up like Santa and embarking on a wind-surfing trip across the Niagara River into the United States to bring attention to the plight of the homeless worldwide.

In the past, Fulton has had some run ins with border patrol in the US, even being arrested one year for illegally entering the United States. Last year he was rescued by US border patrol because heavy winds caused some problems as the mast of his sail snapped into pieces when he was about half way into the US on the Niagara River.

This year his trip across the river will have a new twist, as the US border patrol reached out to Fulton and offered their service in escorting him across the river.

“They’ve been really great over the years,” Fulton said of the US border patrol.

“I’m interested to see how the addition of the border patrol will change this event,” he added. They’re also getting involved on the US side by promoting the event and giving it media coverage.

Mike Scioli, lead border patrol agent, said they decided to escort him because of the troubles he encountered last year.

"He had an issue last year and we were in the right place at the right time. We already have a vessel out there anyway. If he needs help we'll be there to provide it," said Scioli.

Though Fulton enjoys the media coverage he generates from crossing the river, the reason he really does it is to give back to the community and bring to light the issue of homelessness. On Christmas Day he delivers food and warm clothes to less fortunate individuals in Niagara.

“It does put Fort Erie and wind-surfing on the map, but it’s great that I can be a part of something that gives back to the community. You can’t just take you have to give back too. There are a lot of people out there who can’t afford presents at Christmas. As you get busy with Christmas it’s easy to forget about the people who have nothing. I want people to go out and help a family who needs it,” said Fulton.

He asks the public to take some of their stuff, toys, food, clothes, blankets, cash, etc., and find a shelter, a homeless person, family, charity and make a donation. Shelters and food banks have a greater need than ever during these tough economic times.

He is currently the longest running surfing Santa in the world.

The event will be Dec. 23 from 9 to 11 a.m. Depending on the wind, he will either leave from Old Fort Erie, Bowen Road Park or Service Road 4, near the Niagara Parkway Marina.


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