SO, WE CALL OURSELVES SURF SPRINGFIELD...
Surf Springfield...what the heck?! Surfing...in corn fields?! I know, it sounds crazy, but where there is a will...
Our original intention was to provide efoil lessons in Springfield, IL on Lake Springfield, and maybe, just maybe, if we are lucky, we could expand to other local bodies of water.
Efoil is the common name for Electric Hydrofoil Surfboards. They are surfboards with a mast and wing system descending below the board that have an electric motorized propeller attached. Efoils have the ability to ride on or off the surface of the water. Flying above the surface of the water, or "foiling" is the ultimate goal, and is truly a sensation you will never forget. We are here to teach you how to get there.
The aim of Surf Springfield is to bring the joy of surfing to those who may not be able to ever (or want to) travel to the ocean to experience the sensation of surfing. Efoils allow us to meet clients at nearly any location on a body of water, and teach them how to experience the joy of flying over water, something we think is the closest you can get to the feeling of surfing a real wave in the ocean.
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD....
Once we decided to go down this road, we reached out to Lift Foils. Lift Foils are the creators of the electric hydrofoil surfboard - who we think - make the best product, in addition to providing phenomenal customer service.
After acquiring funding for this venture, we approached the city council in Springfield, IL and asked what would be required of us to begin providing instruction in the operation of foils on Lake Springfield. As they are extremely busy, (as they should be), and with us being of such small concern, we were asked to provide more information. We obliged, and provided as much information as we could to the parties involved, such as technical and safety information on efoils, how we go about providing our services, and much more.
Some time passed and we had not heard back. As we continued to reach out for clarification, we also pursued making sure that we were square with the regulatory bodies in Illinois. If you were wondering, there are a lot...like, more than you want to know about.
We reached out to IL Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regarding registering our vessels. DNR abides by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) vessel designations. USCG has not created a designation for efoils yet, and as such, they are viewed as personal water craft (PWCs) by USCG. Summarily, DNR views efoils as PWCs as well. This will come into play later...
We obtained temporary permits while our applications to DNR are being processed. We obtained liability insurance to provide efoil lessons specifically, which follows us throughout the United States regardless of location.
We obtained USCG approved life jackets with rescue whistles attached, as well as helmets with an in-helmet radio communication system (thanks BBTalkinUSA.com!) to maintain contact while out on the water. In addition to the above, our lead instructor (and only instructor currently - myself) has a background in swimming competitively, teaching swim lessons, lifeguarding, ocean surfing, and is Red Cross CPR certified, as well as a registered EMT-I with the state of Illinois. We think we checked all the safety boxes...let us know if we missed one!
After we obtained the safety equipment, and secured the all the licenses, registrations, and stickers we could possibly think of, we reached back out to the city again as we still had not heard back from them. Maybe they forgot about us. Maybe they thought we would just go away. It appears that they don't understand the passion surrounding the drive that compels people to go into an ocean filled with sharks just to score a wave...
Having registered our vessels, created an LLC, obtained insurance for the activity, put in place a waiver system, procured safety equipment, purchased boating stickers, and having taken the time to become proficient in operating the craft individually, we proceeded to offer up our services on Lake Springfield, as we had not been informed of any reason we could not.
We proceeded to reach out to local media (massive props to GREG BISHOP for surfing with us!), offering free demonstration lessons to local personalities, many of whom took us up on the offer and were able to experience the sweet joy of surfing on Lake Springfield, albeit briefly. We were also slated to be published on the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau website as an additional activity to experience while visiting Springfield. Good thing that didn't happen. Those people are nice...and work at the behest of the mayor. We wouldn't want them to lose their job because we tried to bring something new and fun to town.
SPRINGFIELD, WE HAVE A PROBLEM...
While we did not encounter a problem riding our efoils ourselves, we did encounter a problem when we received press surrounding our offering lessons in efoil operation on Lake Springfield.
We were blessed...and cursed, to be given the opportunity to appear in the Springfield Business Journal. This boosted our awareness in the community, and we are very grateful for the opportunity! It apparently boosted it a little too much though...
