River Surfing Could Lead to Heavy Fine

Man faces “public mischief” charge

Onlookers called 911 last Saturday believing David Crichton, who was surfing the Ottawa River, was in danger. It was the third false alarm in two weeks for Crichton. (Douglas Sprott/Flickr)

After spotting surfer David Crichton riding the Ottawa River near the Remic Rapids in Ottawa last Saturday, well-meaning onlookers thought he was in danger and called 911, leading to a visit by Ottawa Fire Services and a possible charge for “public mischief” against Crichton, according to the CBC. It was the third false alarm in two weeks for Crichton, who says he was disappointed that emergency services had dispatched since what he was doing was perfectly safe.

“No one wants to see emergency responses continue like this,” he told the CBC. “I want to see if we can find a solution to preventing the false alarms.”

Adding to Crichton’s distress was a message from police, who said he could face a $4,000 fine for “public mischief” if 911 operators continued to receive false alarms about surfers on the river. Bob Rainboth, a firefighter in Ottawa, told the CBC that using a buddy system could be one effective method, as long as at least one partner was on shore or on the bridge to prevent passersby from confusing surfing with flailing.

The confusion may arise in part from the novelty of river surfing. While Crichton may be one of the only people in Ottawa hoping to catch a “desert wave” on the river, the sport has caught on in other parts of North America. As Outside reported in 2014, enthusiasts taking their boards to the Lochsa or Clark Fork Rivers have converted otherwise landlocked localities like Missoula, Montana, into veritable “surf towns.”

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