Showdown at the Ranch

Hollister Ranch may be opened up for public access

| posted on April 15, 2013

For decades now, surfing the Hollister Ranch has been bucket list material for waveriders the world over. Classic setups like Razors and Little Drakes and Rights and Lefts have fueled daydreams for folks who fancy relatively uncrowded reeling right-handers in an idyllic countryside setting. Unfortunately, unless you have connections or a couple extra million dollars lying around to buy a parcel of land in the private Central California gated community, actually experiencing this said promised land has been all but impossible without breaking a holy host of trespassing laws.

However, times may soon be changing thanks to a long forgotten loophole that was created by the California Coastal Commission back in the early 1980s. In fact, should that stipulation hold up in the courts in the coming months, there is a solid chance that the California State Coastal Conservancy will have the right to install a public access trail that would connect the storied beaches of Hollister Ranch to the nearby Gaviota State Park for all to enjoy. Of course the people who call Hollister Ranch home are anything but keen to have their well fortified surfing reserve opened up for public consumption and, as such, have already started the legal process of challenging the legitimacy of the public access easement. —Ethan Stewart

For the full scoop on this developing story click here.

  • Jimmy the Saint

    I’ll never surf there ( I live a few thousand miles away) but it should be opened up, so wrong that some rich people think they can limit others freedom in accessing this area. Reminds me a bit of that old Woody Gutrie song – This land is your land!

    • educatedguess

      Hi, I see this thread has gone cold, but I wanted to respond. I was fortunate to surf the Ranch in the seventies before they began selling parcels, when there were just a few boaters up there and members of the Santa Barbara Surf Club. We had a boat and went in many times.

      The two “reef” spots referred to above are Rights & Lefts and Little Drakes. They are basically a one-person wave with a small take-off zone. The guy saying it’s only good once or twice a year is a total liar. Rights & Lefts is the best wave there and, being in the center of the Ranch, breaks year-round, south, north, west, whatever. It is also like Lowers or Windasea in that it ALWAYS has surf. I am not in favor of opening up the area. I’d rather see it stay pristine and clean. I don’t own a parcel and probably never will, so I have no dog in the fight, but I would hate to see the area overrun.

      The unfortunate thing is there are a group of total spoiled idiots up there who are mostly trust-fund kids who never worked a day in their life. They think they’re entitled to everything, including the Ranch, and will treat you like dirt in the lineup. I think the ocean is holy, and these guys are like the Taliban. Very sad. The place will eventually be overrun and trashed, but for now, let it be.

  • Steve

    I live pretty close, but the myth of great waves at Hollister Ranch are just that. A myth. It gets crazy good maybe twice a year. It’s shadowed really bad from almost all swell direction except big big northwesters. Anyways, even if it opens up and gets good, the rich/lame/yuppie locals will always make surfing there no fun. They will spend millions protecting one of the most fickle waves in California.

  • adob

    I have been fortunate enough to be invited to stay several times at one of the best parcel/locations on the whole ranch. One of the times was the day after Thanksgiving Swell of 1998. When swell shows it is unreal as your drive in and see spot after spot firing with offshore winds. However, I have seen the really lame locals scream at kids and adults who either were guests or boated in. At the end of the day I feel the ocean is for everyone to enjoy, however I am sure the owners will make it very unpleasant for anyone who tries to gain access even if there is an easement.

  • Steve2

    I also live relatively close and also had the pleasure of surfing the Ranch A LOT in the past. Have friends with parcels and boated in most of the time during the late 70’s and 80’s. Everyone is familiar with the term “the good ‘ol days” and they are just that.
    Driving in is a PITA, so many rules and regulations, and there are quite a few owners who, let’s say, are not the friendliest individuals and can sour a session in a hurry whether you drove in or boated.
    Boating in has become somewhat of a nightmare also, especially if using the hoist.
    The last time I went up was during a rather substantial souther-hemi.
    There were at least 60 boats waiting for the hoist and many were being turned away for not having all the right safety equipment, registration, etc.
    That doesn’t count the boats that came in from SB.
    We turned around and shined it.
    IMO, the access thing will probably get tied up in lawsuits and litigation for years to come but eventually, like Naples will succumb to the public onslaught.
    So glad I got it when I did.

  • Victoria

    Good thing I know the Hollisters!

