Share on your Instagram to save our break: #SaveTrestles @Surfrider @TheSurfChannel. Graphic by Dilara Karabas/Surf Channel

Share on your Instagram to save our break: #SaveTrestles @Surfrider @TheSurfChannel. Graphic by Dilara Karabas/Surf Channel

The Inertia

Constant pressure, endlessly applied. “Without it, we’re going to lose, and we’re going to lose in a lot of different ways,” says Jim Moriarty of the Surfrider Foundation in an ESPN video. In short, over 80 years of surfing history is at stake of being lost if Trestles does not get placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) builds Toll Road through the land.

Trestles, part of San Onofre State Beach, is a mecca for surfers. “The entire set up at San Onofre was so perfect, encompassing a half dozen different reefs that produced shapely relaxed waves, and so seemingly isolated from all else, that it became California’s Waikiki,” said Steve Pezman of The Surfer’s Journal on the Surfrider Foundation blog. Trestles lies within the 125,000 acres of Camp Pendleton, which serves as base camp for the U.S. Marine Corps. Surfers were first attracted to the area in the 1930s and have since made the area a rite of passage. Even during World War II, Trestles was closed for a short period of time, but surfers risked it all to catch the perfect wave. In addition to the local surfers who visit every day and have made a living of the sport through board-making and magazine production, Trestles attracts over one million visitors each year according to Time.

Historic Surfers Trestles San Onofre Protect

Historic View of Surfers Collaborating at Trestles. Photo: Surfrider Foundation

The campaign to save Trestles originated from the Surfrider Foundation’s petition to stop the building of Toll Road in 2008. According to Surfrider, the road design would infringe on Trestles, so Surfrider enlisted the support of the state to negate the TCA’s mission. The state historical staff felt that there was an opportunity to get Trestles listed on the National Register of Historic Places and encouraged Surfrider to pursue this specification. The naming would also create one more obstacle for the TCA’s pursuit of Toll Road, which has recently resurfaced. Over several years, Surfrider and the California Historical Staff worked together to build an application to protect and earn recognition for Trestles. Mark Rauscher, campaign leader for Surfrider, said that the aim is to get Trestles registered on the national level because it has had a huge part in the development of the cultural phenomenon of surfing.

In addition to working with the state to advance the application, Surfrider also kept in close contact with the owners of Trestles, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.


“During all of the years when we worked on the application, we talked to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corp to bring them on board. Things were added to the application to appease them, the application went up the chain of command and was signed off, so we thought everything was cool right up until two days before the commission hearing,” said Rauscher.

He explained that at the last minute, a high-ranking official changed their opinion, creating the opposing argument that the designation will inhibit the training of the military. This put Surfrider in a difficult position, considering they had already added the ability for the military to remove Trestles from the list if it interfered with training or operations.

“We don’t want to make life difficult for them, they are an important part of the national defense and need to be able to train. They are on the front lines. We thought we did everything we could to help them get on board,” continued Rauscher.

On February 10th, Surfrider succeeded in getting the California Historical Commission’s recommendation to place Trestles on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now a waiting game, as the decision lies in the hands of the Keeper of National Registry.

Trestles still needs constant pressure, endlessly applied. Support can be shown by signing the online petition and adding comments and stories about historical perspectives of Trestles, which Rauscher believes is a great view and insight into how people feel about the surfing haven. Supporters can also get involved with the parallel issue of the building of Toll Road. Followers can visit to receive updates.

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