Here’s a story about surfers’ rights to access and scheduling oversights on huge public construction projects: specifically, the project informally known as “The Pleasure Point Seawall”. This site is located in Santa Cruz County, California and is surfed year-round by people of all ages.When SEA first looked over the proposed construction schedule for the project, we quickly noticed that the anticipated construction schedule put work at The Hook, one of our coast’s favorite surf spots, during the prime high-wave season in our county. This looked like trouble brewing, for sure, to us, because the construction plans called for ripping out the existing stairs and rebuilding new stairs only later in the Project schedule, thereby leaving the many, many thousands of surfers we absolutely knew were going to surf The Hook during winter swells stranded in strong currents and backwash if they couldn’t paddle up-coast, against prevailing current, to another stairway. This, in itself, is not always possible or practical during strong swells and with our typical down-coast sweep of current, and anyone could easily have been washed down to Private’s or even Capitola Village before they could leave the water!

This situation didn’t work for us, and we bet it wouldn’t work for anyone who surfs The Hook, so we did two things ASAP: In May 2009 we posted a formal SEA letter to both the Santa Cruz County Redevelopment Agency and First-District County Supervisor John Leopold regarding this particular coastal-access and surfer-safety issue, and we followed up with a meeting with Supervisor Leopold in June, 2009. At this meeting and in the letter-writing, we were backed-up by the Santa Cruz Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation an enviro-organization which usually shares our views on surfer safety and public coastal and surf-zone access.

We were careful to indicate to all decision-makers that we felt we represented the best interests of the entire surfing community in this matter and reminded them all that on a typical good-surf day over 400 people a day surf Pleasure Point’s many breaks. At meeting’s end, Supervisor Leopold (who has surfers in his family) indicated he understood our issue and believed it was a valid concern, so he offered to “champion” the issue during his regular meetings with Redevelopment Agency staff.

And so, with ongoing concern we followed-up on the progress of this item for many months and were stoked to see temporary stairs in place at The Hook until a new stairway could be constructed! From a “safety in the water” perspective, this was a good thing! But we still insist that everyone has a right to access the coast and the surf under all conditions. That’s what SEA’s here for!