Public beach access is a universal right...
Beach access is the ability to reach the sand and surf. It is the means of entry to our oceans, waves and beaches.
Surfrider Foundation promotes the right of low-impact, free and open access to the world's waves and beaches for all people. Beaches are one of the most popular public resources. Because individuals need access to beaches in order to enjoy them, Surfrider Foundation acts to protect the right of access.
In nearly every state, some portion of the beach is public land, which means that all members of the public have the right to use that portion of the beach. Surfrider Foundation recognizes that the public’s right of access to waterways is often based on the Public Trust Doctrine, and is further reflected in international, regional, and state laws and Constitutions.
The right of beach access is constantly being challenged by private property owners, developers and even sea level rise. Of course, some wealthy landowners would like to lock up slices of the coast for themselves alone. Surfrider Foundation is actively fighting for beach access in places where private property owners have cut off long-standing publicly used coastal access.
Surfrider Foundation has developed a Policy on Beach Access, which addresses our stance on the many aspects of the issue of beach access.
2014 Top Campaigns:
Open Martin's Beach in San Mateo County - Martin's beach is a beautiful crescent shaped beach, surrounded by cliffs on either side, in Half Moon Bay, California, that was recently cut off to public access in 2010 when owner and billionaire ventura capitalist, Vinod Khosla, locked the gate to the beach road, erected signage and hired security guards to exclude the public from the only access road. In 2012, Surfrider Foundation helped to successfully defend the Martin’s 5 who were ticketed for trespassing when they went to surf. In 2013, Surfrider Foundation sued the property owner for this violation of the California Coastal Act. And in 2014, we received a favorable ruling in that case. Surfrider Foundation refuses to back down from this fight until the community beach is open again to the public.
Maine Beach Access Litigation - Beach access legal battles in the state of Maine continue to persist due to conflicting case law in the previous decades. The Maine Chapter is committed to opening the public's right to use and recreate in the nearshore waters of Maine's coastal areas. The Chapter is currently litigating to establish a strong definition of the Public Trust Doctrine and ensure the coastal resources protected for the public and future generations.
Texas Open Beaches - Surfrider Foundation Texas Chapters have been committed to upholding the intent and rights established by the 1959 Texas Open Beaches Act that proclaimed free and unrestricted public access to state owned beaches bordering the Gulf of Mexico. The Chapter is a current litigant on the side of the state in the Brannan v. State of Texas case and is also creating public outreach and awareness events to educate all Texans about their rights to enjoy the coast.
Chicago Surf Access - Surfrider Foundation Chicago Chapter has been committed to opening up opportunities to surf in Lake Michigan. Despite past arrests of surfers, Surfrider and City representatives are working together to find more surf spots and permissible opportunities off the coast of the Windy City, while at the same time educating the public about beach access and water safety.
Strandsgate – Fighting the unpermitted gates on the central accessway through the Headlands Development at Strands Beach in Dana Point has been a major battle for the organization since 2010. Surfrider Foundation won a major court victory in June 2011 when the San Diego Superior Court ruled the City of Dana Point acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when passing the urgency nuisance ordinance to close the gates. This case is currently in appeal and Surfrider Foundation continues to avidly litigate it to protect the public’s beach access rights alongside the California Coastal Commission.
Eastport, Maine - Beach Access (2011) Surfrider Foundation won an important beach access case in the highest court in the state, when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled in McGarvey v. Whittredge that private ownership rights in the intertidal lands do not allow oceanfront property owners to exclude the public from crossing the wet sand to reach the ocean in order to scuba dive or run a scuba diving business.
Ponte Vedra, Floria - Beach Access (2006) The Surfrider Foundation won a lawsuit regarding blocked beach access points in Ponte Vedra, Florida. In this case, the number of perpendicular beach access sites was adequate, but the ability to use the sites was severely limited by a lack of nearby parking spots.
Rockaway Beach, New York - Surfing Ban (2005) The Surfrider Foundation's New York City Chapter was successful in overturning a long standing surfing ban at New York's famed Rockaway Beach.
Asbury Park, New Jersey - Surfing Ban (2003) The Surfrider Foundation local officials to repeal a ban on surfing at New Jersey's legendary Asbury Park Beach.
Deal, New Jersey - Beach Access (1994) In the case, Surfrider Foundation v. Borough of Deal, the New Jersey Chapters were able to fight to ensure beach access for surfers in the state of New Jersey.
Surfrider Foundation Legal Handbook, Chapter 4: Beach Access
September 24 2015
Surfrider Foundation and a coalition of environmental groups received a win from the Hawaii Supreme Court this week when it struck down the Kyo Ya Resort and Hotel's zoning variance that would expand the hotel 60 feet into the setback area on Waikiki, the state’s most popular beach. The Supreme Court upheld the coastal preservation arguments of Surfrider Foundation, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, Ka Iwi Coalition and KAHEA — The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance — against the coastal setback variance requested by Kyo Ya in 2010.
September 18 2015
On September 17, 2015, Judge Randa Trapp of the San Diego Superior Court ruled in favor of the California Coastal Commission's authority to protect beach access at Strands Beach in Dana Point and ruled against the City of Dana Point for enacting an Urgency Nuisance Ordinance with no rational basis for doing so and as pretext for avoiding the requirements of its local coastal program.