  • North of It

    Looking forward to the boys having to deal with all the MMA dudes, and State Park officers, just how threatening their behavior will be then. Bunch of silver spoons who had it good, then made it lame because they feel they “deserve” what they got. You bought some real estate early, got rich, now deal with it! Steve, stop lying…OB has more good days than the Ranch?!? Sure…I vote we OPEN IT UP!!! Make trails and campsites.

  • its troo

    if you wear hollister brand clothing they let you in the gate anyway.

  • Wake Up

    Only in the last 100 years of humanity have we thought ourselves privileged enough to lay claim to beaches, and land. Open the beaches for everyone, that’s what we are here for, to enjoy this earth. As with anywhere else, either local or not, those who can really surf will rise to the top. The donkey’s will be exposed. (Oh and can someone answer what makes a local? Birth or blood? I say blood. Birth don’t mean shit.)

  • bigb

    lol at Steve2 comment. Last line is the equivalent of “Should have been here yesterday, it was insane!”

  • matius

    While it is true that there are some super wealthy people who own land at the ranch, there are also many not so wealthy folks who own land there too. Lets not forget that many of these parcels are broken in to 12th’s, with many common type folks busting their asses so they can pay the HOA fees and enjoy this beautiful place. Because the Ranch is private it is clean, beautiful, and not very crowded. Opening it to the public would probably dramatically change the place for the worse. Keep it private and keep it clean.

    And hey North of IT, I live in SF and to claim OB has more good days than the Ranch is kind of far fetched.

  • Steve Wimer

    I’m glad I got to surf R&L’s and L&R’s a couple of times with a friend that owned a parcel. The locals have a reputation for being grumpy, but they were cool to me.

  • mike

    The ranch is accessible if you have a boat and open to the public. The land is private property and the owners rights should be protected. Opening public access trails will make it like lowers….ruined…..there is nothing wrong with making it difficult to surf. How cool would be it go to the ranch and see the lineups clogged like every other spot in So Cal?

  • Steve2

    I like Mike.

  • Woody

    Open it up! Why should the wealthy elite get their own private surfbreaks? No coastline should be private. The coast is a public resource. Anyway, hopefully opening the Ranch would distribute the load a little around our already crowded breaks in SB county.

  • Steve2

    A few thinks for the Coastal Commission to consider.
    After opening Hollister where are the hundreds of cars (that will no doubt show up) park? Gaviota isn’t that big and severely underfunded.
    What happens when the bridge washes out (which it occasionally does) or some other unexplainable demise (hoist related)
    Who’s going to pay for the trail maintenance (trash pick up, grafitti removal, etc.)
    Who’s going to pay for $hitters that will have to be placed and maintained?
    Like Mike said, get a boat, the water is and always has been public.

  • Phil

    owning land is as ridiculous as owning air

  • Richard wacker

    I bs”d my way onto the ranch about fifteen years ago. On the way out the security had the gate down and made us go into his office. This is where he pulled his gun out and told he was going to kill us I hide our bodies if we ever came back. It was kind of worth it because we scored. Asshole Hollister locals and that dick security guard lower trestles coming your way. Eat a bowl of d$&k!!

  • devyn

    Yeah dont open it to public……theres enough places in california for you kooks to destroy. At least the landowners dont trash shit you fools! open your eyes nerds.

  • bullshit

    Oh shut up, Steve. The Ranch breaks pretty consistently, and everyone who’s ever surfed there knows it. Big, big NW’ers, huh? Really? Try a medium-sized straight West. I love you internet trogs who lie about the consistency of a place. I mean, could you be more transparent? At least put a little effort into it. Be creative with your fabrications. (Here’s what I do: as soon as some old fat-ass like you starts talking about how fickle his spot is, I start planning a trip there. AND I SCORE). OPEN THE RANCH. One way or the other, the days of the rich, white separatist enclave are numbered. We’re coming for you, assholes.

  • K.C.

    In 1978 I was a freshman . We surfed 7 days a week if we could . While in the water we would here stories about the ranch . I would spend the next 10 years trying to surf it .Its all I thought about . After hearing 100s of tales of the ranch , my buddy and I walked in from Jalama . We scored 4 foot perfection at Perkos with no one else in the water . After that we bought a inflaable , launched it and scored Cojo twice with doulbe overhead perfection .I could write a novel to fill in the blanks . ,
    I am all for acsees to any public beach but as a surfer growing up in southern CA ,I am ok with keeping the Ranch private . Just wouldnt be the same if I could just drive to Cojo .