After our appearance in the SBJ, we were contacted by the Lake Patrol, inquiring about our efoils. We obliged, and provided the same information given to city council, and numerous others, which included: our safety protocols, the safety features built into the efoils, our lesson plan approach, the opportunity to experience the efoils personally, and then, and then and then...you get the point. Thank you to the Chief of the Lake Patrol for listening to us talk about electric surfboards for thirty minutes. We're passionate, what can we say?!
The Chief informed us that he would run the information by his superiors. His superiors are probably myriad, but two of note are the head of City Water, Light and Power (CWLP), currently Doug Brown, and ultimately the Mayor, currently James O. Langfelder. After a short time, we were contacted and informed that it was determined that efoils will not be permitted on Lake Springfield. Well that's a bummer, isn't it?
According to the Code of Ordinances, specifically relating to the lake, and even more specifically to the operation of PWCs on the lake, the following codes were cited:
Chapter 96.37 (3) The business of renting personal watercraft for us on the reservoir is prohibited except as may be authorized by special concession granted by the city.
Chapter 96.039 (b) (10) a. The business of renting watercraft for hire or carrying passengers for hire on the reservoir is prohibited except as may be authorized by special concession granted by the city, but the provisions of this chapter shall apply to all watercraft permitted by special concession, and all such concession watercraft shall be inspected from time to time during their period of operations on the reservoir. Any such watercraft failing to have personal flotation devices as required in this chapter in place, as when licensed or otherwise, or failing to pass inspection shall be made to comply with this chapter before further operation.
Chapter 96.039 (b) (18) Reservation of rights of city. The city shall at all times have power and authority to prohibit, restrict, or otherwise limit or regulate the keeping, maintenance, or operation of any or all watercraft on the waters of the reservoir should it become necessary to do so in the interest of the public health and safety, or for the protection or improvement of the reservoir or other cause.
Chapter 96.999 (a) Whoever violates any provision of this chapter, for which another penalty is not already provided, shall be fined not less than $50 nor more than $750. A separate offense shall be deemed committed on each day during or on which a violation occurs or continues.
Well, thats some legalese isn't it?
As we see it, we don't rent efoils. We provide supervised instruction in the operation of electric hydrofoil surfboards. Unlike many rentals of various craft currently rented on the lake, we are present during the operation of the craft, supervising and ensuring the safety of our clients and that of others using the reservoir. With all our safety qualifications you would think our presence would be welcomed...
The rental issue notwithstanding, we are left with the last ordinance cited; 'The city shall at all times have power and authority to prohibit, restrict, or otherwise limit or regulate the keeping, maintenance, or operation of any or all watercraft on the waters of the reservoir should it become necessary to do so in the interest of the public health and safety, or for the protection or improvement of the reservoir or other cause.".
OK, its your lake. We get it...but, the way this reads, if the city wants to put an aircraft carrier on the lake tomorrow they could. Or they can say efoils are banned. We know, thats drastic, but you get the picture.
ALRIGHT, SO THEY'RE BANNED...BUT WHY?
We feel that we have been denied access to the publicly owned reservoir because "We said so.", so to speak.
We at Surf Springfield have made every attempt to be forthcoming, educative, honest and fair in our approach to operating as a business on the public reservoir. It is owned by the public, lest we forget, and being a taxpaying entity in Springfield, and owned by a tax-paying Springfieldian, for the benefit of Springfield, as well as surrounding communities, we feel that we should not be denied access to our reservoir without just cause.
Well, what would be just cause? That's a great question.
Safety could be one concern. We understand that, and feel that we have addressed that abundantly. We understand that efoils are new to our community, and as such, are taken with an air of skepticism. That is totally fine, and actually prudent. We also feel that our craft are quite safe. Some might say safer than jet-skis or wave runners, and that we operate in a safe manner. Please continue to Pray for Danielle Loftus.
We are open to the idea of having designated areas for efoil operation on Lake Springfield, and indeed do so on the bodies of water we currently operate on.
We take the safety of our clients, and others utilizing the reservoir, with the utmost care.
