In 2013, we joined five surfers at a small courthouse in Redwood City, California after they were arrested for trespassing on land owned by venture capitalist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, Vinod Khosla. The surfers faced up to a year of jail time and thousand dollar fines for the simple act of surfing on the hotly contested San Mateo property known as Martin’s Beach.
“I believed that we had a right to be there,” Jonathan Bremer, one of the five young men dismissed from the criminal trespassing charges, told The Inertia. “So when the Sheriff showed up I didn’t think we were going to be arrested for it on the beach, fingerprinted, and threatened with handcuffs. I thought we’d discuss the California Coastal Act and the California Constitution and how we have several documents that protect public access to public beaches and released with a warning. But that’s not how it ended up playing out. So the fact that the courts did choose to dismiss the case based upon insufficient evidence when they had video footage of us essentially trespassing on a private road says a lot. It says they’re not going to use county resources to enforce an illegal closure of the road.”
While the surfers were released on account of insufficient evidence, the debate over land access has continued. Much to the chagrin of Khosla, who purchased the land (that included the only coastal access road to the beach) for $32.5 million in 2008, that debate has fallen in surfers’ favor. Most recently, courts overruled Khosla’s appeal to restrict access to Martin’s Beach.
Our film, Martin’s 5: Battle for the Beach, explores the Surfrider Foundation’s fight to keep America’s beaches open to the public. Because of the actions of courageous surfers and champions like Surfrider willing to fight for our right to enjoy America’s precious resources, it looks like this is a battle the American public will continue to win.
If you’d like to get involved in protecting Americans’ access to beaches for future generations, Surfrider Foundation is a great place to start.