Rob Caughlan

Environmentalist | Political Pro | Surfer

People Magazine wrote “Righteous, Dude” in praise for his work in saving the ocean.

Vanity Fair called him a “Golden State Eco-Warrior.”

When he was called "president" of the Surfrider Foundation, membership grew from 200 to 25,000.

Rob Caughlan on suspension cableA Surfer in the White House (and Other Salty Yarns)
by Rob Caughlan

NEWS: 2024-05-11 Rob is proud to have been his friend and saddened by this loss. Former Bay Area congressman, environmentalist Pete McCloskey dies at age 96 — report on ABC7 News Bay Area. CLICK HERE to watch

NEWS: 2024-02-19 Rob is proud to be included (very briefly) in this report featuring Jason Carter on Jimmy Carter's strength of spirit on CBS Sunday Morning. CLICK HERE to watch

NEWS: 2023-09-28 Meet the Author at the San Mateo Public Library on Sunday, October 15, 2023 from 2:00pm - 3:30pm: Robert Caughlan talks about his book A Surfer in the White House - and other salty yarns. CLICK HERE for more information

NEWS: 2023-09-23 See how Rob Caughlan is a part of a beautiful mosaic for President Carter's 99th birthday. CLICK HERE for more information

NEWS: 2023-02-23 Rob Caughlan was White House staff for President Jimmy Carter’s Solar Energy Task Force and The Global 2000 Report to the President. In the following interviews he reflects on his time working for the former US president:
CLICK HERE for the interview with Dan Thorn on KRON4
CLICK HERE for the interview with Marianne Favro on NBC
CLICK HERE for the interview with Diom Lim on ABC7 News-Internet Archive

NEWS: 2022-10-26 TONIGHT! Rob has a book signing at Byrd's Filling Station (219 S. San Mateo Drive, San Mateo) — Come and buy a book or bring all those copies you got for holiday presents and he'll make them extra special with his autograph.

NEWS: 2021-09-21 CLICK HERE to read Surfer Today magazine’s review of Rob Caughlan’s book: A Surfer in the White House

NEWS: 2021-09-20 CLICK HERE to read Rob Caughlan’s latest piece in Surfer Today magazine, it’s a great read entitled: My priceless hydrodynamic wave riding sculpture

NEWS: 2021-05-10 CLICK HERE to read Rob Caughlan’s latest sermon in Surfer Today magazine.

NEWS: 2021-02-18 Rob Caughlan was interviewed by Mike DiGirolamo, the host of Impact Media at Cimpatico Studios. (DiGirolamo is also a Producer/Partner of Cimpatico TV). This episode is entitled: Environmental Lessons from A Surfer in the Whitehouse. Click HERE to watch on YouTube.

NEWS: 2021-02-02 Rob Caughlan was a guest speaker for the Burlingame Rotary Club January 2021. Their lengthy and very informative write-up ended with the following — “Rob had some great words of wisdom for us: We have to struggle and continue to try to create a more perfect union.”

NEWS: 2020-08-30 Listen to the latest interview of Rob Caughlan by veteran radio reporter/storyteller Peter Finch on his podcast The Finch Files: Really? Spicoli? (Episode 146)

NEWS: 2020-08-12 A Surfer in the White House (and Other Salty Yarns) is still OUT and on Amazon with 42 5-Star reviews! Plus this newly published review from the Half Moon Bay Review: ‘A Surfer in the White House’ provides insight for activists

NEWS: 2020-05-12 A Surfer in the White House (and Other Salty Yarns) is a OUT and on Amazon!

NEWS: 2020-04-25 Read An Earth Day thought for our ‘wartime president’ during coronavirus crisis by Rob Caughlan

NEWS: 2020-04-18 The book you know you’ll want to read is coming soon: A Surfer in the White House (and Other Salty Yarns) is a sweeping collection of first-hand experiences -- exactly what you’d expect of adventuresome surfer Rob “Birdlegs” Caughlan, whose love affair with the ocean brought him to the frontlines of the environmental movement. 

Rob has surfed with sharks, hopped freight trains and orchestrated unconventional publicity events to promote environmental causes with celebrities such as Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and William Shatner. His devotion to the planet brought him to the White House and side-by-side with a who’s who of American politics. 

As president of the Surfrider Foundation, he brought surfer muscle to battles for coastal protection.

This book shows that a life of activism and surfing can bring concrete achievement -- and fun. If surfers can make a difference, anybody can.

