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.
In 2009, the Surfrider Foundation developed a Policy on Beach Access, which addresses our stance on the many aspects of the issue of beach access.
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
April 08 2013
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is one of California’s most important laws—not only because it helps protect our environment and “quality of life”, but CEQA also promotes democratic participation in the decision-making process—giving citizens a say in what happens in their local communities. Unfortunately over the past few years, developers and polluting industries have been attempting to weaken CEQA through legislation. If special interests succeed in weakening CEQA, California’s natural resources could suffer from unchecked development, and the public will lose its ability to require developers to address environmental impacts.
March 13 2013
Martin's Beach in Half Moon Bay, California, is a beautiful stretch of sandy beach that has been enjoyed by locals and visitors for generations. However, locked gates and signs were erected at the entrance to the beach road several years ago. After over two years of outreach and advocacy, the closure of the road remains; this is why Surfrider Foundation started the Open Martin's Beach campaign and why we filed suit on March 12th, 2013.
January 22 2013
In Hawaii, Surfrider Foundation’s Hilo Chapter has fought for over the past two years to open up trail access to Papaikou Mill Beach, one of the few sandy beaches on the East side of the Big Island. Known as a popular surfing, fishing and recreational spot, the beach is also used by students at the University of Hawaii (UH) at Hilo for educational purposes in observing the endangered monk seal and other ecological resources. Neighbors and beach goers also clean the trail and beach when it is open.
November 07 2012
Surfrider Foundation has long worked to secure low-impact beach access for all people. Our work in realizing this goal has not gone without recognizing the omnipresent balance between beach access and the ecological integrity of our beaches. This balance is often implicated in beach driving. The Southern Four Wheel Drive Ass'n v. U.S. Forest Service case involves the restriction of heavy recreational use in order to preserve a protected species.
August 13 2012
Beach driving not only involves ecological considerations; it also involves beach access and freedom to enjoy coastal resources. This blog explores how beach driving has shaped the law and, in turn, how the law has responded to beach driving.
August 03 2012
This is part 1 of a 3-part blog series that explores issues related to beach driving through several case studies as well as by highlighting impacts that can occur even in places that do not allow public beach driving.
June 29 2012
In a curt and unreasoned statement, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the application of Harris County, Texas, to file an amicus brief in support of rehearing of the Severance v. Patterson case. This recent case denied the State of Texas interpretation of the Texas Open Beaches Act to include the concept of a rolling easement applied to West Galveston beaches after avulsive events such as hurricanes.
May 31 2012
On March 30, 2012, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of private property rights over the public beach access rights of the people of Texas. Surfrider Foundation Texas Chapters have pledged to resurge support to strengthen the state's beach access law.
January 27 2012
By now much of the surfing world has heard the story about Rex Flodstrom getting arresting for surfing in Lake Michigan at Oak Beach in Chicago. The story of his arrest and the outrage that surfing is illegal that ensued, including the likes of Kelly Slater, was heavily covered in the media. Read on to see what can be done about it.
August 25 2011
Six Maine Justices Rule for an Expansive Interpretation of Public Trust Activities Today, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of beach access rights with the McGarvey v. Whittredge decision regarding the public access of recreationalists like scuba divers through the intertidal zone in Maine.
August 10 2011
People come to California for many reasons. One of the main attractions to our state is its natural beauty—on both land and in the water. According to a recent study, California receives nearly $52 billion dollars a year in “leisure and hospitality.” Much of that leisure and hospitality takes place along the coastline and in areas with access to Parks.
June 21 2011
For about three years, the state of California has delicately danced around the idea of closing state parks in order to "close the budget gap." While California is the 8th largest economy in the world, its budget demands often require brutal cutbacks. Unfortunately the ax fell on May 13 when the Governor’s budget plan eyed about 70 state parks that would be permanently closed. That’s roughly 25% of our state park system!
June 08 2011
Surfrider Foundation vindicated public beach access rights in San Diego Superior Court, receiving a favorable ruling from Judge Joan Lewis this week. The ruling held that the "urgency ordinance" of the City of Dana Point declaring a public nuisance state to restrict beach access hours and lock gates to a popular beach should be set aside. The Court declared the City's actions "arbitrary and capricious" and that their decision to restrict beach access through a new, affluent residential development was based on fear and speculation. The ruling now puts the beach access issue back within the purview of the California Coastal Commission, the state agency with traditional authority to regulate beach curfews and enforce the coastal access maximization required by the Coastal Act.
May 02 2011
USACE installs cable gate at popular beach access point in Newport Oregon.
November 08 2010
June 21 2010