Surfing at Rincon Point.

Battlelines drawn between surfers and homeowners over beach access at Rincon Point!

Journalist visits county assessor's office to find out who has right of way at Rincon, surfers or homeowners?

A few years ago on Thanksgiving Day, a property owner near the bottom of Rincon Point complained that I was standing on his land.

This came as a surprise to me.

I could readily see the low retaining wall that separated his patio from where I was standing. What I did not see was any other sign that the space I occupied belonged to him.

Somehow, I had trespassed across a property line that was invisible to me. The encounter nagged at me.

Was I standing on the public beach or private property?

Since then, a few properties along the lower section of the point have extended their landscaping outward, in a likely attempt to gain some space between their private patios and the public beach. Most of low boundary walls that march up the point already have pointed rocks or flower pots placed along the top to prevent anyone from sitting on them, much like the spikes placed on buildings to deter birds.

In truth, surfers are not all that different from a pack of squawking sea gulls.

Recently, I walked back to the parking lot after riding some hilariously mediocre waves. I was thinking about how stupid surfing is when I tripped over one of the cobbles a property owner had pulled off the beach and used to section off their plants into a cute rock-framed bed. This hurt my toe and made me curse loudly.

I decided right then and there that I was going to figure this whole thing out. I’m just a dumb surfer, but surely, I should be able to find the beach. Where does the public beach end and the homeowners private space begin?

You would think it would be easy to find out, but it turns out that sometimes the most obvious questions are the most complicated. Also, I have gained a truly irrational hatred for land surveyors.

How do I get to Rincon?

Exit Bates Road, you can’t miss it. Now that we’re all here, let’s get some basic geography out of the way. The county line between Santa Barbara and Ventura runs down the middle of Rincon Creek, commonly known as the rivermouth where it meets the beach. The area to the west of the rivermouth is Santa Barbara County. Head east toward the Rincon cove, and suddenly, you’re in Ventura County.

You can even stand in both counties at the same time, if you want. You do you.

A private, gated community occupies the low-lying peninsula that creates the famous point, and a nearly unbroken line of houses runs the length of the beach. Local memories are not super clear on dates and details, but until sometime in the early 1980s, surfers parked on the freeway shoulder and climbed down a short embankment to access the Rincon cove.

To reach the beach at the top of the point required climbing down the bluffs. I feel that you will not be surprised to learn that it was also a nude beach. Off-season swells remained a tightly-held secret.

“Access was tricky, and owners tried to keep surfers out,” one long-time local told me.

This makes sense. Surfers are gross.

It’s all a lot easier now. No more climbing down a precarious cliff. Pull into the parking lot owned by Santa Barbara County Parks, walk down the stairs, and surf the top of the point. A sign just before the staircase says that nudity is prohibited. Modern times are so inhibited.

California State Parks meanwhile owns the lower parking lot and the access trail to the cove.

A ribbon of beach runs from the State Parks access trail to the rivermouth, bounded by the ocean on one side and the line of houses on the other. Ventura County owns this part, and it was news to me to discover that only the parking lot, smelly pit toilet, and trail are part of the State Parks.

I will go ahead and confess that it took longer than I’d like to admit for me to discover this detail. The devil loves to lurk in the details.

Let’s find the beach

While the beach at the top of the point is spacious with much glorious white sand most of the year, the cove section is a considerably more intimate affair. Into the tight space between the ocean and the houses cram beach-goers, Wavestorms, vintage longboards, dirty towels, pot smoke, melted wax and the other assorted detritus surfing creates.

And it’s this zone on the Ventura County side of the point where property owners seem to want to create a little distance from all of that.

If I wanted to find the beach’s boundaries, Ventura County seemed like the most obvious place to look. I thought surely I could find a map or other useful thing that explained where the beach begins and ends.

It is good to have hopes and dreams, if only so that they can be dashed on the cruel rocks of reality.

While I did find several line drawings of the point and its houses, I did not find a map sufficiently detailed to show the boundaries with any exactitude. Text descriptions proved no less illuminating.

One example airily stated that Rincon beach extended up to the houses. After digging through visitor information and county planning documents, I did not find any mention of an easement or buffer in front of the private properties.

There was nothing that said clearly, “Hey dumb surfers! Stay away from the houses!”

One document helpfully explained the California Coastal Act requirements, which demand access to the mean high tide line. But that’s the minimum, and none of the long-time locals I asked could recall the beach itself at Rincon as ever being private. And the holy grail of my search, a handy map eluded me. I still had not found the beach.

Sitting in my glass house

Built in 1969, the Glass House sits close to the midpoint of Rincon Cove, where it serves as a lineup marker much like the flagpole that stands at the cove’s top. Originally, the house’s ocean-facing façade featured massive windows framed in dark wood, making the nickname an obvious choice.

