Santa takes to the Niagara River

John Fulton, the Surfing Santa, heads for the middle of the Niagara River Tuesday. It is his 30th year as Surfing Santa. In the background is Buffalo, NY.

John Fulton, the Surfing Santa, heads for the middle of the Niagara River Tuesday. It is his 30th year as Surfing Santa. In the background is Buffalo, NY.

In his 30 years as Surfing Santa, John Fulton has faced all kinds of weather and conditions on the Niagara River, from raging blizzards and two metre high river waves, to high winds and icebergs.
Tuesday, the 54 year old had to pull out his standup paddle board instead of his traditional windsurfing board, as there was no wind at the mouth of the river between Fort Erie, ON, and Buffalo, NY.
“Normally I windsurf, but in the past couple of years I’ve been kind of skunked on the wind,” he said moments after landing at Mather Arch via a helicopter from Niagara Helicopters.
Fulton, who started as Surfing Santa in 1985 as a way to promote his windsurfing school, said he went through all the normal preparation and security checks before boarding the helicopter and making his way to Mather Arch in Fort Erie.
In 2002, he was taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol after touching American soil. In all of his previous crossings he never had an issue with Border Patrol, but heightened security after 9/11 changed things.
Now he makes sure U.S. agencies are aware of what he is doing.
But when asked if Surfing Santa had his passport with him, he said no.
“Santa doesn’t need a passport. Santa is international,” he said, as a U.S. Border Patrol boat waited offshore for him.
The Border Patrol boat was joined by a Niagara Parks Police boat, and a private vessel.
Fulton said all three were there in case he ran into an emergency on the water.
He didn’t anticipate any problems, but said it was nice to have the back-up from the Canadian and American agencies.
With the lack of wind, Fulton grabbed a 14-foot downwind standup paddle board made by Glide, out of Utah.
“In 1985 there was no such thing as paddle boarding, so on windless days I was out there pumping on my windsurf board.”
Attracting international media attention that first, Fulton decided to make his second ride to help promote a cause he believed in.
“I’ve always had an interest in helping the most marginalized in society.”
Before the event took place, Fulton made a request on his website — — for people to bring new socks and underwear for the Socks for Santa campaign (
“They’re items that are in the most demand.”
Once he stopped and visited with children who showed up to meet Santa, Fulton made his way along a walkway beside the river to find a set of stairs to the water.
His plan, he said, was to head downriver, go under the Peace Bridge and International Train Bridge, before leaving the water on a small beach near Central Ave. and the Niagara Parkway, a journey of roughly five kilometres.
“It’s my first time riding this boarding, so we’ll see how I do,” adding he planned to hit mid-river as he paddled down it in his Santa Claus outfit.
At the end of his paddle, Fulton said there were some currents around the two bridges that affected him a bit.
The only problem he faced was becoming overheated.
What looked like, from shore, him falling off the board near the end was actually an attempt to cool down in the water.
Fulton was pleased with the turnout for his 30th year and the amount of socks and underwear collected.
He said plans are underway next year to gather 5,000 people dressed as Santa Claus and fill up the area around Mather Arch.

CNW News



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