  • Peter

    How can the State Parks afford this anyway? I thought with the budget they were out of money and closing down parks throughout the California. How about they take care of their/ our existing state park properties, before they start expanding….
    If I had a vote, and I don’t… I say leave it alone. It’s a beautiful stretch of coastline, that should remain as is. If you really want to surf the waves, be creative get a boat, paddle there, but don’t fool yourself into thinking just because a couple more point-breaks are opened to the public that the crowds with thin out through-out the area. All that will happen is more out-of-county residents, (including me…) will be coming that much more.

    • Dood

      It is not a State Park. Every inch of the Ranch is owned or maintained by the Ranch owners as a collective group.

  • Cody

    BEACH access should be legalized in the state of California, as it is in Hawaii.

    • Dood

      Beach access is legalized.

      • bchdog

        eve A bike path would be awesome. Haskells was opened by way of an easement law.If the public were driving into a beach area for six years

  • Guy

    I’m all for secret spots and localism when done right but restricting access to the rich and boat owning is shitty. All those angry old fucks in there will get a chance to back it up or shut up when the gate opens.

  • gern blanston

    It’s amazing to me that surfing, easily being the most liberating experience a person could have, is ruined by greed.The little spoiled punks on their parcels don’t even deserve such a gift as the ability to surf. The only true locals are the Chumash.

  • Steve2

    Did something similar about the same time except after surfing Govmt. all day we got busted by Floyd, he took our boards and trashed them all week in the back of his pick up, we had to pick them up the following Sunday at 7pm.
    BTW. Bixby will still be closed – no driving to Cojo or Govmt.

  • Woody


    Eat the f*&$in rich.

  • Dan

    Boated in many times in the early seventies, not many locals at that time, more boaters. We stored our boat in Santa Barbara and would drive up from HB at 3:00 AM. We used to just park our trailer at the end of Gaviota pier. Some spots we had all to ourselves. Cojo was one of my favorites.

  • clinton Edwards

    you guys are all mostly tards…missing the biggest point here:

    think about what it means to construct a boardwalk from gaviota even to the first wave, razors, you are talking a total catastrophe. you would threaten nearshore transport of sedminent as well as risk incresed land based erorsion…not to mention a huge eyesore on a fairly pristine stretch of coast

    yyeah its fucked thats its private but building a coastal walk is kinda like two wrongs to make a right…….what they should really have to do is allow vehicle access and provide parking….that would be justice

  • larry bird

    How about Naples, they should open that too. Great right hander and the access is a killer path, really prestine Cali style, and after relax at hot spring near by. Surf is freedom and free are the beachs. Make the trial and the rich peolple that live there should maintain it.
    Cheers and PC

  • b

    I don’t own up there but most people who do are original owners from way back (minus a recent influx of wealthy OCers). The people who originally bought were smart and purchased land when prices were dirt cheap. Protect what’s left of California’s pristine coastline…

  • T

    I’ve hiked in several times in the last couple years and gotten great waves. Also been skunked and caught by the cops and fined for trespassing… Wouldn’t have it any other way. If you want to pull into a parking lot with bathrooms and showers there are hundreds of other places you can go- don’t spoil the adventure and commitment it takes to surf this place.

  • north of It

    @Matius…You are sooooo right!!!! Gosh, who in the world knew the ranch was better than OB?!? Thanks for the clarification! Look at the comment 4 down from mine. Steve says the ranch is only good “twice a year”. The trouble is Steve has shortimers, and a year is every 5 days to him…

  • Big Larry

    I don’t get what the big deal is. The public can already access the ranch. Walk in, boat in, make friends, etc. Allowing the public to drive and park on private land seems unreasonable. Regardless where you surf there are locals. I’ve been boating into the ranch for 30 years, and there are some spots that I avoid (mainly the two reef breaks). The points are fair game, because everyone spreads out. If you are a good surfer and know what you are doing everyone will respect you.

    A trail would trash the beach, and change the place forever. The ranch owners only own the land, they don’t own below the median high tide line or the waves.

  • Tsol

    I was on holiday in CA . 13 years ago and got takin in too the ranch by my friend who had land and we surf L&R,s it was small and fun , I didn’t think much of it at the time because I,m from New Zealand and it just looked like every break back home , no one and no houses or very little . It was not till the years pasted by that local Cali guys would be on holiday here and freak out when I told them I,d surf the ranch and they never had.
    It totally looks like most of New Zealand ,so if your keen too surf one massive ranch a trip here.