We would not be able to provide our services if we are harming our clients, others, or the bodies we interact with. We always provide a safe area to learn in, and combined with the best safety practices and communications technology, have provided lessons to 20+ students in the three short months we have been operating. We are confident that if asked, any of them that they would say we go a little overboard on the safety aspect...no pun intended.
Health and safety go hand in hand. We cannot provide lessons to clients we injure, so their health, and safety, are paramount.
In regards to the health aspect, the only issue we could see is that of emissions into the body. Being that the Code of Ordinances requires emissions from combustion engines to be directly emitted into the reservoir (96.039 (b) (2), and that our efoils have zero emissions, we are puzzled as to how this could be a concern.
One would think that a boat emitting exhaust gases into the lake would be more damaging to the health of the creatures inhabiting the aquatic environment, and the humans that are allowed to swim in it more so than a zero emission electric motor, but...
If anything, maybe we should look into not allowing combustion engines on the reservoir to ensure the health of the reservoir, its inhabitants, and users as well.
Now, now, that's a little much. That would be crazy, right? Almost as crazy as banning electric surfboards for some - in our opinion - not very good reasons.
PROTECTION AND IMPROVEMENT
We think we covered the protection part above as far as efoils physically affect the reservoir, so lets talk about improvement.
The list of craft allowed on the reservoir is long but distinguished. Bonus points if you got the Top Gun reference.
This is by no means exhaustive, but we are aware of the ability to operate: Boats, Sailboats, Sailboards (surfboards with sails attached - it's a 90's thing - but fun, you should try it!), traditional surfboards; a relatively new idea locally, generally used like wakeboards with the user dropping the tow rope and surfing the wake of the boat like a traditional surfboard, Jet-Skis, Wave Runners, Pontoon Boats, Party Barges, Kayaks, Stand Up Paddle surfboards - all available for rent on the reservoir, in addition to water-skiing, tubing, wake boarding, and wake-surfing, and foil boarding (non-electric version of efoils - literally the same thing without a motor to help you get out of the way of a boat that can't see you) being allowed.
Whew! That's a lot, and we're sure we missed a few! You get the picture. We think its extremely odd that all of the above are allowed, especially traditional foil boards, but efoils are not.
But some say...these efoils are just too dangerous...or unsafe...or unhealthy...or won't protect or improve the reservoir..."or other". If anyone knows what "or other" means please let us know. I'm sure we have that covered too...
ICING ON THE CAKE...
No story about Springfield, IL would be complete without some juicy insider secrets. We are the Capitol of one of, if not the most corrupt states in the Union. Well, dear readers, hold on to your butts...
Some would take the advice of the person who told you what we're about to tell you. Some would just take no for an answer, move on, and accept defeat. We don't roll that way. Sunlight is the best disinfectant...
It just so happens that after the many attempts to have an audience with city council, corporation council, and the alderperson who oversees the lake, that we were given a little tid bit of information surrounding our plight.
It appears (we use that term lightly, who knows what happens in the halls of power) that it is not the Mayor that has qualms about our efoils, but the alderperson whose ward is the lake. The entire lake. Seriously, thats the ward; the lake and all of the people who live on it. It's really diverse...
We were informed that this alderperson, and the Springfield Lake Shore Improvement Association (SLSIA) do not want efoils on the lake. We found this odd, as in all our interactions on Lake Springfield we have not received any negative comments (to our face - haters gonna hate though!). In fact, we have only been approached asking for more information from lake patrons who were intrigued and interested in learning how they can obtain one, or learn to operate one themselves.
Now, we're sure there were some people who said "Not in my backyard!". But that's just the thing; it's all of the citizens of Springfield's backyard, not just what appears to be a largely physically silent "vocal minority". So, we set out to find out who was opposed to the efoils, and attempted to see if we could educate them about efoils themselves, and our safe approach to their instruction on the reservoir.
Surely this was just a case of miseducation. People see things on the internet and assume. We're all guilty of it. Maybe if we could just have a chat we could dispel any rumors. We're reasonable people. People are reasonable. We can speak like adults about issues, right?.......Right?.....Well, as we're sure you've deduced by this point, it hasn't worked out all hunky-dory...so far. There's still time. We're optimists.
A CONSPIRACY? YOU DECIDE!