A more durable stone has since replaced the wood and the Glass House now boasts a red-tile roof and a vaguely Italianate style. It does still live up to its name, though by featuring many windows.

For years, a trail has run the length of the cove to the flagpole. It’s never been official, but instead has reflected the migratory habits of many winters of surfers.

Park in the State Parks lot, use the stinky toilet, and walk down to the beach. Cruise the trail to check the top of the point and have a look around. Sit on a chunk of drift wood and throw rocks, because the tide is too high. Walk back up the trail, because the tide is perfect, and paddle out at the flagpole or the rivermouth. High tides can cover the beach entirely, so the trail is a pretty useful thing.

Sometime this past summer, the owners of the Glass House, or someone like them seem to have decided that the trail passed entirely too close to their property.

First, stacks of driftwood appeared, which blocked the entrance and exit to the trail in front of the house. A low wall of cobbles and piles of driftwood also enclosed two square areas out in front of the patio, and a new cobbled walkway, built from the beach’s rocks led to the patio’s gate. Soon after, the stacks of driftwood moved to cover the trail itself.

We all know that there are more surfers than ever now. That reality means that beaches like Rincon have become more crowded. It is perhaps understandable that a property owner might become weary of watching a steady stream of surfers walk past their house. As we have established, surfers are gross. That’s all well and good.

But if the trail passes over public land, it’s not the property owner’s decision to make. On our side of the line, we can be as gross as we want. So, where is the line?

It’s Cool to Hate

If you’ve ever bought a house in the U.S., you will know that property lines and many other such details about your beautiful house are a matter of public record.

Perhaps I could at last find the beach at the County Assessor’s Office, where these records are housed. If property lines are a matter of public record, surely I could find this useful information. Then I would know where I could stand. As I’m sure you can predict by now, nothing in this life is ever as simple as we hope.

According to records at the Ventura County Assessors Office, the Glass House sits on an 11,868 sq. ft. lot with 4701 sq. ft. of living space. There’s four bedrooms and 3.5 baths, if you’re counting. The lot measures 88 feet wide and 136 feet deep.

While I was in the records, I took a look at several other properties along the beach, including the one where the man told me to move along. Each lot had specific dimensions, similar to the Glass House. Each also has an assessed worth amounting to dizzying sums of money.

The County Assessor’s Office also helpfully provides surveyor’s maps of the county’s properties. After much searching and flailing, I located the parcel map for Rincon del Mar. Each property is neatly traced out and numbered. The map also includes the winding private roads within the gated community. The beach side property lines run roughly straight up the point with a few gentle bends along the way. Neatly printed coordinates run along each property line.

You will be getting excited now! You will be thinking that at last, we have found the answer.

Unfortunately, you will be wrong. When land surveyors draw their maps, they take a series of measurements from fixed known starting points using an instrument called a theodolite. These starting points can be manhole covers or other important landmarks. Then the surveyors do math stuff with triangles to arrive at their coordinates. This process creates more accurate measurements than using satellite-based GPS.

It also means that a dumb surfer like me can not use the coordinates from a land surveyor’s map to find the beach. I can not do the math stuff with triangles or see the world through the fancy surveyor’s machine. I’m sure it looks very nice in there.

To find the property lines drawn on the county’s parcel map would require a land surveyor to retrace the coordinates from the map’s starting point. So, now you know why I hate land surveyors. Sorry land surveyors, it’s not you. It’s me.

Find us where we are

Like a lot of things, property lines are a matter of trust. Sure, they are written down somewhere and ultimately, can be enforced much like speed limits or any other law. But on a daily basis, we are all stumbling through life, trying to avoid colliding with things or each other, and trusting that the other people we encounter will mostly follow the rules, too.

The property owner with his low wall next to the beach is trusting that a gross surfer won’t hop over the wall and shit on his patio. And in turn, surfers are trusting that we can access public beaches. It’s easy to see how this arrangement can begin to fray around the edges, depending as it does on community connections that are easily broken. Many of the houses at Rincon Point are now short-term rentals or have remote owners. They’ve lost their ties, if they ever had them to the people on the other side of their fences.

Now, I’m not saying that surfers should be shitting on anyone’s patio. We should, in fact, respect private property. Common sense suggests that the built environment of walls and patios and gates at Rincon Point follow the property lines, and I find it unlikely that there are super secret private areas that stretch beyond the fences. The trail seems likewise to have passed over public land, not private.

But despite a search of the publicly available information, I still don’t know for sure. So, if the man tells me to move along, I’ll smile and move along. I’m just here to surf.