    • daniel rossi

      I saw those pictures of Ragland in 1963 in surfer mag .. How I would have loved to travel ,.13 yr old , best pics of new zealand surf ever seen to this day.

  • ray

    I would like to know the age of most of you posters!!! I look at breaks today, and i”m frekn glad that there is still spots where you zones, and in’s haven’t choked the life out of the stoke!! I don’t care about that place, I wish everybody on Earth would move to California to surf!!!!!! If I was one of the “RICH” I would spend a billion dollars on an advertisement campaign for all of you posers to go live 200 deep! I left there in 2000, and it just got bad there at the end!!! Super Cheesy Occupy mentality in Cali with all the Progressive trash, you share with the people

  • Boat Basin

    Wayne “The Pain” won’t be happy, but if all Ranch locals are like him we are all safe. A little girl would scare me more then he would. It is really pathetic to see these old man being agressive as mentioned above, even to kids. I would love him to try it on me!

  • 1st generation owner

    So I woke up this morning and saw this article and apparently I am rich. Actually, I am quite the opposite. I do own at the ranch because unlike most of the beach bum surfers who want there to be access to the public there, I worked my ass off and saved every last penny I had to buy some property. Most the complainers out there should take a step back and realize that protecting Hollister from the public is more than just protecting the waves. It’s the wildlife, pristine beaches, and nature overall. I am in my early 30’s and not an old salty local, like some of you have made reference to. Here’s my suggestion to all who want to surf the ranch, boat in or walk the beach. Or even better, work hard and earn it. It’s much more rewarding that way.

    • born and raised SB

      On the contuary my ” so called fellow surfer” just cause u own land doesn’t give u authority to designate how and how someone should enjoy what the good lord bestowed upon us”perfect waves” if u could surf,u would not be so selfish. Go surf rincon with 100 people..than say something about working for nothing to do with land brah

  • DredScott

    It doesn’t matter anymore. Every spot on the coast is wall-to-wall, swell or not. If you want pristine waves, go to Ecuador.

  • BlueCollarRancher

    You collectivists need to move to china, Cuba or Northern Europe, this is America where hard work pays off and entitlement leads to misery.

    Keep the ranch private and those who work hard enough to get in one way or another get to enjoy the waves. It is already crowded as is with over 50 guys out at a small point break last winter.

    If you think you can make it public and the crowd will “work itself out” why don’t you take a look at Malibu or rincon. How many times have you had a shitty session at Malibu rincon or other spots because the crowd was so effing large.

    HR is one of the last places in Cali that you can score without 100 other guys if you get lucky.

    Don’t ruin it with an entitled collectivist mindset.

    ps: If you try to come in here with more than just yourself you will have a bad day.

  • T

    There is no one more entitled than a hedge fund prick. Since when did we start referring to public services as entitlements? They aren’t entitlements.. They are rights.. Also, stop telling left leaning liberals to move to China (or anywhere else for that matter). What you don’t believe in the right to have an opinion that doesn’t agree with yours? I think you’re the one that should move to China. Also the gap between rich and poor in China is even worse than the US and all you hyper conservative apathetic Randbots should consider moving there yourselves.

  • phil

    You know as much as I would like to come to the ranch and surf after 55 years of surfing I tend to agree with you.I’d like to come stay the night and surf a couple of times.However keep it pristine

  • Rick

    Interesting discussion. While I believe the beach should be more accessible to the public (as mean hi tide line denotes public property), a lot of people don’t realize how large the ranch is and how long of a public road/trail would be necessary to get to some breaks (think miles+). Personally I think the best move for all would be for the ranch to agree to bus a limited number of people in each day and allow them beach only access in exchange for surf break access only. This would give the greater public access and take the day boats out of the lineup. If things continue as is then 20 years from now there will be 50 boats outside each break on every half decent swell; watercraft are getting cheaper and crowds are pushing people who aren’t qualified to drive them anyway.

