DAYTON, Ohio -- Citizens concerned about what they thought was a drowning in the Great Miami River on Monday unknowingly broke up a radical surf session.
Emergency dispatchers received multiple 911 calls Monday reporting two people potentially drowning in the river, which was bloated and raging after Sunday’s record rainfall.
Surfers Shannon Thomas and Josh Wright told WHIO in Dayton that they weren't drowning -- they 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.
"People see somebody in the river and they immediately think they are drowning," Thomas, 32, said. "They can’t fathom why someone would be out there on a board surfing.”
Thomas said he and 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. He said he tapped his helmet at the arriving emergency responders, an international symbol that one is not in danger.
Thomas said he spoke with the first responders for 20 minutes after he left the river.
“They were basically threatening me with inciting or inducing panic,” Thomas told WHIO.
Thomas, who is sponsored by Badfish Stand Up Paddle, was not cited because he broke no laws, he told WHIO.
"This was fun! #SurfingIsNotACrime," Thomas wrote on Facebook.