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Millionaire surfers rejoice over Billionaire’s Defeat!

Steve Rees

by Steve Rees

The magnificent Surfrider Foundation cracks billionaire's private beach fantasy!

Close your eyes for a moment. Imagine you could live the perfect surf life.

What would it look like?

Just you and a couple of hand-picked friends surfing empty waves all day everyday, correct?


Your fantasy is in violation of the law according to a California District Court of Appeals. Read the story from SFGate News then feel free to amend your dream:

“A state appeals court ruled Thursday that a billionaire landowner had no right to block public access to a San Mateo County beach without first obtaining a permit, rejecting arguments that a forced opening would be tantamount to stealing his property.

The 50-page decision by the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco affirmed a 2014 ruling by a San Mateo judge who ordered Vinod Khosla to give the public access to picturesque Martins Beach, near Half Moon Bay, which Khosla owns.

It was the latest slap-down of Khosla in a long, increasingly heated legal dispute with the Surfrider Foundation, which sued the co-founder of Sun Microsystems after he shut the access gate leading to nearly 90 acres of his coastal property in 2010. The nonprofit group founded by surfers charged that the closure amounted to development, requiring a permit from the California Coastal Commission. A judge agreed, prompting Khosla’s appeal.

“The courts said exactly what the Legislature said: The public has the right to access the coast,” said Joseph Cotchett, the lead attorney for Surfrider, in a hastily arranged news conference in his Burlingame office. “It’s their ocean. It’s their coast. It is not some private billionaire’s.”

Yes surfing, surfers, Surfriders, and the environment!

Good: 1 Evil: 0 

This might be a terrestrial victory but is it a moral one?

Are we really happy that a single tech billionaire’s property was taken near Martin’s Beach so that a mass of tech millionaires could invade come in? Was this fight about the ocean or our greediness for waves?

Let me poke a stick at our collective proletariat stance for a moment before we gloat too hard.

Are we really happy that a single tech billionaire’s property was taken near Martin’s Beach so that a mass of tech millionaires could invade come in? (On the side, I wonder how much Surfrider attorney Cotchett brings in?)

Was this fight about the ocean or our greediness for waves?

The Surfrider Foundation does some wonderful things, but this legal effort doesn’t sit well. This isn’t like Mark Z’s Facebook Kauai land grab. (Hawaiians Crack Zuck! Read here.)

After all, if the Foundation really cared about the preserving the environment, wouldn’t it be better if they fought to keep Martin’s beach away from unknowns and in the hands of a man who has the resources to keep its sanctity?

And don’t try to convince yourself if you started a giant tech firm that you wouldn’t be the proud owner of a private piece o’ shoreline.

Maybe this is where our thinking goes afield.

In America, we don’t really hate the rich— we want to be the rich! This thinking is common.

It’s the same reason so many rip mercilessly on King Kelly. They don’t actually dislike him; they wish they had his fame, talent, and 11 world titles.

Sure, it’s fun to play Communist with other people’s stuff. But while we don’t have the time to talk Adam Smith, we should consider what it will be like the evening when Elon Musk comes knocking at your front door with that smug smile informing you of your eminent domain notice to allow his hyper-eco battery train to save the average shmo from overcrowding.

Hey, not so cool, now, right?

Why? Because we aren’t billionaires. Our property is important.

Man, I’m glad that Khosla got his can handed to him. Not because of my elevated sense of duty to the environment but because I’m selfish and want to surf anywhere I please.

The same is true of Surfrider, and of you, I suspect.

Now, close your eyes once more and imagine a crowded beach jammed packed with high-tech daytrippers on custom-colored resin drip boards waxed by their assistants. Oh, and all your hand-picked friends can squeeze into the lineup, too.

See you at Martins Beach!

You may open your eyes now.