Bonus points if you got the Epic Rap Battles reference. If not, go check out Epic Rap Battles on YouTube, it's hilarious. It's almost as funny as this ridiculously long story. Just kidding. This isn't funny. We are having fun, but it isn't funny.
Armed with our newfound knowledge, we reached out to SLSIA. We were introduced to a younger member by a mutual friend, and had the same cordial, fruitful conversation that generally accompanies our initial interactions with persons we encounter; information was shared, and an offer to investigate the opportunity to speak at a board meeting was offered in hopes that through education an arrangement could be attained.
We waited...and waited...and didn't hear back. No worries, they are busy, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? Well, apparently the squeaky wheel gets the hammer...
After being ghosted, we called. Then we waited. Then we called and left a voicemail. Then we waited. Then we texted...and boy are we glad we did. We got a response...just not what we expected.
Pro Tip: If you recommend not getting others involved in a situation, you probably shouldn't say so via a documented source...such as a text. Just sayin'...
"Our board meeting agenda is full, and we are not adding to it. I am sorry for the bad news. I have spoken to the mayor’s office, CWLP, Ward one and several other aldermen. The consensus is the same. There is too much liability, and no one has indicated the willingness to be a part of the risk. That means your idea will never happen. Your approach may have offended our city officials and unfortunately, seems to have poisoned the well with those who make these decisions. Since you are now trying to get all foils, wake surfing and SUP involved in your fight, which could get everything outlawed, you do not have my support or that of the Lake Association.
Our lake is a public recreational lake. It is not a commercial lake. One can’t use it for personal or financial gain. Any comparison of your proposal and concept to an existing entity on the lake, such as the Marina, will not be considered. The Marina offers products and services to everyone in our community; not for the benefit of just one individual.
It is recommended that you refrain from getting more people involved. Once the smoke clears, try to just enjoy the lake and experience riding your foil for your own enjoyment."
The above is a direct quote of a text sent from the current Vice President of the Springfield Lake Shore Improvement Association.
We are told said person has a wake surf boat. They are pretty expensive we hear. It would be a shame if those got banned, wouldn't it?
BTW we have spoken to an individual who owns the exact same craft as us, and has operated it on the reservoir post our notification of said craft being banned. Rules for thee we guess...
SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN DENMARK...
So it seems that there is some collusion on the part to ensure that efoils are not allowed on Lake Springfield. SLSIA has no enforcing power, and the alderperson over the lake is but one voice among ten alderpersons in total.
There are the Code of Ordinances that have some sway, but their justification in the eyes of the average person examining the myriad other craft allowed on the lake would be unresounding, or so we are told by those who hear our story at least.
WHAT'S THE DEAL, YO?
We ask the same.
If one is to address the SLSIA member, the following could be concluded:
Surf Springfield has liability insurance, and a waiver system in place. Unfortunately, we are a litigious society, and as such, no one is indemnified totally, but we do our best. Anything on water is inherently dangerous, and watercraft are indeed rented on Lake Springfield, and lessons in the operation of watercraft are indeed provided as well.
We are not trying to reinvent the wheel, only doing what precedent has put forth. Those who chose to learn to operate efoils with us do so at their own risk, and we would be happy to agree to a waiver of subrogation if the city would be so obliged...but that would require them to acknowledge us first.
"THAT MEANS YOUR IDEA WILL NEVER HAPPEN"
We think that's strong language. Never? That sounds like a concerted effort over time to ensure that said thing will surely not ever happen. Never is a long time. That's a lot to carry. We hope your shoulders can carry the weight of that statement.
We're sure that we can all come to some agreement on the ability of efoils to operate on Lake Springfield. As Dirty Mike and The Boys said..."It will happen...".
OK, we're guilty of poking the bear. We have made some underhanded complements on social media. We can also be a bit sarcastic. We like to poke and prod. It's all in jest. We are reasonable people, and like to interact with reasonable people in reasonable ways. It's only when we are denied a reasonable response in a timely manner that we start to poke more fun in hopes to obtain a response.
And seriously...if you can't take a joke maybe you shouldn't be in the body politic.
