Smooth ride for Surfing Santa

By Sarah Ferguson, Fort Erie Times

It was a smooth ride for Surfing Santa, who made his 31st annual trek across the Niagara River from Canada to the U.S. and back on a stand-up paddleboard Wednesday afternoon.

Surfing Santa, who is better known to his family and friends as John Fulton, makes the journey each year “for one very important reason.”

“I draw attention to poverty and homelessness across the region,” he told a small crowd of approximately 30 people, including his family, friends, spectators and media.

Fulton encourages anyone who comes out to watch him navigate the water between Fort Erie and Buffalo, N.Y. to donate socks, underwear and toiletries which he would distribute to local homeless shelters.

‘We gather socks, underwear, women’s bras and toiletries for the homeless population living in the area. Those are items that are not typically donated that are in the highest demand.”

According to Fulton, 20 per cent of the homeless population in Canada are people ages 16 to 24.

“At any given time, there are 50,000 people living on the streets,” he explained.

On Wednesday, Fulton arrived at Mather Arch at the Niagara River Parkway driving a small truck with his trailer full of gear in tow. He greeted the small crowd before entering the water just after 11:30 a.m.

With the temperature at 16°C, Fulton said it was one of the warmest rides he’s ever taken across the river in December.

“The idea (for Surfing Santa) came to (him),” when he was running a wind surfing school at Sherkston Shores with his brother.

“(The idea) popped into my head and on one cold, frigid winter day, unlike today, I went out (on the water). I borrowed a Santa suit that was in an heirloom chest that never got returned.”

He has made the journey each year, in rain, sleet or snow, on a wind surfer or stand-up paddleboard since 1985.


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