Surfing Santa set to celebrate 30 years
John Fulton, known as the Surfing Santa, rides a stand up paddleboard in Fort Erie Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. It was the 29th year the owner of Fulton Fitness has hit the water dressed as Santa. Dan Dakin, QMI Agency.
As Christmas nears, John Fulton isn’t thinking about his holiday shopping list.
He isn’t dreaming about the delicious feast of turkey with all of the trimmings either.
That’s because Fulton is focused on preparing for his annual windsurfing trip across Lake Erie from Fort Erie to the U.S. shoreline in Buffalo dressed as Santa Claus.
This is the 30th year the 55 year-old will launch his paddle board into the icy waters to make the trek in order to raise awareness for homelessness in Niagara. Fulton will attempt to make his voyage on Tuesday, Dec. 23 at 11 a.m. at Mather Park in Fort Erie.
“It gets a little harder every year. I spend about a month planning it and making sure my suit is ready,” Fulton said.
“But I’ll keep doing it as long as I can.”
Since he began making the journey in 1985, Fulton feels he has made an impact for much of Niagara’s homeless.
Fulton, who runs Fulton’s Fitness in St. Catharines, said many people from around the world know him as Surfing Santa. He has been made famous by major news networks and he has been featured in many newspapers across the globe.
“I started connecting the world through this event 30 years ago,” Fulton said.
“I was told by a man who lives in Mexico that he went to the bank and got a handful of cash and he gave pesos to the people who needed it. because he had heard about me.”
Fulton has also received e-mails from people in the Ukraine, China and many other places that have heard of him in the news.
Fulton “clearly remembers” the day he decided to become Surfing Santa.
“The idea popped into my head one day while I was driving,” Fulton said.
“I ran to my then girlfriend’s house and I said I need a Santa suit.”
With a promise to return a 100-year-old Santa suit that was an heirloom, Fulton set out to prepare for his first journey.
Some people thought he was crazy but Fulton didn’t mind.
For the first time, Fulton set sail there were only a few friends, and two photographers.
For 27 years, Fulton kept dressing up and making the journey with “a film crew and a few stragglers” who had come to watch.
But people took notice of what Fulton does each December and the Niagara Parks Commission, Niagara Helicopters and the U.S. Border Patrol have signed on to help ensure Fulton’s safety.
“I can definitely say it has been emotional,” Fulton said. “I’ve been doing this for so many years. Some people just don’t understand it but it’s amazing to have such support.”
He isn’t nervous about paddleboarding across Lake Erie this year.
“I wear a dry suit, gloves, a dry hoodie, socks and boots,
“I could scuba dive in what I am wearing and I would be fine.”
Fulton said raising awareness of homeless in Niagara has always been important to him and he encourages people to visit his web site at www.surfingsanta.com to learn more about how people can help.
“The number one need has always been socks,” Fulton said.
“A lot of the guys say to me that they need more socks. But socks don’t always find their way into the donation bin.”
That’s why Fulton has kicked off a Socks for Santa Drive.
Fulton’s new Iphone game is also becoming more popular.