If efoils are such a danger to health or safety, or the protection or improvement..."or other" of the reservoir, why hasn't an amendment to the Code of Ordinances been put forth?
If efoils are banned, then why are foil boards allowed? They are the same thing, with one being motorized. We think that being motorized would allow you to avoid a collision with another vessel more easily.
Surfboards are allowed. They are even mentioned in the Code of Ordinances [96.038 (a), (c), and (d)]. Once you leave the propulsion of the boat wake you are surfing, you will lose momentum, ending up in the water, and are are at the mercy of boaters who potentially may not be able to see you floating in the water. Watch out boat operators, there are people in the reservoir!
It truly would be a shame if all SUPs, wake surfing, and foils were to be banned on Lake Springfield. Especially for the current VP of SLSIA and their alleged very expensive surf boat. That would really suck, wouldn't it? This is not our intention, we only seek fair and equitable treatment.
PUBLIC...AND RECREATIONAL...(BUT FOR PROFIT...)
This one is quite simple. There is a Marina. They are for-profit. They rent and sell Boats, PWCs and other craft. They do not rent, nor provide instruction in the operation of efoils. No conflict there.
There is a Yacht Club. They provide sailing instruction on the lake. They do not provide instruction in the operation of efoils. Again, no conflict.
Between these two entities, craft are rented and instruction is provided on the reservoir.
To our knowledge, there is no entity or person other than ourselves that is attempting to provide instruction in the operation of efoils...yet we are told by the VP of SLSIA that "Our lake is a public recreational lake. It is not a commercial lake. One can’t use it for personal or financial gain. Any comparison of your proposal and concept to an existing entity on the lake, such as the Marina, will not be considered. The Marina offers products and services to everyone in our community; not for the benefit of just one individual.".
This smacks of hypocrisy, and has an air of authority, which to our knowledge SLSIA has none whatsoever over the reservoir other than mere suggestion...or maybe not.
The Marina is indeed privately owned and for-profit. The Yacht Club is to our knowledge privately owned and for-profit. It appears both of these entities are enjoying financial gain from the "public recreational lake" personally.
We offer our services to the entire community, and do in fact put an emphasis on reaching out to communities who may not have the means to own a boat, may not want to, or are not yet knowledgable about water sports, boating, or surfing but do have an interest.
While we are for-profit, we can assure you, this isn't a lucrative business. We do it because we are passionate about enjoying water activities with others. We are especially passionate about the joy we see in our client's faces when they "fly" over water for the first time. Not every family has the ability or desire to travel to the ocean, but would like to experience surfing at least once. We are here to fulfill that desire.
BEATING A DEAD HORSE...
We don't think the next part really needs much explanation. The VP of SLSIA stated "It is recommended that you refrain from getting more people involved. Once the smoke clears, try to just enjoy the lake and experience riding your foil for your own enjoyment.".
For one, efoils were banned, so recommending we break the code of ordinances doesn't strike us as sound advice, and two, what in the world is one to take "It is recommended that you refrain from getting more people involved." as?
Does that imply there will be some penalty? If so, what is it? Does this constitute a threat? There is certainly some seemingly implied negative consequences for doing so. Well, we guess they didn't hear that we don't take kindly to those who don't take kindly. I'm sure someone out there caught that one...
It has been said that it would be better that many guilty persons go free, than one innocent person suffer. We feel that the citizens of Springfield and surrounding communities, and indeed even many residents who live on the lake that have contacted us, are the ones suffering by being denied the ability to utilize the lake as they choose.
Not everyone owns, or wants to own a boat. Many of the clients that live in Springfield that contact us have stated as much. Many of these clients live on the lake, although they are not members of SLSIA. Apparently they should be to ensure they are to be able to enjoy the public reservoir as they choose, and not how others see fit.
It appears that he Ward One alderperson and SLSIA are a vocal minority. We ask that this situation be put forth to the entirety of the city, and not just what we have found to truly be a "silent" minority with majority rule.
If you are so moved, please use the links below to contact your alderperson regarding your feelings about efoils on Lake Springfield. Even if you hate us, we encourage civil action!
Have a great day!
Contact Your Alderperson
Contact All Alderpersons