February 07 2013

Judge Dismisses Trespassing Charges Against Five Surfers

Today, Judge Davis granted the County of San Mateo District Attorney’s motion to dismiss the trespassing charges filed against five surfers accessing Martin’s Beach.

"The Surfrider Foundation San Mateo Chapter heartily congratulates the Martin's Beach five on their significant legal victory in favor of open beach access that reaches far beyond this specific case to all of California and the nation,” said Michael Wallace, with the San Mateo Chapter. “Their determination not to be bullied and or shaken from their principles that beach access is for all, not just a privileged few, is a tribute to their integrity and character. By personally shouldering the legal burden in court they have quickly cut to the nub of the access issue, which was being stretched on indefinitely by the new owners to the harm of the next generation of beach goers. We applaud them for their tenacity and foresight."

Two years ago, apparent Martin’s Beach owner and Sun Microsystems founder Vinod Khosla made a decision to close the access road to the popular beach just south of Half Moon Bay. These actions have denied the public their right to access a stretch of coastline that has been open for decades for fishing, surfing, and recreation.  The County has reached the conclusion that they will not defend the property owner’s allegations that this is a private beach that cannot be accessed from the nearest public road.

October 21, 2012, five San Mateo County surfers crossed Mr. Khosla’s land to access the public beach. The property manager informed them they were trespassing as Khosla has posted a sign falsely stating that the public beach is closed.  The surfers claimed they had a constitutional right to access the beach and continued to the ocean to surf. Upon exiting the water, the surfers were met with a San Mateo County Sheriff deputy who issued citations. The surfers once again stated that they had a right to access a public beach and they had done nothing wrong.

The trespassing statute does not prohibit people from engaging in activities, such as accessing a public beach, which are protected by the California Constitution. Article X, section 4 of the California Constitution generally prohibits property owners from depriving the public from access to California beaches.

“This marks a major victory for Surfrider Foundation in our mission to secure universal beach and wave access for all people,” said Surfrider Foundation’s Legal Director Angela Howe. “The County’s action to dismiss the case today demonstrates that these brave surfers were acting under their rights as Californians to lawfully access the beach.”