One thing I do know for sure is that the ocean always gets the last laugh.

A week from now, a series of storms is set to arrive in California. It’s the first chapter of a winter that promises an exuberance of storms, thanks to the climate pattern known as el Niño. Legend has it that the pattern is named “the boy” for its tendency to show around the time of the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. December also brings some of the year’s highest tides.

So go ahead and build your castles in the sand I’ll just smile and take the long way around.

Soon enough, the tides will come to wash them all away.

Bethany Hamilton with once-cherished sponsor Rip Curl. Photo: Facebook
Bethany Hamilton with once-cherished sponsor Rip Curl. Photo: Facebook

Surf brand Rip Curl parting ways with shark attack victim Bethany Hamilton over alleged transgender disagreement explodes internet!

Tempest in exclusive teapot.

Bethany Hamilton is, arguably, the most well-known surfer on the entire planet. Under belt, the Kauai local has a major motion picture, best-selling book and story that beats all comers. Kelly Slater be damned with none of that save fan art. Hamilton, an up and coming pro junior, was famously mauled by a tiger shark when 13-years-old. Arm lost. Instead of never touching the ocean again like you or I might, the young legend fought back and became an absolute force, continuing to surf, speak and be a beacon for against-all-odds perseverance.

Hamilton was sponsored by core surf brand Rip Curl when the attack happened, and the beautiful partnership continued for decades.

An inspiration that surfed better than most two-armed men, you very much included.

Your li’l old BeachGrit was basically launched on an exclusive hard earned clip of her launching a gorgeous air reverse that was quickly stolen, without credit, by Stab.

The now premium subscription website, in any case, recently announced that Bethany Hamilton and Rip Curl were parting ways after twenty-odd years (credit here).

The implied reason?

Bethany Hamilton Not Wanting To Be Trans-Adjacent

Rip Curl has launched a new positivity campaign including the wonderful Sasha Jane Lowerson in order to promote new initiative 365 days of surfing girlhood.

Oh certainly the now mother of three (Hamilton not Lowerson) has publicly stated her opposition to trans athletes being allowed to compete against naturally born females, though she has never positioned as “anti-trans,” in general, and suspect reporting around such is as lazy as…


No one walks away from hundreds of thousands of dollars in these the inflation years of our lives. The Stab subscriber (bless you) might think that Bethany Hamilton happily exploded the deal over values.


The punter might imagine greener pastures, financially.

Equally doubtful.

I’d venture that Rip Curl’s appearance demands and Hamilton’s familial scheduling concerns plus not wanting to leave islands butted final heads with NDAs being signed to protect Rip Curl as new Kathmandu company owner severed ties with a cash infusion to insure “quality vibes.”

Just a guess.

Support premium here, in any case.

You’re welcome, again and again and again, dear Stab.

No need, or expectation, of returned favor.

John John Florence sailing.
"Sometimes I’m like, this is the most amazing thing ever. Look at it. We’re sailing at 15 knots and it’s beautiful and everything feels great. And then the next moment something breaks and I’m like, this is the worst. I hate this."

John John Florence sails New Zealand coast after failing to sell gunboat Vela for $1.3 million

“My relationship with the boat is definitely a love, hate relationship," says John John.

Four months ago, John John Florence, brother of Surfer of the Year Nathan Florence, listed his forty-eight foot gunboat for sale in New Zealand for $1.3 million American dollars.

It followed a terrific voyage across the Pacific where John John Florence and pals sailed the catamaran 1200 miles to Palmyra Atoll. The accompanying video series drew gyspy rings around all the edits and series’ doin the rounds at the time.

In 2015, Florence had declared, “My ultimate goal with sailing is to be able to travel fast, cover long distances, and go surfing. I want to combine the two.”

And, so, once monied enough to realise the dream Florence bought snowboarder Travis Rice’s forty-eight foot cat, Falcor, which was promptly renamed Vela, with its three “queen berths” (everyone’s a queen at sea), one thousand feet of sail area and a main saloon where all sorts of naughty and dangerous activities often take place at sea.

“My relationship with the boat is definitely a love, hate relationship,” says John John Florence. “Sometimes I’m like, this is the most amazing thing ever. Look at it. We’re sailing at 15 knots and it’s beautiful and everything feels great. And then the next moment something breaks and I’m like, this is the worst. I hate this. I don’t know why we’re doing this. Why do I put myself through this stress? I’m selling the boat. When we get to Fiji, I’m selling the boat, we’re done.”

Now, after apparently failing to sell the catamaran, John John Florence has taken to exploring the New Zealand coastline, surfing hither and yon, and thrilling locals with his coolly explosive lines. 