  • billy

    what a typical rebublicon tea bagger assuming that people who cant afford to buy property at HR don’t work hard..Many people as you call collectivists work 2 and 3 jobs to get by. Yes and many poor people surf

  • paul middlebrook

    My memory was in 1993 when a buddy had a boat and we launched in a ugly February morning early. Wind and big swells. The launch off the pier was sketchy at best than we boated up to Govt’s. Odd day swells, wind, and kelp. We even saw a blue shark take out a sea gull right in front of us. We counted 14 blue sharks boating up to Govt’s. Small but evident. We paddled out and scored 2 hours of 6-8 foot perfect walls peeling the whole way to shore. Surfed all day and boated back. Propeller fell off literally. Wind blowing us to Channel Islands. Fisherman see’s us hacks and tows us in. Paid guy solid cash and thanked the man upstairs. We almost abandoned boat and paddle to shores to walk back. A two hour surf session took us 14 hours from our driving, launch, boat ride, surf session, broken boat, and hauling us back and drive home. Longest day of my life and suffering much of the time. Not easy but still think about it at least once a week for the past 20 years. It was amazing. Just advice get a boat with power, full tank of gas. Bring food water and flash lights if you come back late at night. Bring tools for the boat and a couple strong arms for grabbing your boat off the hoist. It was difficult and almost lost the boat in the wind 5-6x’s. Be patient and be prepared for a great day and a rough day.

  • Bro

    Hey G

  • Bro

    Hey Guys,

    I have surfed the ranch and most breaks honestly aren’t all they are worked up to be.

    The only have decent wave is Right’s and Lefts which only breaks a few days a year, and even when it does it is only a 5-7 second ride.

    Razors doesn’t break until 10 feet and then becomes walled out because all the sand washed down from Ranchhouse and made a sandbar.

    Governments Point is always blown out… it is positioned in a way that it is almost always onshore or side onshore.

    Despite all the know it all’s who think that the ranch is always good, it is rarely good, and even when there is just a scrap of swell in the water there will be a mix of boaters, walkers, and owners in the water making it uber crowded.

    Hollister should break more often, and it is quite unfortunate it is positioned where it is positioned because point conception blocks steep north’s and northwests, the channel islands block south swell’s, and the continental shelf weakens any good west or southwest swells.

    • daniel rossi

      Thanks , this is what I believe , for 45 years , have wondered if I ever really missed any thing at Ranch , Was on Beach at Governments at 7 am june 1971 south swell , it was magnificent , I could surf good , but never got chance , no one there , club members showed up and we left ,, we should have fought , three of us were bigger and older .. I bet the place is hit or miss and the videos of Coho Percos and others look mushy hard to catch need long board for rides IMO. Im 67 havent surfed since 1989 , Surfing still attracts me but Isee it on the internet.

    • Suck it

      Ha! That’s hilarious.

  • Mike Davis

    We surfed it and kept it secret in the sixties because it had to be protected from down souths would come up on foot, by boat or car and leave all their crap, beer cans, pork’n bean cans and whatever on the beach for the ranch hands to pick up. On more than one occasion irresponsible mugs started fires that’ve scorched acres of grazing land and endangered livestock and then give the finger to those who’ve spent the time, the money and effort and proven they are the only real custodians. And while it’s not exactly pristine anymore, it’s still better than what the rest of California has managed to do to other such very special surfing places. But here’s the real lowdown, 99.9% of those who’d love to surf it quite simply couldn’t handle it. Spare a thought for the so called elite ranch landowners picking up your f’ing trash instead of surfing or spending time with their families.

    • daniel rossi

      Bet Floyd Smith had a hell of a time cleaning the Ranch up lmao ,

  • Brain cully

    Keep it closed. There’s all ready to many people. My friends walk in boat in and sneak in. It’s called adveture. Everybody that wants it open is just lazy. I won’t even go there anymore it’s so runover with people. Last time I boated in there were 40 boats at Koho. Even with the boat launch gone it’s still a mess. Surfing sucks just quit all ready.

  • DC

    Don’t make this access trail. Surfers are there own enemy, there will be litter all over the place. I use to drive out to Cojo to surf , before it was sold. you would find so much trash from surfers who would sneak in. It’s already a zoo anyhow, you missed the fun empty days of the 70’s ,80’s and even the 90’s a bit. What ruined HR, was when they started selling 1/10th parcials .

  • daniel rossi

    Its all about you ,, Happy u all are still fighting over the Ranch , I saw some of the breaks on you tube and , they did not look so great .. Percos , looks mushy , Coho , no one could line up and looked mushy , My one time on Beach at Governments it was perfect 1971 , Besides that from what I have seen I thought for for 45 years , I never missed anything , grew up around Trestles in 60s , and it is faster and better shaped than Santa Barbara area waves ..