Stab Magazine | Hollister Ranch Ordered To Open Its Gates To The Public

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Hollister Ranch Ordered To Open Its Gates To The Public

The wall into California’s most hallowed surfing grounds has fallen.

news // Oct 11, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The battle for one of California’s most sacred surfing grounds has ended with the stroke of a pen. With Governor Gavin Newsom signing Assembly Bill 1680 into law on Wednesday, October 9, the struggle for Hollister Ranch has essentially been decided. 

Situated north of Santa Barbara, “the Ranch,” as it is affectionately known, is home to some of the Golden State’s most pristine points and reefs. Controlled by ranchers and private land owners, for decades access by the public has been denied. But now, after a lengthy legal struggle to open the area up, things are about to change.

“As Californians, respect and reverence for our beaches is in our DNA, so much so that we enshrined public beach access into our state constitution,” Newsom said in an L.A. Times article. “I’ve long fought to protect these public treasures for future generations and to ensure any person can experience their beauty. That won’t change now that I’m governor.”

But not so fast. The law mandates that access to the Ranch and its 8.5 miles of coastline won’t come until April 2022. Additional access and development plans will be phased in over the next two years.

The new law also carries a stiff fine of tens of thousands of dollars for anyone that seeks “to impede, delay, or otherwise obstruct the implementation” of the public’s access.

“No matter your ZIP Code, all Californians deserve a chance to enjoy our public parks and beaches,” said Assemblywoman Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara). “Hollister Ranch is no exception.”

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But local Ranch surfers would beg to differ. For over 40 years they’ve had this little utopia all to themselves. The rules and customs that govern the area have evolved over time to exclude anyone that doesn’t own a parcel of property there. Some area surfers launch small boats from the Gaviota pier and cruise in, but they’re generally greeted with cold stares and are unwelcome. It is by far the most exclusive surf zone in California.

When surfers originally started buying into the Ranch it was a place to escape the pressures of the outside world and get back to surfing for surfing’s sake. But as the sport’s popularity has blown up in recent years, cashed up folks from LA and surrounding areas have been snatching up parcels, changing the dynamic of the Ranch from a bohemian hideaway to a rich enclave.  

“It’s a sad day,” said Conner Coffin, whose family owns property in the Ranch, in an Instagram comment. “One thing our race seems to consistently be good at, taking people’s land and fucking it up. [It] would be better if no one could go there and it was a monument of what the California coast once looked like.”

Other notable landowners include the Malloy Brothers and Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia fame. 

It’s quite fair, even noble, to seek to protect and preserve unspoiled stretches of coast, and that’s the argument proponents of keeping the Ranch private have been leaning on. But that’s clearly not their true objective. They just don’t want to share their waves. And that’s valid, but now, it’s illegal. 


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