August 06 2015
Surfrider Foundation’s attendance at this renowned conference is just one of the many ways Surfrider is beginning to engage more actively on climate change adaptation work. While adaptation work is still in its infancy across the nation, Surfrider, via its national chapter network, is poised to help agencies, local governments and communities address serious coastal impacts of climate change. More specifically, Surfrider is ramping up our efforts to educate the public, decision-makers, and to strategically advocate for adaptation policies and plans.
July 17 2015
Surfrider Foundation has attempted to join a lawsuit to protect generations of public beach access on Crowley Island, Maine.
July 08 2015
The Surfrider Foundation is organizing a workshop to solicit input from the beach-going community about the particulars of restored public access to Martin’s Beach. The workshop will be held on Monday, July 20, 2015 at the Pacifica Community Center (540 Crespi Drive, Pacifica) from 6pm to 9pm. Public input from the workshop will inform negotiations between the California State Lands Commission and Silicon Valley billionaire and property owner Vinod Khosla. The Commission is tasked with negotiating an agreement that will restore public access to Martin’s Beach, as required by California Senate Bill 968, signed into law last year.
May 22 2015
UNCW Surfrider College Club member and Youth Leadership Program summer intern Alexandra Brooks shares her experience attending 5th Annual Blue Vision Summit in Washington, DC May 11-14th. This is a 4 part series.
May 22 2015
Cal State Channel Island College Club Chair Kevin Piper shares his experience attending 5th Annual Blue Vision Summit in Washington, DC May 11-14th. This is a 4-part series.
May 22 2015
Cal Poly College Club Chair Alex Ly shares his experience attending 5th Annual Blue Vision Summit in Washington, DC May 11-14th. This is a 4 part series.
April 21 2015
This article reviews the California Coastal Commission's recent grant of a Coastal Development Permit to the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department for developments at Sharp Park golf course, and the Surfrider Foundation San Francisco chapter's ongoing campaign to restore and protect Sharp Park, particularly, from coastal armoring.
March 12 2015
Surfrider explores access laws around the US at the University of Oregon Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
February 26 2015
The California Coastal Commission is the most powerful land use agency in the State and oversees the protection of the coastline. Each year they review over 1,000 applications for some type of coastal development. Advocates have been 'scoring' the Commission for decades to ensure their votes protect our precious coastline. For 2014, the Commission produced a C- average, scoring 71%.
February 23 2015
It looks like Surfrider Foundation will be going back to court to fight for access in the Martin's Beach case. Billionaire venture capitalist property owner, Vinod Khosla, filed a Notice of Appeal this week to try to overturn the very strong lower court ruling. Judge Barbara Mallach from the San Mateo County Superior Court ruled in favor of beach access with a December 5, 2014 decision requiring Khosla to obtain a permit from the Coastal Commission for any change in access to the beach.
February 16 2015
In this video, our CEO Dr. Chad Nelsen talks through our 2015 priority campaigns, which support our beach access, clean water, coastal preservation and ocean protection initiatives.
December 08 2014
On Friday, December 5, 2014, Judge Barbara J. Mallach ordered Vinod Khosla to open the gates at Martin's Beach immediately. With the issuance of the Judgment in Surfrider's Martin's Beach case, Judge Mallach clarified her previous Statement of Decision. On December 8, 2014, Peter Allen of the California Coastal Commission sent Martin's Beach LLC a seven page letter detailing their Coastal Act violations, as well.
October 03 2014
Last year’s legislative season in California was a bust for the coast and ocean. In 2013, Surfrider worked on ten coastal and ocean protection bills, and only two bills were signed into law. Surprisingly, this year’s season was the opposite and very successful. Surfrider actively worked on more than a dozen bills and the Governor recently signed nine of those bills into law. Talk about a game-changer for the coast.
September 24 2014
Surfrider Foundation was triumphant in a very important legal battle today with the ruling of San Mateo Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Mallach in favor of Surfrider Foundation’s arguments to restore beach access at Martin’s Beach. Specifically, Surfrider Foundation filed this case on March 12, 2013 in order to enforce the beach access protections of the California Coastal Act. Our complaint alleged that the property owner, multi-billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, cannot add new development or change the intensity of use of the beach in question without first obtaining a Coastal Development Permit.
August 22 2014
The state bill to open Martin's Beach SB 968 (Hill) passed out of the legislature yesterday. The bill is key symbolic action by our state legislature to direct the State Lands Commission to address an issue that has now risen to a level of statewide importance.
August 22 2014
The very modest 28-room East Deck Motel sits right next to Ditch Plains, a premier surf spot in Long Island. It has been sold and the new owners plan a huge members-only resort and entertainment complex, 2 stories, over 30,000 square feet including deck and pool with 100 parking spaces, many underground. The LLC formed with some secret silent partners goes by the name of ED40 and so does the proposal that would forever change the nature of this place.
July 16 2014
urfrider Foundation delivered powerful closing remarks in the Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach I and II LLC case in San Mateo Superior Court today. The crux of the case is to require the property owner, billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, to obtain a Coastal Development permit under the Coastal Act, just as any other coastal business or property owner has to do if there are changes to their property. This final stage of litigation follows six days of trial in May, including testimony from 18 witnesses.