Emergency dispatchers in Dayton, Ohio, received multiple 911 calls Monday reporting two people potentially drowning in the Great Miami River, bloated and raging after Sunday’s record rainfall.
But surfers Shannon Thomas and Josh Wright were having the times of their lives.
“I had a blast. It was probably one of the best surfs I’ve had in a while,” Thomas said.
The professional river surfer was about to begin his last surf when ambulances, fire trucks, police and park rangers — and a water rescue boat — arrived near the River Run drop just upstream from the Monument Avenue bridge.
“Basically, people aren’t educated enough,” said Thomas, 32. “They see somebody in the river and they immediately think they are drowning. They can’t fathom why someone would be out there on a board surfing.”
Thomas, a 2003 Fairmont High School graduate, said he and friend Wright were taking all the proper precautions: using a buddy system, wearing helmets, wetsuits, PDFs and outfitted with leashes that could quickly be released in case of entanglement.
“At no point were me or my buddy in distress,” said Thomas, who tapped his helmet at the arriving emergency responders, an international symbol that one is not in danger.
After exiting the river, Thomas said he had a 20-minute talk with the authorities.
“They were basically threatening me with inciting or inducing panic,” said Thomas.
Thomas, who is sponsored by Badfish Stand Up Paddle, was not cited because he broke no laws, he said.
The wave created by the unusually high water is on par with one of the best river features in the nation, Thomas said.
“At that level it’s very similar to the Glenwood Springs, Colorado, wave, which is probably one of the most famous waves in the country,” he said.
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