NEWS: 2018-10-01 Update - Supreme Court refuses to take up Martins Beach case. Surfers, beachgoers relieved - Everyone should read this. 35 Great Pictures along with the article. (Here’s a picture they don’t have.)

NEWS: 2018-06-13 Update - Battle Over Martins Beach Access Moves Closer Toward U.S. Supreme Court - Everyone should read this.

Slate has series called Slow Burn - A Podcast About Watergate; produced by Leon Neyfakh and Jeff Friedrich. Slate Plus members get a bonus episode of Slow Burn every week. For Slow Burn: Episode 4: Lie Detectors: How Watergate became the greatest show on Earth — the bonus episode has Leon Neyfakh talking to Rob Caughlan, one of the founders of the National Sam Ervin Fan Club. Just click here on this link to listen to the interview (kindly provided by Slate).

Listen to my testimony to the State Lands Commission regarding public access to Martins Beach. Just click here on this link (my testimony starts at 36:55 in the video).

Go read my latest article about my beautiful surfboard on The Inertia website. Just click here on this link.

NEWS 2018 This news was so good it made Birdlegs cry!

Birdlegs Cries With Happiness
Supreme Court refuses to take up Martins Beach case. Surfers, beachgoers relieved

NEWS 2018: Judge Bill Newsom (Gavin Newsom's father) is one of Pete McCloskey's legal heroes. The judge is not in great physical shape and Pete wanted to wish him well. So we drove up to his home in the Sierra foothills. When we walked into his house he was talking with a guy across the table that looked just like Governor Jerry Brown. It was! I've met Brown several times at political events or at Lucy's El Adobe restaurant in Hollywood. When we shook hands he gave me a look that said, "I've met you before haven't I?" I told him, "I took you down the Stanislaus River when you ran for Governor the first time." He laughed and remembered that wild river day in l974. (see photo below; click this link for more info):

McCloskey, Newsom, Brown

I was honored to serve as President of the Surfrider Foundation for six years and we won some major victories. In l990 with the legal leadership of Mark Massara and Pete McCloskey we won the largest clean water action in American history in our fight against the ocean polluting pulp mills in Humboldt County.

In 2012, I became active in the battle to open Martin's Beach. The bluff along the top of the cliff-lined cove had been purchased by a mysterious absentee landlord. Eventually a news reporter discovered that the new owner was venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.

Khosla had put up a gate and five surfers were arrested trying to go down to the beach. The Surfrider Foundation's San Mateo Chapter led by Mike Wallace, Ed Larenas, Dylan Christensen and Amber Gill tried to work with Khosla for three years to resume open access to Martin's Beach – but Khosla stonewalled them.

So Surfrider asked Massara and McCloskey and myself to get involved and escalate the effort. McCloskey recruited his law partners Joe Cotchett and Eric Buescher; Surfrider then sued Khosla for not getting a permit to shut the gate and change the use of the beach. Surfrider also assisted Senator Jerry Hill in his effort to get the State Lands Commission to negotiate a public easement to the beach.

Surfrider won in court. The judge ruled that the gate was illegal. Surfrider also won in the legislature. Both the Assembly and the Senate sent the bill to Governor Brown and he signed it.

In February of 2013 at our first press event, the San Jose Mercury reported me saying that the owner (i.e. Khosla) made a mistake in bucking California's historic support for public access to the coast:

“I can't believe how you're a billionaire, you don't think this kind of thing through. You want to pick a fight with all the surfers, the fishermen, the people of San Mateo County?” Caughlan said. “We always win these fights. So for Vinod Khosla to come in here and think he can push all of us around is really shortsighted.”

I am so happy I was right! It would have been tough to eat this kind of crow. But as my grandmother would have said, “I'm not wrong all of the time.”

Here's a quick re-cap of the fight:

Read more about the fight for Martin's Beach at the following links:

Billionaire Vinod Khosla Can’t Block Surfers From Martin’s Beach, Judge Rules

Surfers, Beachgoers Celebrate Reopening Of Martin’s Beach Near Half Moon Bay

Fight for coastal beach access moves to state Capitol

When Rob Caughlan speaks his topics are based on his own personal efforts involving historically important and newsworthy events.

Click here to listen to Rob's talk with the Kranky Kids Radio Club 2015 about Martin's Beach and the Surfrider Foundation.

Click here to go to a profile and speaking sampler video.

Rob's speaking topics include:

• Making A Difference
• History of the American
  Environmental Movement
• Ocean Protection