“John – thanks for being so friendly and patient with us frothy kiwis in your travels here. You were so kind to my son at the beach today!” wrote one fan. “He hasn’t stopped talking about it, and may never! Mihi nui!”

The most recent sightings have been at Ocean Beach in Whagnarei Heads as well as a high-speed sail with America’s Cup holders Emirates Team New Zealand.

“We’ve had it all, everything from fifty knots of wind to perfect little barrels,” writes John John Florence. “We are loving New Zealand.” 

World Surf League (left) pictured gatekeeping. Photo: The Dictator
World Surf League (left) pictured gatekeeping. Photo: The Dictator

World Surf League total control over big wave records exposed as frenzied Guinness-Gate thrusts into third day!

More like "Guinness-Gatekeeping!"

The surf world is now fully staggered as the duplicitousness, the deception of the World Surf League has been further revealed. Three days, Laura Enever, the “Angel from Narabeen,” was delivered a historic Guinness World Record for “largest wave ever paddle-in (female).” What should have been a glorious celebration of heroics has, instead, devolved into further proof of the “global home of surfing’s” evil ways.

The World Surf League, which took control of professional surfing in 2015 circa 1976, has done its very best to own and control every facet of this “Sport of Kings.” Champions suspended for speaking out.

Records changed via fiat.

A totalitarian power gobble not seen since Nicolae Ceaușescu insisted he owned Dracula.

Wanting cover for the, frankly disgusting, control, the World Surf League turns to respected organizations like the Guinness Book for cover.

The august beer maker, though, merely a pawn in a dark game.

For, according to the rules and regulations, probably world record waves must be delivered to Dublin via the World Surf League’s El Segundo veterinarian office in order to be considered.


Per the bold fine print:




Also, by law, not allowed to make fun of the WSL in submissions. All videos are judged by World Surf League paid “scientists” too.

Ominously, all of the “rules” have been disappeared.

Gatekeeping, or controlling access to something that should, by rights, be open, is considered a real modern faux pas. Racist and such. France’s Justine Dupont recently felt the World Surf League’s boot on her neck.

You might be next.

David Lee Scales and I spoke about all of this in greater depth on today’s weekly chat. We also discussed a surf podcast host who may or may not be anti-Jewish. Can you guess who?

Have fun playing.

The old wooden tower built on the Teahupoo reef.
The old wooden judging tower that had served the WSL for many happy years. | Photo: WSL

Paris 2024 organisers may swap Teahupoo’s “Wall of Skulls” for beachbreak following tower furore!

Christmas comes early for small-wave world champion Filipe Toledo!

The president of French Polynesia has made bombshell comments that may force the surfing of the 2024 Olympics to take place at an insipid beachbreak rather than at the world-famous Teahupoo reef. 

Much heat, you’ll remember, surrounds the building of a magnificent aluminium judging tower on the reef at a cost of five-mill US. Paris 2024 demolished the old wooden structure used by the WSL for years citing safety issues.

Local surfer Tahurai Henry, who organised a mass protest against what he regards as rich man’s folly, wrote, 

“This judge’s tower project will completely destroy a large part of the lagoon in the face of the most beautiful wave in the world! A construction worth over 500 million francs for 3-4 days of competition that won’t be reused for our local surfers!”

French Polynesian president Moetai Brotherson, who also supports independence from France, told the Pacific Islands Forum that by moving the three-day event to Taharuu, forty or so clicks back towards Papeete, “would have enabled us to avoid the problems we have today. At the time, it wasn’t possible. In view of the issues at stake and the protests today, perhaps we can revise this option.”

Teahupoo just beat out Taharuu as the choice for Paris 2024 following a visit by delegates in 2020.

In a response Paris 2024 organisers said in a statement,

“Tahiti was chosen because of the Teahupo’o site and its legendary wave, one of the most beautiful in the world.

“As our president, Tony Estanguet, recently pointed out, our priority today is to find a solution that will enable us to organise the surfing events of the Olympic Games in Tahiti, at the Teahupo’o site, in the best possible conditions.

“Discussions and studies will continue over the coming weeks to find a solution for organising the events on the Teahupo’o site. Along with all the stakeholders, and the Polynesian government in particular, Paris 2024 will continue to listen to all possible solutions to further improve the project. Dialogue and work will continue with environmental associations and local residents.”

So, yeah, still Teahupoo. For now.

Bad news for Filipe Toledo, whose struggles at Teahupoo have been well documented.

But with a little more heat applied maybe the Paris 2024 organisers lose their nerve and black sand Taharuu becomes the site of Toledo’s greatest triumph, Olympic gold.

A developing story, one imagines.