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.
2013 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 when the current propertyowner erected a gate, signage and security to exclude the public from the only access road. Earlier this year, Surfrider Foundation sued the property owner for this violation of the California Coastal Act. The local District Attorney also refuses to prosecute any alleged trespassing violations by the propertyowner. 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 seem to be ongoing 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 definiton of the Public Trust Doctrine and the coastal resources protected for the public.
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 allowances off the coast of the Windy City.
New Jersey Rulemaking - Surfrider Foundation has continuously worked to strengthen New Jersey state rules on public beach access opportunities in the state. After several iterations of statewide rulemaking, we will likely see these battles for more beach access playing out at the local level because municipalities were given more deference under the current state regulations.
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
November 26 2013
As we close in on the end of another great year of coastal protection it seems appropriate to look back at the hard work that’s been done by Surfrider Foundation volunteers and staff. Our activists have been busy this year, racking up 33 campaign victories so far
November 25 2013
The legal work at Surfrider Foundation moves at a fast pace; however, we took a few minutes to look back on the year 2013 and acknowledge some of Surfrider Foundation’s accomplishments and strategic movement in legal campaigns. Since the organization-wide programmatic priorities for the past year were (1) Rise Above Plastics, (2) Water Quality, and (3) Beach Access, the following is a breakdown of top achievements in those areas.
November 21 2013
Surfrider members are “ocean users” through and through. It’s amazing to think that as I write this blog, there are Surfrider supporters around the world surfing, diving, fishing, SUPing, swimming, sunbathing, wildlife watching AND fighting to protect our coast. In California, Surfrider is upping our ante to preserve our coast and engage more Californians to participate in coastal issues. We recently joined forces with other organizations to launch ActCoastal—the California Coast Accountability Project. The premise of ActCoastal originates from the California Coastahttp://www.surfrider.org/images/uploads/blog/Hispanic_boy_on_beach.pngl Commission (CCC) vote chart Surfrider and colleagues have produced for over 20 years, where we monitor big items before the CCC and score their voting record. While the vote chart is useful, we wanted to make the concept more contemporary and exist in ‘real time’. To do that, we decided to launch a monthly score card and develop a website that functions as a clearinghouse for coastal advocates.
November 11 2013
The beautiful crescent-shaped stretch of beach in Half Moon Bay is the site of Surfrider Foundation's featured beach access campaign since owner, Vinod Khosla, has gated the only road leading down to the beach. While Surfrider Foundation helped to successfully defend the Martin's 5 from trespass claims last year, there is still ongoing litigation to establish access rights to the beach.
July 25 2013
The Texas Legislature recently passed H.B. 3459, which the governor signed into law June 14, 2013. The new law amends the Texas Open Beaches Act, which means it will have an effect on public beach access. However, because the law grants a significant amount of decision-making authority to the General Land Office, the nature and degree of its impact remains uncertain.
June 20 2013
Surfrider Foundation received a positive ruling from the California Appellate Court this week when it ruled in favor of California Coastal Commission control over beach access right at Strands Beach in Dana Point. Surfrider won our case against the City of Dana Point in 2011 at the trial court when we challenged the City's bogus nuisance ordinance. This appellate opinion of that consolidated case reaffirms the Constitutionally-protected beach access rights, this time through strengthening the Coastal Commission's jurisdiction.
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!